Travel Documents and Forms for Reentry to the US
What Is a Travel Document and Who Needs One?
If you are not a U.S. citizen, you may need permission to return to the United States after traveling abroad. This permission is granted through a travel document. Any immigrant (Green Card holder) who does not have the correct travel documents will not be admitted to the United States. Travel documents are also given to people who want to travel, but cannot get a passport from their country of nationality. You should apply for one of the following travel documents before you leave the United States:
If you have applied for immigration benefits (including a Green Card), you may need Advance Parole to be able to return to the United States if you travel abroad. It may be sought by, but not limited to, asylum applicants, parolees, people with Temporary Protected Status (TPS), and people who are applying to Adjust to Permanent Resident Status. Advance Parole may be given at the discretion of the District Director or the Service Center Director having jurisdiction over your place of residence. If you do not apply for Advance Parole before you leave the country, you will abandon your application with the USCIS and you may not be permitted to return to the United States. This requirement does NOT apply to people who have applied to adjust to permanent resident status and are maintaining H-1 status (temporary workers in specialty occupations) or L-1 status (intra-company transferees), or their dependents in H-4 or L-2 status.
Advance Parole may also be sought by people who need to travel to the United States temporarily for a humanitarian emergency. Advance Parole cannot be used to avoid normal visa issuing procedures or processing delays. Someone in the United States may file such an Advance Parole application for you, or you may file for yourself. For more information, see Advance Parole: Foreign Travel with a Pending Green Card Immigration Application.
Green Card holders (lawful permanent residents or conditional permanent residents) who wish to remain outside the United States for more than one year, but less than two, require a Reentry Permit. A Reentry Permit is not required for a trip that is shorter than one year. Note that an absence of more than one year will break the period of continuous residence required to become a citizen, even if a Reentry Permit is issued. A Reentry Permit is also issued to Green Card holders who want to travel outside the United States, but cannot get a national passport from their country of nationality. A Reentry Permit is valid for two years. For more information, see Green Card & Travel Outside the US: Documents and Issues for US Reentry.
Refugee Travel Document
A Refugee Travel Document allows people who are or once were refugees or asylees to return to the United States after travel abroad. You should apply for a Refugee Travel Document before you leave the United States. However, in some cases, USCIS officials may issue travel documents to refugees or asylees who are physically outside the United States (USCIS officials will not issue a Refugee Travel Document to a refugee or asylee located abroad if the refugee or asylee was thought to abandon refugee status, engage in activities outside the U.S. that affect refugee status, or remain outside the U.S. for more than one year). A Refugee Travel Document is generally valid for one year.
How Do I Apply for a Travel Document?
File USCIS Form I-131 (Application for Travel Document), which is available online, or by calling 1-800-870-3676, or by submitting an online request to receive forms by mail. Further information on forms, filing fees, and fee waivers is available in USCIS Forms / INS Forms and Other US Immigration Forms, Fees & Filing Locations. After receiving USCIS Form I-131, read it carefully and note the documentation and photos that must be submitted. Detailed information is provided in the instructions. Where you should file this form depends on your situation:
If you are in the United States and are applying for Advance Parole, file USCIS Form I-131 at your local USCIS office or the Service Center having jurisdiction over your place of residence.
If you are outside the United States, and you want to apply for Advance Parole to come to the United States temporarily for a humanitarian emergency, mail Form I-131 with supporting documentation and fees to the USCIS foreign district office that serves your area.
Reentry Permits and Refugee Travel Documents
Applications for a Reentry Permit or Refugee Travel Document should be sent with the supporting documentation and fees to: USCIS, Northern Service Center, 100 Centennial Mall North, Room B-26, Lincoln, Nebraska 68508. If you think you may have to leave the United States before the Reentry Permit is received, you may have it sent to a U.S. Consulate or USCIS office overseas for pick up. There is a place on the Form I-131 to furnish the information necessary to receive the Reentry Permit outside of the United States. However, even though you may receive the Reentry Permit overseas, the application must be submitted while you are still in the United States.
How Can I Check the Status of My Travel Document Application?
You may check the status of your application or case online, by phone, or by contacting an appropriate USCIS office. For details see USCIS Case Status: Check USCIS Case Status for Visas and Immigration. You may also want to review US Visa Wait Times and USCIS Immigration Processing Times. For more assistance, see HELP! (below).
How Can I Appeal if My Travel Document is Denied?
If your application for a Reentry Permit or Refugee Travel Document is denied, the denial letter will tell you how to appeal. Generally, you may appeal within 33 days of receiving the denial. Your appeal must be filed on USCIS Form I-290B. The appeal must be filed with the office that made the original decision. After your appeal form and a required fee are processed, the appeal will be referred to the Administrative Appeals Office (AAO) in Washington, DC (sending the appeal and fee directly to the AAO will delay the process).
If your application for Advance Parole is denied, you will receive a letter that will tell you why the application was denied. You will not be allowed to appeal a negative decision to a higher authority. However, you may submit a motion to reopen or a motion to reconsider with the office that made the unfavorable decision. By filing these motions, you may ask the office to reexamine or reconsider their decision. A motion to reopen must state the new facts that are to be provided in the reopened proceeding and must be accompanied by affidavits or other documentary evidence. A motion to reconsider must establish that the decision was based on an incorrect application of law or USCIS policy, and further establish that the decision was incorrect based on the evidence in the file at the time the decision was made. For more information, see How to Appeal if USCIS Denied My Petition or Application (US Immigration, Green Card Denial).
- Have a specific question? To help you find an answer quickly, we have placed "Ask a Visa & Immigration Lawyer" boxes on this page. Simply type a question in any of the boxes to receive a response online from a visa and immigration lawyer.
- You may also contact your nearest USCIS District Office or Sub Office or call the national USCIS toll-free information service at 1-800-375-5283.
- You may also want to seek the advice of an immigration attorney (this link will help you find the right lawyer for your case), or an immigrant assistance organization. A list of accredited organizations and individuals is maintained by the Executive Office of Immigration Review, which also maintains a list of free legal service providers.
- For assistance outside of the U.S., contact the nearest U.S. Consulate.