A lawful permanent resident (LPR) who has remained outside the U.S. for longer than one year, or beyond the validity period of a re-entry permit, will require a new immigrant visa to enter the U.S. and resume permanent residence. A provision exists under U.S. visa law for the issuance of a Returning Resident Visa to an LPR who was unable to return to the U.S. within the travel validity period of the green card (1 year) or the validity of the re-entry permit (2 years) for reason beyond his/her control.
If the Consular Officer determines that you do not meet the criteria for a Returning Resident (SB-1) immigrant visa on the grounds that you have abandoned or relinquished your residence in the U.S., then you would need to obtain a new immigrant visa.
You may also qualify for a non-immigrant visa, however, under U.S. immigration law, every applicant for a non-immigrant visa must overcome the presumption that he or she is an intending immigrant. Applicants must demonstrate strong ties to their residence outside the U.S. to qualify, making a non-immigrant visa diffcult to obtain immediately after an SB-1 application is denied.
Exception for Military and U.S. Government Employees
The one-year time limitation does not apply to the spouse or child of a member of the Armed Forces of the United States, or of a civilian employee of the U.S. Government stationed abroad pursuant to offcial orders. In this case, the spouse or child must present the permanent resident alien card (green card) mentioned above, not have relinquished residence in the U.S., and be preceding or accompanying the member or employee, or be following to join the member or employee in the United States within four months of the return of the member or employee. In order to facilitate boarding, Customs and Border Protection recommends the issuance of a Transportation Letter. Information on Transportation Letters is available at USCIS Frankfurt.