What is a Travel Document?

Travel DocumentTravel documents are identification documents issued by the American government. These documents will help the individuals in America to travel abroad and to return to the United States. A passport is the most common travel document. But US passports are meant only for citizens of the United States.

United States does not prevent permanent residents and refugees from traveling abroad and so it issues them travel documents that permit them to get back to the United States after international travel. Hence, immigrants in America can obtain travel documents and travel abroad and get back to the United States. To get those documents, they need to file Form I-131, Application for Travel Document. There are three types of travel documents:

  • Advance Parole
  • Refugee Travel Document
  • Re-Entry Permit

Advance Parole

Advance parole documents are meant for immigrants who have filed Form I-485 for adjustment of status with the USCIS. Immigrants whose adjustment of status petitions are pending, will be permitted to travel abroad in certain circumstances. To travel abroad these immigrants must obtain advance parole documents. These documents will permit them to re-enter the United States.

These immigrants, to re-enter the United States need not obtain visas but they cannot apply for these travel documents while abroad. They can only file Form I-131, Application for Travel Document, while in America. Their petitions must be approved by the USCIS and they need to obtain these documents prior to leaving the country. If they fail to obtain these documents prior to leaving America, they may not be able to re-enter the country.

This advance parole document will authorize the temporary parole of an immigrant into the United States. Airlines will accept these documents instead of visas. But we need to remember that these documents do not replace passports.

If you are a foreign national and if you need to travel abroad while Form I-485 for adjustment of status is pending, you can apply for an advance parole document by filing Form I-131. If you travel abroad with this document, your petition for adjustment of status will not be denied by the USCIS. But remember that your Form I-485 will be denied if you leave the country without an advance parole document.

Advance Parole for Asylees

Similar to the immigrants, asylees are also permitted to travel abroad while Form I-589, Application for Asylum and for Withholding of Removal, filed by them are pending. Asylees who have not received a final decision from the USCIS can travel abroad with advance parole documents. If you are an asylee and if you seek to travel abroad temporarily and re-enter America, you will have to file Form I-131 and get an advance parole document. If not, your Form I-589 will be rejected.

Re-Entry Permit

Re-entry permits are for permanent residents and conditional residents who seek to travel abroad for a year or more. Though the permanent residents can travel abroad, there are few limitations; they cannot travel abroad for more than a year with their Green Cards. They may not be permitted to re-enter the country if they stay in foreign countries for an extended period of time.

Hence, permanent residents who seek to travel abroad for a prolonged period of time, must obtain re-entry permits before leaving the United States. If you hold a US Green Card and if you seek to remain in a foreign country for more than a year but less than two years, you can do so by obtaining a re-entry permit.

This permit will help you to avoid the risk of not being permitted to re-enter the United States. You can use this permit like a passport, if you are unable to get a passport from your home country.

It must be remembered that refugee travel documents and re-entry permits are both different. Refugee travel documents are meant for foreign nationals who have been granted refugee status or asylum in America.

Re-entry permits are generally valid for two years and the permanent residents and conditional residents must return to America prior to the expiration of these permits. If they fail to get back to the country within two years, they will have to obtain returning resident visas from overseas consulates to travel to America.

Refugee Travel Document

Refugee travel documents are issued to people who have been granted asylum or refugee status in America. These documents are also issued to permanent residents who were once refugees or asylees. Refugees and asylees can travel abroad and they need to hold refugee travel documents to re-enter the United States. This also applies to the derivative refugees and asylees. Asylees and refugees who fail to obtain these documents prior to leaving the country, may not be able to return to America and may be placed in removal proceedings.

39 thoughts on “What is a Travel Document?”

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