Requesting a Travel Document for a Pending Green Card Application


By Marie Puertollano, Esq. 

Form 1-131 Application for Travel Document is the form you must file with immigration when requesting a travel authorization from USCIS. This Application for Travel Document can be requested in various situations for the purposes of obtaining a reentry permit or advance parole.

One of the most common Form I-131 application’s we file within our practice, is the advance parole for an applicant who has a pending I-485 Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status application for a green card. While awaiting a decision from USCIS about the green card application, the applicant CANNOT leave the United States without a travel authorization issued by USCIS, or the application will be considered abandoned.  Given that many applicants need to travel while their green card application is pending, we submit an I-485 Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status application along with Form I-131 Application for Travel Document to request an advance parole which will allow the green card applicant to travel once it is issued by USCIS, approximately 60-90 days after being filed. The applicant need not pay any fees for the I-131 Application for Travel Document, if it was submitted with an I-485 Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, to obtain a green card.

NOTE: when you meet with the USCIS officer to request an expedited advance parole, do not forget to bring 2 recent passport pictures.

It is important to understand that receiving an Advance parole is NOT a right. USCIS can refuse to grant it, especially for applicants from certain countries. In such a case, the applicant will be able to travel only once the green card arrives in the mail.

If USCIS grants the applicant’s advance parole request, a decision usually comes within 90 days after applying for the green card. In many cases, the advance parole comes only a few days before the applicant’s interview is conducted by a USCIS officer.

I. Expedited Advance Parole

Unfortunately some applicants find that they cannot wait 60 to 90 days for an authorization to travel. In these circumstances, USCIS can issue what is called an expedited advance parole for If the travel is not completely urgent but meets the USCIS expedite criteria, the applicant can send a letter to the correct service center requesting to expedite the advance parole with evidence supporting the claim. Immigration law allows expedite requests for cases involving a “humanitarian situation, severe financial loss to company or individual, extreme emergent situation, Department of Defense or National Interest Situation USCIS error or Compelling interest of USCIS.”

These vague categories may include personal or family emergencies or a bona fide business trip.

II. Emergency Advance Parole

If the circumstances are extremely urgent, the applicant should go to the USCIS field office itself and ask for Emergency Advance Parole. The applicant will meet a USCIS officer in person, preferably after setting up an Infopass appointment. The director of each USCIS field office has complete discretion to grant or deny requests for Emergency Advance Parole.Be sure to bring as much evidence as possible about the urgent situation requiring emergency travel. If the Emergency Advance Parole is granted, the USCIS officer will issue the document right away. So do not forget to bring 2 recent passport pictures. Two copies will be issued: one of the copies will be for the applicant (“Alien Copy”) and should be kept at all times. When the applicant arrives to the U.S border on the way back from a foreign country, an Immigration Inspector will ask for the applicant’s advance parole document and passport and the inspector must give back the advance parole to the applicant. The airline will also want to see the advance parole document, but must give back the “alien copy” to the applicant too.

The Emergency Advance Parole is good for only one entry into the United States. The maximum time granted for an emergency advance parole is 30 days from the date of issuance. The Emergency Advance Parole will expire on the 30th day and it is the responsibility of the applicant to be back in the U.S before the deadline. For example, if the advance parole has been issued on March 3, 2014, the applicant must be back in the U.S before April 2, 2014 (so on April 1 at the latest). Our office has successfully handled many cases involving emergency advance parole requests. For example, in one case, a woman had spent thousands of dollars for her wedding in Spain that would occur in just a few days. In another case, the applicant’s mother was dying of stage 3D cancer.

Additionally, USCIS always adds a disclaimer or warning to the emergency advance parole document. The disclaimer reminds applicants that by leaving the U.S. via the advance parole and then coming back, the applicant might accrue unlawful presence for the time the applicant was unlawfully present before leaving. The document says:

Your request for advance parole has been approved, but you may be found inadmissible for adjustment of status as an Alien Unlawfully present in the United States if you use the advance parole (I-152). At the time of your adjustment of status interview, you may be eligible for a waiver of inadmissibility for unlawful presence if you meet certain extreme hardship requirements. Extreme Hardship is very difficult to overcome. The alien must show the qualifying relative (spouse and /or parent) would suffer extreme hardship over and above the normal economic and social disruptions involved in the removal of a family member.”

This warning works as a disclaimer in the event that during the applicant’s interview the USCIS officer asks the applicant to apply for a waiver due to the applicant’s unlawful presence triggered by leaving the United States under the advance parole.

Before you request a travel authorization, be sure to contact an accredited immigration attorney to discuss any concerns and find answers to your questions. For more information on requesting an advance parole, please contact our office.