Lawful permanent residents (green card holders) can travel abroad with their green cards. But there are some restrictions; they can travel abroad only for a certain period of time with their green cards. They can travel for around six months with their resident cards. Legal residents who wish to remain abroad for more than a year but less than two years can obtain re-entry permits and travel abroad. These permits will allow them to re-enter the U.S. as legal residents.
Green card holders who remain abroad for more than a year, or beyond the validity of their re-entry permits, need to get special visas to get back to the U.S. as legal residents. Special immigrant visas are being issued to such legal residents who remain abroad for a prolonged time period due to circumstances beyond their control. Such residents can get SB-1 Returning Resident Visas. They need to apply for these SB-1 visas at overseas U.S. embassies or consulates.
To apply for Returning Resident Visas, they need to prove that they were legal residents at the time of their departure from the U.S. They also need to prove that they did not travel abroad with an intention of abandoning their legal status in the U.S. and that they had to remain abroad for an extended time period due to reasons beyond their control.
To get Returning Resident Visas, they need to file Form DS-117, Application to Determine Returning Resident Status, along with copies of their green cards and re-entry permits. Along with that, they need to submit proof of family ties in the U.S.
If the applicants meet the eligibility criteria for returning resident status, Consular officers will approve their petitions and grant them visas with which they can travel to the U.S. These legal residents will be granted entry into the U.S. only after the immigration officers at the U.S. port of entry determine that they are eligible to get into the U.S. as legal residents.