Returning Residents Visas (SB-1)

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U.S. immigration law assumes that beneficiaries of Immigrant Visas will live permanently in the United States. Immigrants who depart the United States with the intention of returning and have not abandoned that intention, but have stayed out of the United States for more than twelve months due to circumstances beyond their control, require a new IV to return to live in the United States. If you have lapsed immigrant status, you may be eligible for status as a returning resident or you may seek to be the beneficiary of a new immigrant visa petition. The burden of proof to show evidence of continuing U.S. ties is on the applicant. Any legal permanent resident who expects to remain out of the United States for an extended period should obtain a re-entry permit from USCIS by filing Form I-131 by mail with the CIS while still physically present in the United States as an immigrant. Instructions are available at the USCIS website here.

 Exception for Military and U.S. Government Employees
The one-year time limitation does not apply to the spouse or child of a member of the Armed Forces of the United States, or of a civilian employee of the U.S. Government stationed abroad pursuant to official orders. In this case, the spouse or child must present the permanent resident alien card (green card) mentioned above, not have relinquished residence in the U.S., and be preceding or accompanying the member or employee, or be following to join the member or employee in the United States within four months of the return of the member or employee. In order to facilitate boarding, Customs and Border Protection recommends the issuance of a boarding foil. Information on boarding foils is available here.

How to Apply

Step 1: Submit DS-117 Application

If you wish to apply for a Returning Resident (SB-1) immigrant visa, you should submit the following forms and documents

  • A completed Application to Determine Returning Resident Status, Form DS-117;
  • Your original Permanent Resident Card, Form I-551;
  • Your Re-entry Permit (if applicable)

You must also submit supporting documents that show the following:

  • Dates of travel outside of the U.S. (Examples: airline tickets, passport stamps, etc.);
  • Proof of your ties to the U.S. and your intention to return (Examples: tax returns, and evidence of economic, family, and social ties to the U.S.);
  • Proof that your protracted stay outside of the U.S. was for reasons beyond your control (e.g. medical incapacitation).

Please mail the forms and documents to:

U.S. Consulate General
Immigrant Visa Unit
Giessener Str. 30
60435 Frankfurt


U.S. Consulate General
PSC 115 Box 1011
DPO AE 09213-0115

After we have reviewed the documents, we will schedule an interview with a Consular Officer to determine whether you meet the criteria for Returning Resident (SB-1) status. If you do, you must be eligible for the immigrant visa in all other respects in order to be issued a Returning Resident (SB-1) immigrant visa.

You will need to be interviewed twice: First to review your application for returning resident status, and if approved, also for the immigrant visa. An SB-1 applicant is required to establish eligibility for an immigrant visa and have a medical examination. Therefore, this involves paying the Returning Resident application fee and, if approved, the immigrant visa processing fee, as well as the medical fees. Please note that the Returning Resident application fee is not refundable if your application is refused!

Step 2: Gather the Required Documents and Prepare for the Immigrant Visa Interview

If your application for returning resident status is approved, you will be processed as all other IV applicants. You will receive the Instruction Package, with a list of the documents the intending immigrant must present at the immigrant visa interview. Your SB-1 visa interview will be scheduled by the Visa Unit.

Step 3: The Immigrant Visa Interview

On the interview date, a consular officer will adjudicate the application based on the visa interview and documents submitted at the interview by the applicant. The issuance or denial of the immigrant visa is up to the discretion of the interviewing officer.

You must bring your current passport and all old passports. You must have completed your medical exam before your interview. Applications without all of these items will not be accepted.

Only applicants with appointments will be admitted into the U.S. Consulate. Due to the limited space in our interview waiting room, only beneficiaries may enter; the petitioner may accompany the applicant. Other accompanying parties, including friends, employees, or attorneys, must wait outside. Children under 18 years old may be accompanied by one parent or guardian to the interview. Beneficiaries are strongly advised not to finalize travel arrangements, dispose of their property, or give up their jobs until after they have been issued visas. Quitting a job, leaving school, selling property and/or closing bank accounts prior to visa issuance may be risky, as in certain cases visa issuance may be delayed for some time.