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There are two functions of a re-entry permit:
1. It allows a permanent resident of the U.S. to reenter the U.S. after traveling abroad for longer than one year but less than two years. Usually, if a permanent resident travels abroad for a period longer than one year, s/he risks denial of admission into the U.S. on the ground that s/he has abandoned his or her permanent resident status. A re-entry permit is designed to solve this problem.
2. It serves as a passport for a permanent resident of the U.S. if s/he has no passport and cannot obtain it from the country of his/her nationality.
Please note that an absence of more than 180 days from the U.S. will sever the 5-year continuous residence period requirement necessary for the naturalization process to become a citizen, even if a re-entry permit is obtained.
Lawful permanent residents or conditional permanent residents who wish to remain outside the United States for more than one year, but less than two years, may apply for a re-entry permit.