What Is Form DS-117?

What Is Form DS-117?

Form DS-117 is an application form used by those who were once lawful permanent residents of the United States and wish to reenter the country.

This application is known as the Application to Determine Returning Resident Status and is provided by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). It serves as part of the Returning Resident Visa or SB-1 visa program, which allows individuals who have stayed abroad for an extended period to come back to the U.S. without having to go through the entire process for a new visa. 

United States residents who are green card or visa holders may remain outside the United States for up to two years without giving up their permanent resident status or green card. This means that even if they choose to stay abroad within this time frame, they will still be able to return to the United States as a legal permanent resident as long as they have been granted a reentry permit beforehand.

If you remain outside of the U.S. for more than two years, your green card will be considered abandoned. That’s where Form DS-117 comes in. In some cases, green card holders might be unable to return before their two years. If this is the case, you will need to apply for an SB-1 visa, and the first step is completing Form DS-117.

It should be noted that Form DS-117 is one of several steps to obtaining an SB-1 visa. The SB-1 visa will require you to have your permanent resident card, Form I-551, your re-entry permit, and proof of why you stayed abroad for more than two years, such as medical records, etc.

Who Would Need Form DS-117?

DS-117 is a form that is necessary for anyone applying for the SB-1 or Returning Resident Visa. This form is typically required of lawful permanent residents (LPRs) or green card holders who had stayed outside the U.S. for an extended period beyond what was allowed when they received their visas.

To be eligible for the visa, you must demonstrate that you were not violating U.S. immigration laws when you departed from the country, that there was an intention to return at the time of departure, and that any delay in returning was due to circumstances beyond your control.

It is also important to note that this visa only applies to those that were previously lawful permanent residents of the United States, not those applying for residency for the first time. 

There is an exception to this general rule. Spouses of children of active US Armed Forces personnel or civilian employees living abroad are exempt from the one-year time limit on residency.

To obtain a reentry permit and maintain their permanent residency status, they must submit their permanent resident card and a valid reentry permit as proof that they have not given up their residence in the United States. This requirement ensures that individuals who leave the country do not forfeit their right to return and continue residing in the US as permanent citizens.

How Do I Fill Out And Complete Form DS-117?

Form DS-117 is a three-page document that is essential for initiating the Returning Resident Visa process. It contains 15 questions, each of which should be filled out accurately and thoroughly. The instructions provided at the beginning of the document must be carefully read before proceeding to the questions. 

If you are uncertain about how to answer any question, it is best to consult with an immigration attorney who has expertise in this process.

After completing all of the questions, double-check your answers against the instructions at the beginning of the form once more before submitting it. If you make any mistakes while filling out Form DS-117, it can severely affect your visa application and approval process. Therefore, it is important to take your time when completing this form to ensure accuracy and precision.

Question 1

The first question will have you provide your full name, including your first, middle, and last name. All names must be typed out in their entirety without any titles or abbreviations. All names should be filled in exactly as it appears on your passport or birth certificate. 

Question 2

You’ll be asked if you’ve legally used any other name or aliases besides the one mentioned in the first question. This can be a maiden name, a former legal name due to marriage or divorce, or another legal alias registered with US authorities like Social Security Administration (SSA).

Question 3

Here you must provide the address of your current residence in a foreign country. If you are staying at a hotel, please provide that address and telephone number. It is important to list an accurate contact number so that U.S. Embassy or Consulate officers can easily reach you if necessary.

Question 4

Here you must provide the name of the city, province, and country where you were born. For applicants born in the United States, this is typically a simple matter that requires only the name of the city and state. If you were born outside of the United States, then make sure to include the exact place where you were born. Foreign places of birth usually require more information than just a city, such as a sub-division (e.g., region or district) and historical designation (e.g., former Soviet Union).

Question 5

Provide your date of birth in the  MM-DD-YYYY format. It’s crucial to maintain this exact format even if your date of birth format is different in your native country.

Question 6

If you have been legally married before, you must complete the subsequent sections of the form. To do this, indicate your current marital status by ticking one of the available options – whether that is ‘Married,’ ‘Never Married,’ ‘Widowed,’ or ‘Divorced.’

If you have been legally married, you must provide your spouse’s first, middle, and last name, address, place of birth, date of birth, and U.S. residence status (if applicable), just as you have done for yourself in the previous sections. Additionally, ensure that the information provided matches the marriage certificate to verify your marriage date accurately.

Question 7

Provide detailed information on all of your close family members who reside in the United States. You will need to provide each family member’s full legal name, the relationship you have with them (e.g., mother, father, children, siblings, etc.), their current resident status (US citizen or noncitizen), and their place of residence (city and state). This information is primarily used for cross-verification purposes.

Question 8

You’ll be asked to provide certain immigration records. This includes your “A” number – a unique nine-digit identification number issued by the USCIS – as well as any previous immigrant visas and their associated categories. Additionally, you’ll include information regarding any adjustment of resident status, information on your initial entry into the United States as a lawful permanent resident (LPR), and the date of last entrance into the U.S. as an LPR. These dates must reflect the records shown for your entrances.

Question 9

Provide details about your most recent departure from the United States including the reason for your travel. When answering this question, it is important to be as specific and detailed as possible.

Question 10

Applicants must explain their sustained connections with the United States since leaving. This includes measures taken to ensure they have not abandoned their resident status. Applicants should provide a detailed description of any attempts to keep in touch with the U.S.

Question 11

Provide factual and verifiable reasons why you could not return to the U.S. on time. You will need to provide evidence. When answering, consider providing more details and facts and higher semantic richness, as opposed to brief and straightforward responses. Give examples of extenuating circumstances that led to the delay in returning, such as travel restrictions due to the pandemic or other significant events.

Question 12

For this question, you’ll list countries you have lived in outside the U.S. for six months or longer since your initial entry into the U.S. as a permanent resident. Provide specific details such as the countries visited and exact dates of travel.

Question 13

If you have been employed outside of the United States since acquiring your lawful permanent resident (LPR) status, you will need to provide the details. This includes the start and end dates of employment as well as your employer’s name and address.

Question 14

The section requires you to state your intention to return to the United States. Specifically, you must affirm that you are applying for a travel document to enter the United States and that you intend to resume residence in the U.S. upon arrival.

Question 15

Provide an attestation that all the information provided on the form is true and accurate to your knowledge. A signature and date will be needed to confirm this, along with your full name printed below it.

Finally, provide supporting documents. This could include a permanent resident card, passport stamps, Form I-551, a reentry permit, tax returns, and bank details. It is essential to know that each case will require different documents to be submitted with the form.

For example, if you have changed your name since being issued a permanent resident card, you will need to show evidence of this change. Once the form is completed and all necessary documents have been submitted, an official at the U.S. Consulate will process it. 

How Much Does Form DS-117 Cost?

The cost of filing Form DS-117 is $180 and it can be paid in various ways. Credit card payments are accepted, as well as cash payments in either local currency or USD.

Contact an Experienced Immigration Attorney at Scott D. Pollock & Associates, P.C.

If you’re considering filing Form DS-117 or any other immigration forms, it is strongly recommended that you seek legal advice from an experienced and knowledgeable immigration attorney.

The attorneys at Scott D. Pollock & Associates, P.C. offer an initial consultation to answer your questions and help you determine the best course of action for your situation. Our immigration lawyers have extensive experience with the immigration process and can help you navigate it quickly and efficiently.

Contact us at 312.444.1940 or fill out an online form for a consultation today. We look forward to helping you resolve your immigration issues and achieve your goals.


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