Permanent Resident Re-entry after 5 Years Abroad



  •  Nationality: China
  • Case: I-131 Reentry Permit & Reentry Package
  • Challenges:
    1. Client out of the country for nearly 5 years.
    2. Client does not speak English.
    3. Client fears rejection by Customs and Border Patrol (CBP).
    4. Client is at an advanced age and declining in health.


Often Lawful Permanent Residents (LPR) who leave the United States don’t realize they can apply for a reentry permit (Form I-131, Application for Travel Document) to make their return smooth and stress-free. A reentry permit can help prevent two types of problems: (a) the Permanent Residency Card becomes invalid for reentry into the United States if the person is absent from the U.S. for one year or more, and (b) the U.S. permanent residence may be considered as abandoned for absences shorter than 1 year if the person takes up residence in another country.

Five years ago, Ms. Zou, a 78-year-old LPR living with her daughter in San Francisco, had a family medical emergency in Shanghai, China. When her 98-year-old mother became gravely ill, Ms. Zou and her husband immediately flew across the ocean to come to her bedside. They made their decision in haste and would later cause problems when Ms. Zou wanted to return to the U.S. A year later, Ms. Zou’s mother died. At the same time, her husband also fell ill. Mr. Zou did not want to leave his home country now that he was ill and at an advanced age. Ms. Zou tirelessly tended to her husband as his condition worsened. Mr. Zou succumbed to his illness three years later at 89. With her obligations to her mother and her husband concluded Ms. Zou wanted to return to the United States to be with her sole surviving family, her daughter Lan. Unfortunately, the United States government considers an LPR who remains out of the country for the time Ms. Zou was gone to have renounced their status. This was not the case for Ms. Zou but she worried the Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) agent at Los Angeles International Airport would deny her access and she would never see her daughter again. Fortunately, she contacted the immigration experts at Tsang & Associates.


Ms. Zou does not speak English, but this is where the multi-lingual attorneys and staff at Tsang & Associates offer a distinct advantage with immigration case resolution. After consulting with Ms. Zou and her daughter Lan, a plan was put into place and a packet was drafted for Ms. Zou’s reentry. In the packet, Tsang & Associates cited case precedent under Matter of Kane where a Permanent Resident who has traveled outside of the United States without applying for a reentry permit may reenter the United States, given that the trip abroad had a fixed duration, the traveler has strong ties to the U.S. (evidenced by her filing taxes with the IRS), and has strong family ties.

To prove the strength of her familial relationship and Ms. Zou’s desire to reunite with her daughter, the packet included Lan’s strong, personal affidavit:

My mother has lost her entire China side of the family, and everything she has now are in the United States. I sincerely wish for my mother to be able to come back to the United States – where her only family in the world resides – as an opportunity for me to take care of her. Like what my mother did for my grandmother and my father, I want to spend the rest of my life with my mother to give her the love that she deserves.

To prove Ms. Zou’s temporary travel for familial and life-threatening medical conditions, the packet included medical records and death certificates of both her mother and her husband. To enhance Ms. Zou’s case Tsang & Associates recommended her daughter Lan (a bilingual U.S. Citizen) meet her mother when she entered the country to make her interview with the CBP agent progress more smoothly.


The combination of Ms. Zou’s thorough Entry Package (personal affidavits and documents) along with prepping Lan on how to answer questions and concerns of the CBP agent proved a success. Ms. Zou and her daughter are beyond grateful for all the help Tsang & Associates provided them. Ms. Zou reentered the United States and is now living happily with her daughter. She recently celebrated her 88th birthday at a lovely gathering with all her family and friends. Tsang & Associates is proud to have reunited Ms. Zou with her daughter in her advanced age.

*Name has been changed to protect client identity

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