USA Travel Document Explained

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

The United States does not prevent immigrants and refugees living in America from traveling abroad. Similar to U.S. citizens, the country permits refugees and permanent residents to travel internationally. If you are not a U.S. citizen, you need to obtain permission to travel abroad and return to America. You will be granted permission to travel internationally if you hold a travel document.

The United States also grants travel documents to non-U.S. citizens living in America, who seek to travel abroad but are unable to get passports from their home countries. Green Card holders and people who have been granted asylum or refugee status in America, need to get travel documents in order to gain entry into the United States after their trip abroad. You need to remember that travel documents do not replace passports.

USCIS issues three different types of travel documents:

  • Re-entry Permits
  • Advance Parole Documents
  • Refugee Travel Documents

Form I-131, Application for Travel Document, is the USCIS form that must be used to apply for a re-entry permit, refugee travel document, or advance parole document.

Lawful residents, asylees, refugees, asylum applicants, and people who have applied for adjustment of status, need to apply for travel documents to travel internationally and return to America.

Re-entry Permit

This permit must be obtained by a Green Card holder who seeks to remain in a foreign country for a year or more. If you are a lawful permanent resident, you can travel out of the United States for short intervals.

But you cannot stay abroad for a long period of time. If you remain abroad for a long period of time, you will lose your permanent resident status. Hence, you need to obtain a travel document to travel abroad.

If you plan to reside in a foreign country for a year or more, you should file Form I-131 and get a re-entry permit. Remember that you cannot apply for this permit in a foreign country. You need to file for this permit before your departure.

However, you can travel after submitting biometrics information and receive your permit from an overseas Consulate or Embassy. If you seek to travel abroad for less than a year, you need not obtain a re-entry permit.

This permit can be obtained by permanent residents who wish to travel abroad but are unable to obtain passports from their home countries. These permits are generally valid for two years and these permits are not renewable.

You need to apply for a Re-entry Permit if you are a Green Card holder who will be abroad for an extended period of time (one year or more).

Advance Parole Document

You need to get an advance parole document if you have filed the adjustment of status application, Form I-485, and if you need to travel abroad while that petition is pending. Your adjustment of status application will be denied by the USCIS if you leave the country without obtaining this travel document. This document is issued by the USCIS to authorize the temporary parole of a foreign national into America. You can use this document to travel abroad and the airlines will accept advance parole documents instead of visas.

If you are an asylum applicant and if your Form I-589, Application for Asylum and for Withholding of Removal, is pending, you need to get advance parole to travel to a foreign country. USCIS will presume that you have abandoned your application for asylum if you fail to obtain this document prior to your travel.

Hence, this document must be obtained by individuals who have applied for immigration benefits and have filed applications for adjustment of status, asylum, or temporary protected status.

Refugee Travel Document

You need to apply for a refugee travel document if you hold refugee or asylee status in the United States and if you need to travel abroad and return to the United States. If you are a refugee or an asylee, before leaving the United States, you must apply for a refugee travel document. This document will help you to re-enter the United States.

If you travel without this document, you will be denied entry into the United States. Likewise, you will lose your status in America and be placed in deportation proceedings. These documents are generally valid for a year.

You need to get a refugee travel document if you are a refugee or an asylee. This applies to your dependents. Derivative refugees and asylees also must obtain these travel documents to travel abroad.