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Generally, some prospective immigrants who are physically present in the U.S., such as applicants for adjustment of status and refugees, must remain in the country until their immigration process is complete. For those in these categories traveling outside the U.S. could adversely affect the outcome of their immigration application.
But sometimes urgent circumstances may require such people to leave the U.S. while their immigration applications are still pending. If you are in that position, it may be difficult to choose between your immigration and your emergency. But thankfully, you may not have to make that choice.
You can ask the immigration authorities for permission to leave the U.S. and return after traveling abroad without forfeiting your immigration application. Form I-131 is the principal document you’ll need to obtain the required travel authorization.
Formally known as the Application for Travel Document, this form allows non-U.S. citizens with travel restrictions to obtain travel documents to enter or leave the U.S without suffering any consequences or going through the visa application process.
The type of travel authorization you can get with this form depends on your immigration status and unique needs. This guide explains how it works and the several ways this form can help people like you secure your immigration application.
Keep reading to learn more.
You can use Form I-131 to apply for different travel documents depending on your immigration status. They include the following:
Generally, if you have a pending Form I-485 (adjustment of status application), you must remain in the U.S. until you receive your green card; otherwise, you’re deemed to have abandoned your application.
The only way to leave the U.S. without jeopardizing your application is to notify the immigration authorities of your intentions and apply for advance parole using Form I-131. Parole is a form of immigration authorization that allows foreign nationals to enter the U.S. for a specific purpose. In this case, it is called advance parole because you must obtain it before you leave the U.S., even though you’ll only need it when trying to return.
However, not all adjustment of status applicants are subject to the above travel restrictions. For instance, applicants with valid non-immigrant visas in certain classes, such as the H-1, L-1, K-3, and V-1 visas, are not deemed to have abandoned their adjustment of status application if they travel while it is pending. As long as their visa is valid, they can travel in and out of the U.S. without applying for an advance parole document.
Humanitarian parole is a form of parole or travel authorization, just like advance parole. But unlike advanced parole, it is meant for certain foreign nationals who:
Are outside the U.S.
Do not qualify for entry into the U.S.
Are seeking entry into the U.S. for “urgent humanitarian or significant public benefit reasons.”
Some of the common reasons for seeking humanitarian parole include:
To obtain critical medical treatment
To care for a seriously or terminally ill loved one
To participate in a civil lawsuit
If you have the above or similar emergencies and are ineligible for an immigrant or non-immigrant visa, consider applying for humanitarian parole using Form I-131.
Temporary protected status (TPS) is a designation that is given upon application to citizens of certain countries who are in the U.S. and who are unable to return to their home country due to;
Ongoing war or armed conflict
Other extraordinary but temporary conditions.
Individuals with TPS or whose TPS application is pending cannot leave the U.S. without authorization; otherwise, they may be unable to return. Those whose applications are still pending must apply for advance parole, while those already granted TPS must apply for TPS travel authorization using Form I-131.
A lawful permanent resident (LPR) or conditional resident who has been abroad for over a year is deemed to have abandoned their permanent residency by immigration law. They would need to obtain a new immigrant (returning) visa to enter the U.S. and resume permanent residence.
However, they can avoid the hassles of the immigrant visa application process if they use Form I-131 to apply for a re-entry permit before traveling.
As a permanent resident, a re-entry permit allows you to preserve your permanent resident status when you are away from the U.S. for a long time. You would not need to apply for an immigrant visa as long as your re-entry permit remains valid.
Individuals with refugee or asylee status must apply for a refugee travel document using Form I-131 if they intend to travel outside the U.S. Otherwise, they may be unable to return.
If you are a refugee or asylee who traveled without obtaining this document, you may be able to for it abroad. But the chances of getting approval then are slimmer, so it is better to obtain the document before you leave.
Sometimes it could be difficult to tell which travel document you need, making it difficult to complete and file your form. You can contact an immigration attorney if you’re having such challenges to help you determine the specific details regarding your case.
Form I-131 is usually filed with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). You can file your form online or mail it to the designated USCIS mailing address, depending on the circumstances of your case.
Before filing, ensure that the information you have included in the form is accurate, without any errors or omissions; otherwise, the USCIS may not approve your application.
After receiving your application, the USCIS will review your application and may request you attend an interview at a USCIS office and provide your biometrics information. If your application is filed from within the U.S. and you depart the U.S. before your biometrics are collected, the USCIS may deny your application.
Your I-131 application must be accompanied by certain documents that verify the information you included in the form. These documents vary depending on the nature of the travel document you’re requesting but generally include the following:
A copy of an official photo identity document
Proof of your immigration status
An explanation of the purpose of your trip
Receipt of filing fee payment.
If you fail to include the appropriate documents, the USCIS will likely deny your application.
If you’re having trouble identifying the documents you’ll need for your case, you can ask an Immigration Attorney in Texas for help. This way, you can avoid costly mistakes or omissions that could jeopardize your application.
If the USCIS denies your Form I-131 application, you can submit a new one. The Form I-131 denial does not impact your pending green card application if you’re applying via the adjustment of status process. However, you should only travel abroad after securing the correct travel document.
If you have further questions about obtaining travel documentation or filing Form I-131, the experienced immigration attorneys at Andrew T. Thomas, Attorneys at Law, can help.
We understand how I-131 applications work and the type of supporting documents needed for the different travel documents. We can help you identify which is appropriate in your case and prepare your application carefully to maximize your chances of approval.
If you are an adjustment of status applicant, we can advise you on how to preserve your application while you travel abroad. We also have a handy adjustment of status checklist that provides information on how to succeed with the process.
We aim to help you succeed with the immigration authorities, no matter your specific needs. Give us a call today and schedule an appointment with one of our skilled attorneys. Let us answer your questions and help move your case forward.