The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has recently updated its policy regarding overseas travel for applicants with a pending Form I-131 Application for Travel Document. As of March 2019, USCIS will not deny a pending renewal of an application for advance parole because of an individual’s travel overseas, so long as the applicant has a current, unexpired advance parole document, and so long as that document is still valid through the date of the applicant’s return to the U.S. A pending Form I-131 will be denied, however, if the applicant does not have a valid advance parole document when he or she leaves the United States, or if an advance parole document that was valid expires while the applicant is traveling outside of the country. Learn about travel while an application for advance parole is pending.
If you have applied for an adjustment of status (AOS), your application (I-485) could be at risk if you travel outside of the United States, such as to visit family in your home country or to take a vacation abroad.
If you are an AOS applicant and leave the country without a valid advance parole document, your I-485 could be deemed “abandoned” and you might not be able to reenter the United States. Your only option for getting back into the country would be to begin your immigration process all over again, from a foreign country. Doing so would be very time-consuming, not to mention costly.
If you are an AOS applicant and want to travel outside of the United States, a bit of planning could save you a great deal of time, money, and stress. Securing an advance parole document before you leave not only preserves your I-485 application for adjustment of status, but it allows you to travel outside the U.S. without a visa.
In order to make sure your I-131 Application for Travel Document package is prepared correctly and processed efficiently, you may want to enlist the help of an experienced Maryland immigration attorney. You will need a completed I-131 Application for Travel Document; two identical passport-type color photographs; and a copy of photo identification issued by a government agency, such as a passport or Employment Authorization Card. If your application for adjustment of status has been filed and is still pending, you will also need a copy of your receipt letter, (also called a Notice of Action Form I-797C).
As a general rule, you do not have to undergo an interview in order to be granted advance parole. There is usually a $575 fee for an application for a travel document (advance parole) but there is no fee if you have a pending I-485 adjustment of status application.
Ordinarily, applications for advance parole take about 120 days, or four months, to be granted, so planning ahead is important. Of course, there are always situations in which you do not have the luxury of time or notice before you need to travel. USCIS does not offer a protocol for expediting or shortening the process for applications for advance parole. If it is a truly urgent matter, such as the need to visit a family member who is near death, you may be able to make an emergency request for advance parole. You should be prepared to back up this request with reliable documentation of the urgent nature of your need to travel. An immigration attorney can advise you what type of evidence you need to produce in order for your emergency request to be granted.
In emergency situations, there may be a great temptation to travel first and try to get your paperwork in order later, pleading the urgency of the situation. This is a grave mistake. No matter how important the reason for your travel, if you leave the United States without valid advance parole documents, you are likely to find that you cannot reenter when you try to. Even if you have advance parole documents, you are not guaranteed readmission into the country. You must still go through inspection at a port of entry to the United States to determine whether you are admissible to the country. Without valid advance parole, however, you are very likely to be denied admission.
If you have questions regarding recent changes to policy on travel while an application for advance parole is pending, we invite you to contact our law office.