If you are not a U.S. passport holder, you will usually need to be issued a certain travel document before leaving the country. Not doing so could create some problems not for your departure out of the country, but for your re-entry and coming through Customs. Different visa holders need to be issued different travel documents, and I-485 applicants need travel documents as well so they are not thought to be abandoning their application. The process of presenting a travel document upon re-entry makes it easier for a Customs officer to recognize valid entry vs. someone who has skipped an established protocol.
This brief guide will highlight some of the travel documents that non-citizens can apply for. For example, different travel documents pertain to I-485 applicants, refugees and asylum seekers, and those who have lost or have had their green cards stolen while on an international trip.
In general, the USCIS issues these types of travel documents:
- Advanced parole, refugee travel document
- Re-entry permit
- Carrier Documentation
The first type of travel document we will cover is the Advanced parole document. This is a form of temporary travel authorization. It works for individuals who are in the middle of adjusting their status but have not been issued green cards yet. It also works for refugees/asylum applicants who have not been granted legal permanent status yet but are seeking to enter the United States. In other words, this document functions as a visa for non-visa holders to re-enter the United States. Unlike other permits, this document is printed on a standard letter piece of paper. Immigration officials will be able to recognize this document based on its size paper length size immediately.
In order to apply for advanced parole, an applicant will need to go to the USCIS forms page and download Form I-131, Application for Travel Document. Click here to see what you need to know about Form I-131.
In special circumstances, individuals may also use the I-131 Form to apply for Humanitarian Parole. Applicants in this category must have a compelling emergency or there must be an urgent humanitarian reason or significant public benefit to allowing that individual to temporarily enter the United States. Anyone can file an application for humanitarian parole. In addition to filing the I-131, applicants in this category will also need to have Form I-134 (Affidavit of Support) filed on their behalf.
Legal permanent residents should apply for a re-entry permit if they will be outside the U.S. for more than one year. The limit of international travel without a visa, while still being an LPR is six months. While the permit is valid, it allows LPRs of the United States to be admitted back into the country without having to obtain a returning resident visa from a U.S. consulate or embassy.
This is a travel document for green card holders who have lost their green cards while travelling abroad and need to return to the U.S. The documentation allows the LPR to board an international flight without their green card. In order to apply for this document, an applicant will need to file an I-131A form, and bring it in person to an international USCIS office or to the nearest U.S. consulate. In addition, green card holders who have lost or have had their cards stolen or destroyed will need to bring proof of payment when they arrive in person. The filing fee for this specific document is 575 dollars.