The processing times for all types of applications, including RP are posted at the USCIS website www.uscis.gov TIP: whatever processing time you read there, add at least another month +, to be on the safe side and not be disappointed. Those are not "real time" reports, but average estimates.
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I agree with counsel. You should apply for the re-entry permit for him. If you get in to a time bind. Make an Infopass appointment with your local CIS office and show them your receipt. You may have to file and pay for another re-entry petition but it will be issured by them.
Yes studying abroad is an acceptable reason for a re-entry permit. Typical processing time is 3 months, but it could take longer. Check the uscis.gov website.
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From three to six months or longer if there are complications.
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