Form DS-117 (Application to Determine Returning Resident Status) is an important USCIS immigration form which allows permanent residents to re-enter the US if they have been traveling abroad for a year or more.
This form is very important, since without this form of authorization, you may be denied entry into the US. Form DS-117 is important in cases where a re-entry permit alone is not enough. Often, Form DS117 is used in conjunction with other USCIS immigration forms and documents in order to help a US permanent resident or conditional permanent resident re-enter the US after a longer absence.
There are many things which can happen abroad which can affect your ability to re-enter the US and which can affect your permanent resident status. For example, you may be prevented from leaving your home country due to officials there. You may face a medical or family emergency which keeps you out of the US for longer than you expected.
If you know that you will be traveling out of the US for an extended period of time, you can apply for a re-entry permit to allow re-entry into the US. However, in some cases you may not have advance warning that you will be out of the US for an extended period of time. Unfortunately, when you are outside the US for a longer period of time, this may be interpreted as an abandonment of your permanent resident status. You will need to take steps to safeguard your status and return to the US. Your best option is to speak to a qualified US attorney. He or she may suggest that you complete DS 117 as well as other documents to re-enter the US. For example, you may need to:
1) Complete and file USCIS Form DS-117 (Application to Determine Returning Resident Status).
2) Get translations of any foreign documents which are required by the USCIS.
3) Complete and File USCIS immigration forms DS-230 Part I and Part II.
4) Submit copies of your green card (Form I-551).
5) Submit copies of your passport pages, including the biographic/photo page of your passport, as well as copies showing stamps relating to your entry into the US as a permanent resident and stamps showing your entry dates into the country where you currently are.
6) Documentation showing that you have established long-term residency in the US and have wanted to return. This documentation can include anything which shows that you have ties in the US. It can include banking statements for a US bank, a mortgage or apartment lease, tax returns from the US, school enrolment, and other documents.
7) Documentation showing why staying outside the US was beyond your control. This may include medical forms and documentation, for example.
Depending on your specific situation, your attorney may want you to complete other forms aside from form DS-117 and the other forms listed above.