A Green Card is a Permanent Residence Card which shows that a person is allowed to work and live in the United States. It also serves as proof of your registration pursuant to immigration laws. It differs from a Visa which allows someone to temporarily reside in the United States for a specific time and purpose. With a green card, you become a permanent resident of the United States.

Can I Travel Outside the United States If My Green Card Application is Pending?

Yes. If you have applied for your green card and it is still pending, you can obtain a travel document from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) department. The USCIS can issue what’s called an “Emergency Advance Parole” document after an applicant submits form I-131. The request should only be made in extremely urgent situations. If granted, it allows you to travel back to the U.S. without a visa.
Notwithstanding, the document does not guarantee reentry into the U.S. It is ultimately the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer’s final decision whether or not to grant you reentry.

How Do I Apply for Emergency Advance Parole?

You need to submit the following for your emergency advance parole to be granted:

  • A completed and signed Form I-131 (Application for Travel Document);
  • Filing fee for Form I-131;
  • Evidence to support your emergency request (such as medical documentation, death certificate, etc.); and
  • Two passport-style photos.

What if I’m a Permanent Resident but I Don’t Have my Green Card?

If you are already a lawful permanent resident waiting for your green card delivery, you should still be able to travel outside the United States without your green card. When you entered the U.S., you received a stamp in your passport indicating your status as a permanent U.S. resident. The stamp has an expiration date, so as long as you re-enter the U.S. before the stamp expires, the fact that you do not possess your green card should not hinder your ability to reenter the U.S.
If you do travel outside the U.S. as a permanent resident without a green card, make sure you return to the U.S. before your stamp expires. Also make sure that your passport is current and does not expire while you’re outside the U.S.

What are the Consequences of Traveling without Appropriate Travel Documents?

Traveling outside the U.S. without proper travel documents may make you unable to return to the United States. In addition, USCIS may abandon your green card application. In that instance, you will have to re-file your paperwork, and may face deportation if you returned back to the United States with improper paperwork.

Do I Need to Hire a Lawyer?

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 outside the U.S. due to an emergency, an immigration attorney can also direct you to the correct course of action.