What is the Travel Document,
and when do you need one?
If you are a Green Card holder, a refugee or an asylee, you may not be able to travel outside the United States, unless you have proper documents with you. Obtaining a proper travel document before you leave the United States could allow you to re-enter the country without hassle.
There are three types of travel documents that you can apply for with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Discuss with your Attorney if you want to know which one you should apply for.
If you are a Green Card holder (a lawful permanent resident or conditional permanent resident), you may not be able to reenter the U.S. without obtain a returning resident visa from the U.S. Embassy or U.S. Consulate. However, the Reentry Permit allows you to reenter the U.S. without the returning visa.
To apply for the Reentry Permit, you must be physically present in the United States to file the application. After you filed your application, the USCIS will inform you in writing when you should go to your local Application Support Center (ASC), where you shall have your biometrics services appointment. You must meet the biometrics services requirement to get a Reentry Permit.
Tip for Green Card holder: if you wish to become an U.S. Citizen, you must be careful with continuous residence requirement. If you do not have a Reentry Permit while you are travelling outside the U.S., the lengthy or frequent absences from the U.S. could become factors supporting the conclusion that you have abandoned your lawful permanent resident status. However, if you have a valid, unexpired Reentry Permit, you will not be deemed to have abandoned your status as a lawful permanent resident or conditional permanent resident solely for the reason above. Therefore, it is very important for Green Card holder to get a Reentry Permit before you left the U.S.
Refugee Travel Document
If you have a valid refugee or asylee status, or you used to be a refugee or asylee but now have obtained a Green Card, you must have a Refugee Travel Document to travel outside the U.S., unless you already have an Advance Parole document, or you are not planning to come back.
Unlike the Reentry Permit, you can apply for a Refugee Travel Document even when you are outside of the U.S. A Refugee Travel Document may be sent to an U.S. Embassy, an U.S. Consulate, or a DHS office abroad for you to pick up.
However, if you are an asylee, you may want to be more careful, because once you want to travel to the country by which you have claimed been persecuted, the U.S. government may determine that you have voluntarily availed yourself, and your asylum status may be terminated. Therefore, discuss with your Attorney if you wish to do so.
Advance Parole Document
If you are neither a Green Card holder, nor do you have a valid immigrant visa, could you still travel to a foreign country and reenter the U.S.? The answer is yes, if you apply for and obtain an Advance Parole Document before you left the U.S.
Similar to the Refugee Travel Document, you may apply for an Advance Parole Document whether you are inside or outside the U.S. However, if you apply for this document while you are outside the U.S., there are some additional requirements and things may get complicated. The best way in that situation is to have an Attorney to help you deal with the problems.
Generally, if you are in the U.S., and you have applied for adjustment of status but the application is still pending, leaving the U.S. without an Advance Parole Document may get your application denied. Therefore, remember to discuss with your Attorney if your Form I-485 is pending.
If you want to apply for travel documents, Form I-131 is the form that you should file with the USCIS. All these three travel documents have different filling fees and evidence requirements. If you want to travel abroad, make sure to discuss your options with your Attorney. Have a nice trip!
Disclaimer: The article contains general information and does not include legal advice on a particular case.
Xili Zou, Licensed Attorney, ACS Inc.