USCIS Form DS-117: Unveiling the Application for Returning Resident Visa

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) provides various forms for immigration-related applications, including Form DS-117. This form is officially known as the Application to Determine Returning Resident Status. It is intended for lawful permanent residents (LPRs) who have spent an extended period outside the United States and wish to return to maintain their status.
To successfully apply with the Form DS-117, applicants must submit evidence supporting their claim of ties to the United States and reasons for their extended absence. This could include documentation that provides the dates of travel, proof of ties to the U.S., and explanations for the temporary stay abroad. Individuals must provide sufficient evidence to demonstrate that their visit was temporary and did not intend to abandon their permanent resident status.
Completing Form DS-117 is a prerequisite for individuals applying for a Returning Resident Visa or SB-1 visa. The Returning Resident Visa allows permanent residents outside the United States for reasons beyond their control to return to the U.S. and resume their residency. Applicants can find more detailed information on the eligibility criteria and application process on the U.S. Department of State website.

Overview of USCIS Form DS-117

USCIS Form DS-117, or the Application to Determine Returning Resident Status, is a document used by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). This form serves individuals who previously held lawful permanent resident status in the U.S. but have stayed outside the country for longer than their re-entry permits allowed or did not obtain a re-entry permit before leaving. To maintain their status, they must apply for a returning resident visa, also referred to as the SB-1 visa.

Eligibility Criteria:

  • Applicants must have been lawful permanent residents;
  • Must show they have maintained ties to the U.S.;
  • Evidence that their prolonged stay abroad was for reasons beyond their control.

Required Documentation:

  • Completed Form DS-117;
  • Permanent Resident Card (Form I-551);
  • Re-entry Permit, if available.

Supporting Documents:

  • Proof of dates of travel outside the U.S.;
  • Evidence of ties to the United States;
  • Documents showing reasons for the extended stay abroad.

Applicants are reminded to submit their applications with supporting evidence to determine their status. Detailed information can be found via the U.S. Department of State or authorized immigration services providers. Individuals need to use the latest version of the form and adhere to the specified instructions to avoid potential delays in their application process.

Applicants should visit the official U.S. Department of State website for more information and access to the form. They are encouraged to ensure they access forms from official channels, as highlighted by the USCIS warning on downloading and printing immigration forms.

Eligibility Requirements

USCIS Form DS-117 establishes eligibility for individuals seeking to maintain their status as returning U.S. residents. A successful application is contingent upon satisfying specific criteria.

Previous U.S. Resident Status

Applicants must have been lawful permanent residents when they left the United States. Documentation must accompany this status, typically presenting a Permanent Resident Card, Form I-551.

Length of Absence

The applicant’s absence from the United States should generally be temporary. An absence of more than one year may require additional justification, but the original intent must have been for a temporary visit.

Intent for Returning

There must be evidence that the applicant had an unwavering intent to return to the United States. This can be demonstrated through family ties, employment, or other substantial connections within the U.S.

Special Circumstances

If the stay abroad extended beyond the individual’s control, the applicant should provide proof of circumstances that hindered their timely return. Such situations are assessed case-by-case and must be beyond the applicant’s control.

Application Process

The application process for USCIS Form DS-117 is clearly outlined and requires careful attention to detail. The process involves several steps: filing the form, gathering the necessary documentation, scheduling an interview, and concluding with the consular review.

Filing the Form

To initiate the process, applicants must complete the Form DS-117, Application to Determine Returning Resident Status. It’s vital to provide accurate and current information and ensure the form is signed and dated.

Supporting Documentation

Applicants must compile supporting documents evidencing their status and the reasons for their prolonged absence from the United States. This includes, but is not limited to, a Permanent Resident Card, Re-entry Permit (if available), and evidence of travel dates, such as airline tickets and passport stamps. Careful organization of these documents is critical for a successful application.

Interview Scheduling

Upon successfully submitting Form DS-117 and the required documentation, the applicant will be instructed to schedule an interview with a consular officer at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate. Timing for this step can vary significantly based on local consular resources and the applicant’s circumstances.

Consular Review

The final step in the application process is the consular review, where a consular officer evaluates the applicant’s eligibility to return to the U.S. as a permanent resident. This review is critical and depends on the thoroughness of the previously submitted materials and the interview performance. The applicant needs to be prepared and honest during this stage.

Application Fees

The Application Fees for USCIS Form DS-117, required for those seeking to maintain their status as Lawful Permanent Residents after a prolonged absence from the United States, are predetermined and non-negotiable. Individuals must be aware of the exact fee, acceptable payment methods, and the criteria for a fee waiver.

Fee Structure

The fee for filing Form DS-117, officially titled “Application to Determine Returning Resident Status,” is $180.00 as per the Fees for Visa Services by the U.S. Department of State.

Payment Methods

Applicants can pay the Form DS-117 fee using various methods, ensuring the payment process is accessible and secure. Accepted payment methods include:

  • Credit Cards: Visa, MasterCard, American Express, and Discover
  • Money Orders: Must be made payable to “U.S. Department of State”
  • Bankers Checks: Payable in U.S. dollars through a U.S. bank
  • Cash: Only when paying in person at certain consular offices

It’s important to remember that personal checks are generally not accepted, and the fee must be paid in full at the time of application submission.

Fee Waiver Provisions

Fee waivers are not typically available for Form DS-117. Applicants should be prepared to pay the full amount unless they fall under exceptional circumstances, which are evaluated on a case-by-case basis. The U.S. Department of State outlines detailed information about fee waivers and eligibility, and applicants should review this information carefully before applying.

Processing Times

When applying for Form DS-117 to determine Returning Resident Status, applicants are subject to specific processing times, which can vary based on several factors. Timely submission and accuracy of the provided information can influence these timelines.

Expected Timelines

The expected timelines for processing Form DS-117 applications can differ from one U.S. consulate or embassy to another. Typically, it takes a few months from the application submission to a decision. Applicants can check their case’s most current processing times by referring to the U.S. Department of State’s Returning Resident Visas page.

Expedited Handling

In certain circumstances, expedited handling of the DS-117 application may be granted. This is usually reserved for urgent humanitarian reasons or significant U.S. government interests. To request expedited processing, applicants should provide detailed evidence supporting the urgent nature of their application.

Administrative Processing

Some DS-117 applications may undergo administrative processing, which can extend the processing time. This additional step involves a more in-depth review and can be initiated for various reasons. Applicants can expect notification if their case requires such processing and should be prepared for potential delays beyond the usual processing window.

Post-Application Steps

After submitting Form DS-117, applicants must navigate a few critical stages involving visa issuance, appeals in case of denial, and ultimately re-entering the U.S.

Visa Issuance

Once Form DS-117 is approved, the applicant will apply for an immigrant visa. The consular office will inform them of the necessary documentation and the next steps. If granted, the visa is typically placed in the applicant’s passport.

Appeals Process

If Form DS-117 is denied, the applicant can seek an appeal. This involves a review of the decision by a higher authority within the U.S. Embassy or Consulate. Specific grounds for appeal and the process must be followed closely to avoid dismissal.

Re-entry to the U.S.

Upon successful visa issuance, the individual can re-enter the U.S. as a permanent resident. The immigrant visa acts as a valid entry document, and the resident must comply with all port-of-entry requirements to regain lawful resident status.

Additional Resources

Applicants may require additional guidance or information when applying for a returning resident visa through Form DS-117. The following resources provide valuable support for this immigration process.

USCIS Contact Information

Customer Service: For inquiries related to Form DS-117, applicants can contact the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) through the USCIS Contact Center. Hours of Operation: The center is open Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Eastern Time.

  • Phone: Applicants can speak directly with an agent by calling 1-800-375-5283.
  • TTY: For people with hearing impairments, the TTY number is 1-800-767-1833.

Legal Assistance

Immigration Attorneys: Legal counsel can be critical in navigating the complexities of immigration law. Applicants can look for a licensed attorney with expertise in immigration and nationality law through the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

Free or Low-Cost Services: Some applicants may qualify for free or low-cost legal assistance. They can search for options via organizations listed on the U.S. Department of Justice’s website.

Frequently Asked Questions

Application Process FAQs: Detailed answers to commonly asked questions about Form DS-117 can be found on the official State Department website. This includes information on eligibility, required documentation, and the application process.

General Immigration FAQs: The USCIS provides an extensive FAQ section covering various topics, including general immigration queries and specific forms like DS-117. This resource is accessible through the USCIS’s Frequently Asked Questions page.