Returning Resident Visa

Returning Resident DS-117/SB-1 Visas

A permanent resident (called “Lawful Permanent Resident” or “LPR”) or conditional resident alien who has remained outside the U.S. for more than one year or beyond the validity period of a Re-entry Permit (Form I-327), will require a new immigrant visa to enter the U.S. and resume permanent residence. A provision exists under U.S. visa law for the issuance of a returning resident special immigrant visa (SB-1) to an LPR who remained outside the U.S. more than one year due to circumstances beyond his/her control. You can learn more about Returning Resident Visas on

When your application for returning resident status is approved, you will not receive a visa that will allow you to travel to the U.S. The approval of the returning resident application is only the first step in a two-step process. It only eliminates the requirement that an immigrant visa petition be filed on your behalf with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

You will need to be interviewed for both your application for returning resident status, and at a later date for the actual immigrant visa. An SB-1 applicant is required to establish eligibility for an immigrant visa, which includes the payment of the immigrant visa fees, a medical examination, and numerous documentary requirements. If needed administrative processing might be required.

NOTE: The approval rate of initial SB-1 applications is low. The majority of applicants fail to present convincing evidence that their prolonged absence of over 365 days was caused by reasons beyond their control. If applicants have the option of filing a new petition with USCIS they may want to explore that route before applying for an SB-1.

Under the provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), to qualify for returning resident status, you will need to prove to the Consular Officer that you:

  • Had the status of a lawful permanent resident at the time of departure from the U.S.;
  • Departed from the U.S. with the intention of returning and have not abandoned this intention; and
  • Are returning to the U.S. after a temporary visit abroad and, if the stay abroad was prolonged, this was caused by reasons beyond your control for which you were not responsible.

If this criteria fits in your case, download the Form DS-117 (PDF 703 KB) required for such applications. Once you have all of your forms and your supporting documents are ready, please make an interview appointment using our online system at

Required Documents

  • A completed Form DS-117 (PDF 703 KB), Application to Determine Returning Resident Status;
  • Your Permanent Resident Card (Form I-551) and/or your Re-Entry Permit (Form I-327);
  • Your passport,
  • $180 Fee (non-refundable). 
  • You should also submit supporting documents that show the following:
    • Proof of your ties to the U.S. and your intention to return (Examples: tax returns for the last 3 years and evidence of economic, family, and social ties to the U.S.)
    • Proof that your prolonged stay outside of the U.S. was for reasons beyond your control (Examples: medical incapacitation, employment with a U.S. company, etc.)

A Consular Officer will review your application and supporting documents to determine whether you meet the criteria for Returning Resident (SB-1) status. If your application is approved, you will be provided with further instructions on how to apply for your Returning Resident (SB-1) immigrant visa. From the day your SB-1 application is approved you have 6 months to apply for your immigrant visa. The application fee for filing DS-117 form is $180.00 or Ghana cedis equivalent. This fee is non-refundable. We therefore suggest you should carefully evaluate whether your circumstances meet the criteria outlined above.

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