Traveling Outside the U.S. Without a Green Card

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Most Common Immigration Law Issues:

Can I Travel Outside the U.S. If My Green Card Application Is Pending?

A green card enables you to live, work, and travel in the U.S. If you have applied for a green card but your case is still pending, it may still be possible for you to travel outside of the U.S. You can apply with the USCIS for a temporary travel document, known as “Advance Parole”. You can file for an advanced parole form using USCIS Form I-131. You will also be required to submit a filing fee as well a biometrics services application (fingerprints). Advance parole usually allows you to travel much sooner than waiting for your green card to be approved.  

Can I travel Outside the U.S. for Emergency Reasons?

The USCIS will allow for expedited applications of advance parole travel documents. These are granted only under limited circumstances, which can include:

You may request expedited service of your travel document by submitting a written statement supporting your reasons along with the I-131 form. In addition, the USCIS allows for “Emergency Advance Parole” travel documents, which can be obtained even sooner than with expedited processing. These are only issued in cases of extremely urgent emergencies, and must be supported with proof of the emergency. More information on all these processes can be obtained at the USCIS website. 

What If I Came to the U.S. as a Lawful Permanent Resident?

If you were already a lawful permanent resident of the U.S. when you arrived in the country, you should have received a stamp on your passport at the border. This stamp confirms that you are a permanent resident, and will allow you to travel even before your green card has arrived. The stamp usually expires six months after it was placed on your passport. It will also allow you to re-enter the U.S. when you return.

However, a word of caution: you should avoid taking extended trips lasting longer than one year. Try to return to the U.S. within six months. If it appears that you do not live in the U.S., or are intending to live in another country, you will likely lose your LPR status due to abandonment. Also, be sure that your passport itself will not expire during your travels. Make copies of your passport and the stamp. Bring a copy with you and leave a copy with a trusted person while you travel. If you have been issued a new passport, it may not include the permanent resident status stamp, so be sure you can present proof of your LPR status.

What Are the Consequences of Traveling without the Appropriate Travel Documents?

Traveling outside the U.S. without a green card is risky for your resident status. If you are in the process of status adjustment or are still applying for a green card, you absolutely must obtain the appropriate travel documents. 

Failure to obtain the proper travel documents may make you inadmissible when you return to the U.S. Or, if you are admitted, you may discover that your application has been “abandoned." You will then have to apply again, or you may even face deportation if you are found to be in the country illegally.

Do I Need to Hire a Lawyer for My Green Card Issues?

While traveling without a green card can be somewhat risky, it may be necessary in certain situations. If you need to file applications for travel documents, an immigration attorney can assist you in the process. If you need to travel due to emergency situations, an immigration attorney can also direct you to the correct course of action.

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Last Modified: 10-28-2013 04:02 PM PDT

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