Along with the other U.S. Visas, with the Green Card in the U.S., you are under the Lawful Permanent Resident status (LPR) or a Conditional resident (CR) depending on the type of visa you hold. You have to move and live in the U.S. to maintain your status and then you apply for citizenship.


There are some assumptions including that you cannot travel when you are staying in the U.S. when having an LPR visa. Living in the U.S. does not mean you cannot travel anywhere abroad. You may travel and visit other countries; however, you are expected to return within a year so your Green Card is valid. Moreover, you may also return in two years while your Re-entry Permit is still valid. If you fail to enter the U.S., unfortunately, you will lose your status as LPR or CR with a Green Card and then you will probably need to get another or new immigrant visa.


This inevitable situation can happen in which a person cannot return to the U.S. within a certain period of a given time, the U.S. has created the SB-1 visa, also known as the Returning Resident Visa. For those who want to regain their permanent residency, they can regain it through the Returning Resident Visa.


This article will tackle what an SB-1 visa is; the requirements, how to apply for it, and other important details.


SB-1 Visa: What is it?


Those people who previously held a US immigrant visa or Green Card and failed to return in the time given for some time due to some inevitable reasons and lost their immigration status in time they travel to other countries can regain their LPR through the Returning Resident Visa or the SB-1.


If you are a Green Card holder, you should take note that Green Cards are only valid for just one year. So, if you travel to other countries, you should return within the year. And if you plan to stay out of the country for more than one year, you should apply for the SB-1 or the Re-entry Permit to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services or the USCIS. The validity of the Re-entry Permit is two years, which means you need to return within a given period. If you don’t, you need to apply for the SB-1 visa.


Here are some of the reasons and inevitable situations that are beyond the person’s control that prevent them from returning to the U.S.


  • A disease or sudden illness that is not recommended by the doctor to travel
  • A pregnancy that is not allowed by the doctor to travel
  • A family dispute in which your papers and other documents are withheld from you
  • When you need a permit to leave but you are not able to obtain it.


The SB-1 visa is important and useful because you may apply for it instead of applying for the immigrant visa status from the beginning, you can just apply for it as a regular visa. Merely, the process of the USCIC or the Department of State or Homeland Security petitions is eliminated as well as shortening the processing time.


This simply means that all those who are still or have been outside the U.S. for more than two years need to apply for the SB-1 visa if they still want to continue living in the U.S. With some exceptions, some don’t need to apply for the SB-1 visa, they are as follows:


  • The Spouse and children of a member of the U.S Armed Forces
  • The Civilian employees of the U.S government who are stationed abroad


Those who belong to the mentioned group above can re-enter the U.S. even if their status has expired and also, they don’t need to apply or get their SB-1 visa renewed.


When you are unable to renew your visa and aren’t able to get the SB-1 visa after you have been out of the country for more than one year or two, U.S. port officials won’t allow you to enter. It is because if you stay out of the U.S. for such a long time, that would mean abandoning your status and that you weren’t paying attention to your U.S. visa. It would also mean that abandoning is voluntarily giving up your immigration status and not wanting to return to the U.S. as an immigrant. However, you can still get U.S non-immigrant visas though, but you will not be able to enjoy the benefits of a legal immigrant in the U.S.


For you to be allowed to enter the U.S., you must get the SB-1 visa as required. The port authorities might allow you to enter the U.S. with an expired immigration visa, if you do not process it in one month, they will order you to leave the U.S. because you abandoned your visa. To avoid this, you should start the process of getting the SB-1 visa immediately as soon as you know you will return to the U.S.


Requirements for the SB-1 Visa:


It is also good to take note of all U.S. visa processing details and take note that not all those who leave the U.S. for one or two years are eligible to get the SB-1 visa. There are certain criteria for a person to be able to apply for the SB-1 visa. Some conditions need to be fulfilled. You have to prove that:


  • You were a lawful permanent resident with legal status in the U.S before you leave for your trip
  • You had intentions to return to the U.S. after your temporary stay outside the U.S. and still have the intention to stay and live in the U.S.
  • Your stay abroad was just temporary and you could not return due to some reasons that are beyond your control
  • You are eligible to maintain an immigrant visa that you had before your temporary stay abroad


Once you fulfilled the above-mentioned conditions and can confidently prove them, you are then qualified to apply for the SB-1 visa and can immediately process your application.


SB-1 Visa: How to Apply?


In all fairness, the SB-1 Visa application is shorter and less complicated compared to the immigration visa application in the beginning. Since you are already an immigrant visa holder and have a visa, you don’t need to have a family member or employee’s petition. However, you will only go through the U.S. Embassy where you are currently located.


For you to be able to process your visa, it is advised that you notify the U.S. embassy that you need an SB-1 visa three months before the intended trip to the U.S. If you cannot do that for some reason, you just apply as soon as possible. The steps for the SB-1 visa application are given below:


  • Firstly, file the Form DS-117, Application to Determine Returning Resident Status
  • Then, submit the Form I-551, Permanent Resident Card or Green Card given to you and which you had before you traveled outside the U.S.
  • Submit your Re-entry Permit if you have one
  • Submit the supporting documents such as:
    • The dates of planned travel outside the U.S such as your airline ticket or passport stamp
    • The proof of intention to return such as employment offer, tax returns, payslips, etc.
    • The proof that you stayed outside the U.S. for reasons that are beyond your control such as medical documents, etc.


After the U.S. Embassy reviews your documents, it is their call to decide whether you qualify to apply for the SB-1 visa or not. If you are eligible, you will then have to proceed with the following steps below:


  • Submit Form DS-260, or the Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration Application which you filed before during your initial immigrant visa application.
  • Get a medical examination conducted by a licensed doctor
  • Submit the supporting documents such as:
    • Your Form DS-260 confirmation page
    • The signed medical documents
    • Your passport
    • Two pictures which are according to the Photo Requirements
    • Other documents as per the instructions of the U.S Embassy where you are applying


SB-1 Visa Fees


Of course, the process wouldn’t be completed without fees, which the applicant has to pay for the application for the SB-1 visa to be processed by the U.S. Embassy. So, payment has to be made. The required fees are as follows:


  • The Form DS-117 filing fee
  • The Form DS-260 processing fee
  • Medical examination fees
  • Other fees to obtain and/or translate supporting documents


The fees must be paid for your application to be processed and validated. If you just apply without paying the required fees, it will not be taken into consideration by the U.S. Embassy.


The SB-1 Visa Processing Time


The SB-1 visa processing time depends on the workload of the U.S. Embassy where you are applying. More or less, it takes 3 to 6 months for your application to be completed and also for them to notify you whether you have gotten the SB-1 visa or not.


What Happens if My SB-1 Visa Is Denied?


Generally, it is the U.S. Embassy that decides your eligibility for the SB-1 visa based on the documents and evidence you submit to them. For instance, if they decide that you do not qualify for the U.S.A. visa they will notify you to either submit additional documents or that you simply cannot get a returning resident visa and that you got denied.


With that said and you notified of the U.S. Embassy decision, you will not be allowed to enter the U.S. again without getting another valid visa. Your options are then to try again and apply for a U.S immigrant visa from the beginning by starting the petitioning process and submitting the necessary papers for the documentation or apply for a U.S non-immigrant visa for a temporary visit or just stay in the U.S.


If you want to apply for a non-immigrant visa, you will have to prove that you intend to return to your home country when or before your visa expires or obtain a dual intent visa which will allow you to apply for permanent residence and can move to the U.S.