If you hold a green card and know in advance that you must be outside the United States for more than one year, it’s worth applying to USCIS for a reentry permit. This lets you to stay away for up to two years. You should send in your application before leaving. Reentry permits cannot be renewed and can be applied for only inside the United States. If you want to stay away for more than two years, you must return briefly and apply for another reentry permit.
The USCIS has recently changed the system and procedure for processing reentry permits and refugee travel documents. These applications are made on Form I-131, Application for Travel Document. Under the new procedures, effective March 6, 2008, applicants for reentry permits and refugee travel documents must provide biometrics information before leaving the United States. This is done via an appointment at an Application Support Center, scheduled after the filing of Form I-131by USCIS. The new procedures do not pertain to the advance parole, as they only pertain to the reentry permit and refugee travel document.
The new procedures apply to individuals between the ages of 14 and 79 who are applying for reentry permits and refugee travel documents. They are advised to apply well in advance of their need to travel and, with limited exception, the fingerprinting and photographing must occur before departure. The USCIS indicates that the filing receipt and notice of appointment at the ASC are mailed to the applicant shortly after the I-131 is filed. There is an option for providing the USCIS with pre-paid express mailers, for transmitting the receipt and appointment notices as well as the reentry permit more quickly. However, this apparently requires a specific request for expedited processing and justification for that request. Such cases will be reviewed on a cases by cases basis.
We suggest all applicants for re entry permits to plan in advance as the appointment requirement will prevent a quick departure.