The Re-entry Permit (Form I-327), also known as Permit to Re-Enter is a travel document similar to a certificate of identity, issued by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services to U.S. lawful permanent residents to allow them to travel abroad and return to the U.S..
The main purpose of the re-entry permit is to allow permanent residents to leave the U.S. for an extended amount of time without abandoning their permanent residence. For short trips abroad of up to 1 year, the Permanent Resident Card itself allows re-entry to the United States. Permanent residents must maintain their permanent residence in the U.S., or lose their permanent residency. Even for trips abroad of less than 1 year, permanent residents may be questioned as to whether they have maintained residence in the U.S. A trip abroad of one year or more automatically causes permanent residence to be lost. If a U.S. permanent resident intends to take a long trip abroad, he/she may apply for a re-entry permit. It is issued for up to two years. It establishes that the permanent resident did not intend to abandon permanent resident status.
Another purpose for the re-entry permit is to serve as an international travel document in lieu of a passport for U.S. permanent residents who are stateless, who cannot get a passport from their country, or who wish to travel to a place they cannot using their passport. A permanent resident who obtained permanent residence as a refugee may either apply for a refugee travel document or a re-entry permit, but not both.
Lawful permanent residents or conditional permanent residents who wish to remain outside the United States for more than one year, but less than two years, may apply for a re-entry permit.
You should note that an absence of more than 180 days from the U.S. will sever the 5-year continuous residence period requirement necessary for the naturalization process to become a citizen, even if a re-entry permit is obtained.
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