How to apply for a travel document in the USA

If you plan to travel outside the USA, you may need a travel document to return. This is based on your immigration status. Learn who needs a travel document and how to apply.

Оновлено 1 Березня, 2024

What is a travel document?

A travel document lets the U.S. government know about your travel plans. This is for anyone who is not a U.S. citizen but is living in the USA. You can use a travel document instead of a visa as proof of travel authorization. 

You must get your travel document before you leave the country. You must show your travel document at the airport or border. You will still need your passport to re-enter the USA if you have one. 

Having a travel document does not guarantee you can re-enter the USA. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) will check your documents and decide if you can legally re-enter the USA. 

Who needs a travel document?

You must have a travel document to re-enter the United States if you have the status of:

  • Refugee or asylee
  • Humanitarian parole
  • TPS or DED
  • Pending application for TPS or Green Card
  • Lawful permanent resident and will be outside the U.S. for 1 year or more   
  • DACA or other temporary status and have a qualifying reason for travel 

Why do I need a travel document?

If you leave the USA without a travel document, you will risk:

  • Losing your immigration status
  • Being denied any pending application
  • Not being allowed back into the USA

If a CBP officer says you are not allowed to re-enter the USA, you might have to go to immigration court. If you do not qualify for other immigration relief, you may be deported from the USA.

It is important to check with an immigration legal representative before you travel, especially if you have a pending application. Even with a travel document, any travel outside the U.S. can put your application at risk. 

What are the types of travel documents? 

There are 5 types of travel documents:

  • Advance parole document
  • Refugee travel document
  • Re-entry permit
  • TPS travel authorization 
  • Carrier documentation 

The type of travel document you need depends on your current immigration status. The application process is the same for all 5 types of travel documents.

Different travel documents have different expiration dates. Make sure your travel document is valid and unexpired when returning to the USA. It is important you know when your travel document expires. 

Advance parole document

Advanced parole lets you return to the USA without applying for a visa. You can apply for an advance parole document if you have a:

  • Pending Green Card application 
  • Pending asylum application
  • Pending TPS application 
It is important to remember that if you leave the country while your application is pending, you could miss important notices or requests for information. If you do not respond to requests from USCIS while you are abroad, your application may be denied. 

Refugee travel document

A refugee travel document allows you to return to the United States if you are a:

  • Refugee or asylee
  • Derivative asylee or refugee 
  • Green Card holder based on refugee or asylee status

Refugee travel documents are valid for 1 year. 

Re-entry permit 

A re-entry permit is for people traveling outside the USA for more than 1 year. It allows you to return to the USA without applying for a return visa from a U.S. embassy or consulate. 

You can apply for a re-entry permit if you are a:

  • Permanent resident
  • Conditional resident 

If you are away from the USA for less than 1 year, you will only need to show your Green Card when you return.

TPS travel authorization 

If you have TPS, you must apply for travel authorization to travel outside the United States. If your request is approved, USCIS will issue you Form I-512T to show you have permission to travel. You can use your TPS travel document as proof of travel at an airport instead of a visa.

If your application for TPS is pending and you plan to travel abroad, you must apply for advance parole. If approved, you will get Form I-512L as proof of travel. 

Carrier documentation 

Carrier documentation allows airlines or transportation carriers to let you board a plane or other transportation carrier to travel back to the USA. This is a separate application with Form I-131A.

You can apply for carrier documentation if:

  • Your Green Card, advance parole, or re-entry permit was lost, stolen, or destroyed
  • You are a permanent resident or a conditional resident 

How can I apply?

The process to apply for a travel document is generally the same for all 5 types of travel documents. You can apply for a travel document with USCIS by filing Form I-131, Application for Travel Document. You can specify the type of travel document you request in Part 2 of the form. 

Read the instructions for Form I-131 for more information on filling it out. You must submit evidence such as your photo identification and proof of immigration status. 

You can file your application online or mail it to a direct filing address depending on your immigration status. Find tips for filing a form online.

You must apply for a travel document before leaving the United States. Make sure you check processing times before planning travel. You will need your travel document to re-enter the USA.

What happens after I file my application?

You will get a notice in the mail once your application has been accepted. USCIS may request more information or evidence. You may have to go to a biometrics service appointment and interview. 

How can I track the status of my case?

You must fill out Form G-1145 to receive a confirmation receipt over email or text message. You check your case status online by entering your receipt number. 

How long does it take to get my travel document?

Case processing times depend on your location and application type. You can check case processing times online. 

After you have applied, you can see the estimated wait time for your case by logging into your myUSCIS account. 

Can I expedite my travel document?

If you have an urgent reason that you need to travel, you may request expedited (faster) processing of your application. You can request expedited processing by calling the USCIS Contact Center. 

Expedited processing may be available for the following reasons:

  • Emergencies such as medical needs, serious illness, or death in close family
  • Humanitarian situation 
  • Severe financial loss
  • Urgent non-profit activities 
  • U.S. government interests
  • Clear USCIS error

All requests for expedited processing are taken on a case-by-case basis. You may be required to submit additional evidence. If you leave the country before you have approval, you may not be allowed to return. 

Should I talk to a lawyer?

It is important to get legal help when you apply for a travel document, especially if you have a pending immigration application. A lawyer or accredited representative can explain your options and help you submit your application. Many organizations and lawyers offer free or low-cost legal services

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