An immigrant spouse who wants to travel outside the United States and come back can do so by applying for Form I-131 which is also known as the Application for Travel Document.

In order to make sure that your Form I-131 is accepted for processing, it is important to fill out the form completely and accurately, sign the form and pay the correct filing fee. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issues four types of travel documents which are:

What is Advance Parole?

An advance parole document would allow you to travel back to the United States without applying for a visa. However, this document does not replace your passport. Transportation companies such as airlines can consider advance parole rather than a visa as proof that you are authorized to travel to the U.S.

Also, an advance parole document does not guarantee reentry into the U.S. and a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer will make the final decision about whether to allow you to reenter the country.

Advance parole is most typically used whenever someone has a pending Form I-485 or Form I-589. Form 1-485 is the application to register permanent residence. If you leave the country while this form is pending without first getting advance parole, then the USCIS will deny your case unless you fall into a narrow exception.

Form I-589 is the application for asylum and for withholding of removal. You must apply for and receive advance parole if you are an asylum applicant who intends to travel outside the U.S. and come back. The USCIS will assume that you have abandoned your asylum application if you leave the U.S. without first getting advance parole.

What is a Refugee Travel Document?

This document is given to those with refugee or asylum status and to lawful permanent residents who received their green cards based on their refugee or asylee status. You must have this document to return to the U.S. if you have refugee or asylee status but are not a lawful permanent resident or if you are a derivative asylee or refugee.

If you do not get this document before you leave the U.S., you may be unable to reenter the country or you may face removal proceedings before an immigration judge.

What is a Reentry Permit?

If you are a permanent or conditional resident and if you will be outside the U.S. for one year or more, then you should apply for a re-entry permit.  A valid re-entry permit will let you apply for admission to the U.S. without having to get a returning resident visa from a U.S. Embassy or Consulate.

What is Carrier Documentation?

This document allows an airline or any other transportation carrier to board permanent residents who have been outside the U.S. temporarily and whose Green Card or re-entry permit has been lost, stolen or destroyed. You may need to file a Form I-131A if you are a permanent resident in this situation.

What is Emergency Travel?

The USCIS will expedite an application for travel document, Form 1-131, in certain situations. These situations may include:

  • Major financial loss to a company or person;
  • Humanitarian reasons;
  • Emergency situations;
  • Department of Defense or National Interest Situation; or
  • Compelling interest of USCIS.

If you are facing a very urgent situation, you may visit your local office and request an emergency advance parole document. You should bring these items when requesting emergency advance parole:

  • A completed and signed Form I-131;
  • The correct I-131 filing fee;
  • Evidence such as medical documentation or death certificate which supports the emergency request; and
  • Two passport-style photos.

It is important to remember that as a general rule, anyone who is not a U.S. citizen or anyone who is a non-citizen U.S. national is subject to immigration review each time they seek admission to the U.S. from any place outside the U.S.

Even if you are already a permanent resident, you are still subject to review by an immigration official. If you are determined to be inadmissible during this review, you may be denied admission even though previously you may have been admissible.

Should I Contact a Lawyer?

If you have any particular questions about traveling outside the country based on your particular immigration situation, then it may be useful to consult an experienced immigration attorney before proceeding.