If you are a Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR), special travel considerations apply that you should be aware of. Before you depart the United States for temporary travel abroad and then seek to return to the United States, you should review important information on the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) websites.
If your Permanent Resident Card (Form I-551), often known as a “Green Card,” is lost or stolen abroad and you have been outside the United States for less than one (1) year, the U.S. Embassy in Abidjan may be able to issue you a Boarding Foil that will permit you to return to the United States. If you have remained outside the United States for longer than one (1) year, then you may no longer be eligible to return to the United States as you have abandoned your U.S. residency. Please see below for more details on both application processes.
I-131A Application for Boarding Foil (Replacing a Lost or Stolen Green Card)
If your Green Card is lost, stolen, or destroyed during your temporary stay abroad, you will need to obtain a Boarding Foil from the Embassy before you return to the United States. You should obtain a police report documenting the loss of your green card as soon possible after the loss/theft occurs. Note that the boarding foil is valid for a maximum of 30 days for a single entry, so you should plan the timing of your application accordingly for when you are prepared to immediately return to the United States.
STEP 1: You need to first pay the $575 fee online to USCIS. Be sure to read the instructions before you pay, as this fee is not refundable regardless of the decision on the application.
STEP 2: Complete the Form I-131A, Application for Travel Document. Once the fees are paid and your application is completed, you may schedule an appointment at the U.S. Embassy in Abidjan by sending an email to ABJAmCit@state.gov, forwarding your payment receipt and a copy of the evidence of your LPR status with the scheduling request. Boarding Foils can only be processed during normal business hours on an appointment basis.
STEP 3: Applicants will have an interview with a Consular Officer, during which they will need to present the following documents:
- Valid passport
- The completed Form I-131A Pages 1 – 3 (and pages 4-5 if applicable)
- Copy of payment receipt for the I-131A online, i.e. a printed email receipt notice or confirmation page
- Your airplane tickets (showing your last departure date from the U.S.)
- Evidence that you were in the United States within the last 12 months
- Evidence of your U.S. Lawful Permanent Resident status (e.g. passport showing the admission stamp to the U.S. as a LPR, copy of your green card, if available)
- Police report documenting when the card was lost or stolen
- One passport-style color photograph (2×2) with white background taken in the last 30 days
You will be interviewed by a Consular Officer to verify your permanent resident status. Processing time for the boarding foil will depend on the circumstances of your case and the amount of evidence you provide, but these applications can normally be completed in a few business days. If your boarding foil is issued, it will be valid for no more than 30 days, single entry. You will still need to apply to replace your green card once you are back in the United States with USCIS.
SB-1 Returning Resident Application
U.S. Immigration law assumes that a person admitted to the United States as an immigrant will live in the United States permanently. If you held Lawful Permanent Resident status, but have been outside of the United States for longer than one year or beyond the validity period of a Re-entry Permit, you are considered to have abandoned your LPR status. If the reasons keeping you from returning were beyond your control, you may be eligible for a Returning Resident (SB-1) Visa. Having U.S. relatives, attending school overseas, or stating the intent to return is generally insufficient.
Before requesting an appointment, you should carefully review the information about the process and qualifications online at https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas/immigrate/returning-resident.html. You will need to be interviewed for both your initial application for returning resident status (SB-1), and again for the immigrant visa, including completion of a medical exam, if your initial SB-1 application is approved. Processing the application can take several months.
At your first interview, you will need to:
- Pay the Returning Resident application filing fee at the U.S. Embassy. Payment of the filing fee does not guarantee that the application will be approved and is non-refundable.
- Present a completed Form DS-117 (PDF).
- Provide proof of lawful permanent residence such as your Green Card (Form I-151, I-551), Re-entry Permit/Travel Document, etc.
- Provide proof of your dates of travel outside of the U.S. (airline tickets, boarding passes, passport stamps, etc.)
- Provide proof of your ties to the United States and your intention to return (Examples: tax returns, ownership of property and assets in the United States, your U.S. driver’s license, name and address of your U.S. employer)
- Provide proof that your protracted stay outside of the United States was for reasons beyond your control (Examples: medical incapacitation, employment with a U.S. company overseas, etc.)
A consular officer will interview you and review the submitted documents to evaluate whether you are eligible for an SB-1 visa. If approved, you must still meet all other documentary and legal requirements to qualify for a new immigrant visa. If you are approved for Returning Resident (SB-1) status, you will also need to pay the fees for DS-260 application processing as well as the medical exam and vaccination fees.
If the consular officer has determined that you are not eligible for an SB-1 visa, this decision will not be reviewed or reconsidered. There is no appeal process. If you are still interested in returning to the United States as an immigrant, you may have a new petition filed on your behalf with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) and start the entire immigrant visa process over again.