SB1 Visa Process Following Prolonged Absence for Green Card Holders

Lawful permanent residents (LPRs), including conditional lawful permanent residents, who have remained outside the United States for more than one year, or beyond the validity period of a reentry permit issued by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), typically are required to apply for and receive a returning resident (SB1) visa at a U.S. consulate abroad prior to traveling back to the U.S. This overview of the SB1 immigrant visa is provided for the benefit of MurthyDotCom readers.

Background on Absences Outside the U.S.

An absence of one year or longer is presumed to be an abandonment of the LPR status and the green card typically is no longer considered a valid entry document into the U.S. Where a lengthy absence is anticipated, an LPR may file form I-131 with the USCIS to request a reentry permit, which typically is valid for reentry within a two-year period. This application must be filed prior to departure from the U.S.

Criteria to Apply for the SB1 Returning Resident Visa

An SB1 applicant must prove to the consular officer that failure to return to the U.S. was based on special circumstances beyond that person’s control. Specifically, it must be demonstrated to the consular officer that the applicant:

  • Had the status of a lawful permanent resident at the time of departing the U.S.
  • Intended to return to the U.S. and has not abandoned that intention
  • Is returning to the U.S. from a temporary visit abroad and, if the stay abroad was protracted, this was caused by reasons beyond the applicant’s control

SB1 Application Process

First, the applicant must apply to determine returning resident status (form DS-117) at a U.S. embassy or consulate. In addition, the applicant will need to submit evidence proving eligibility for SB1 status. Examples of possible evidence include one’s green card, reentry permit, airline tickets, and passport stamps to prove dates of travel outside of the U.S., and evidence of economic and social ties to the U.S. to demonstrate that, at the time of departure, the applicant intended to return to the U.S. after a temporary visit abroad.

A consular officer then will determine if the applicant qualifies for an SB1 immigrant visa. If it is decided that the individual qualifies, the consular officer will provide specific instructions for completing the SB1 visa application process. While instructions may vary by consulate, these are likely to include directions for the medical examination, along with a list of required vaccinations and documentation required for the SB1 visa interview, such as:

  • Immigrant visa and alien registration application (form DS-260)
  • Original passport
  • Two photographs
  • A list of other documents that the applicant must bring to the immigrant visa interview, as requested by the consulate

Required Fees

At the time of this writing, the filing fee for the DS-117 form is $180. If the applicant is approved for the SB1 visa, an additional processing fee of $205 for form DS-260 is required. Separate fees also are required for the medical exam and vaccination/s. The applicant should consult the website of the local U.S. consulate to confirm the amounts, when fee payments should be made, and the appropriate payment methods.


Visa applicants should be aware that SB1 visa applications are subject to the sole discretion of the consular officer. LPRs who have remained outside of the U.S. for long durations are advised to consult with a knowledgeable immigration attorney for assistance with the SB1 immigrant visa application.


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Disclaimer: The information provided here is of a general nature and may not apply to any specific or particular circumstance. It is not to be construed as legal advice nor presumed indefinitely up to date.