Form I-131: The Advance Parole Travel Document Explained

In a Nutshell

If you have or are applying for a green card, DACA status, or certain humanitarian visas, and you want to travel outside the United States, you need to get a travel document from the U.S. government. You apply for this document by filing Form I-131: Application for Travel Document with USCIS. This allows you to get what’s called an Advance Parole document. Below is a guide on how to apply for Advance Parole step-by-step as well as tips for to plan for your temporary travel.

Written by Jonathan Petts
Updated September 24, 2023

What Is Advance Parole?

An Advance Parole document allows current green card applicants to leave the United States for temporary travel and return without disrupting their green card (permanent resident card) application process. There are a few situations you can be in while applying for Advance Parole, such as: having a pending application for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) or being a DACA recipient. In this article, we are focusing on individuals applying for Advance Parole with a pending green card application

To apply for Advance Parole, you must file Form I-131: Application for Travel Document with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Green card applicants looking to travel abroad for any reason must obtain Advance Parole before leaving the United States. If you leave the U.S. without the proper travel documents, USCIS will close your green card application.  

Why Do I Need Advance Parole?

You need Advance Parole if you have a pending green card (permanent resident card) application and want to take a trip outside the United States. If you leave the United States without Advance Parole and USCIS hasn’t approved your green card application, the agency will consider your case abandoned and likely deny for application.

If USCIS closes your green card application, you have to start the process over again, which is expensive and time-consuming. To avoid this, you need to complete Form I-131: Application for Travel Document and apply for Advance Parole before leaving the U.S.

You do not need to apply for Advance Parole if you are waiting for USCIS to process your Form I-485 and you are: 

  • A temporary worker under a valid H-1 visa (or their spouse or child)

  • An intra-company transferee under a valid L-1 visa (or their spouse or child)

Who Is Eligible for Advance Parole?

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) determines eligibility on a case-by-case basis. You’re eligible to apply for Advance Parole if you fall within one of these categories:

  • You submitted an adjustment of status green card application using Form I-485

  • You applied for Temporary Protected Status (TPS)* 

  • You submitted an asylum application or you are an asylee

  • You currently have a pending application for temporary resident status under Section 245(A) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA)

  • USCIS granted you TPS, T nonimmigrant, or U nonimmigrant status 

  • USCIS or Customs and Border Protection (CBP) granted you humanitarian parole under Section 212 (d)(5) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA)

  • You received benefits through the Family Unity Program

  • You’re a DACA recipient

*On July 1, 2022 USCIS began issuing a new travel authorization document for people who receive TPS. This new form is called: Form I-512T, Authorization for Travel by a Noncitizen to the United States.

Who Is Not Eligible for Advance Parole?

You aren’t eligible for Advance Parole if one or more of the following applies to you:

  • You are residing in the United States without valid immigration status after entering unlawfully many times

  • You have a valid reentry permit or refugee document 

  • You are on a J visa or a visa with a foreign residence requirement

  • You are a beneficiary of a private immigration bill approved by Congress

  • You are currently in the middle of a removal proceeding (deportation)

  • You are an asylee or a refugee, but you’re not adjusting your status to a green card 

If you’ve been in the United States unlawfully, you may file for Advance Parole. However, even if granted, you still may be barred from reentry by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). 

If you’ve lived in the United States without status for any period of time, you should always consult an immigration lawyer before traveling abroad. If you can't afford a lawyer, you can contact a legal aid office for help.

How Do I Apply for Advance Parole? A Step-by-Step Guide

First, you will need to complete the official application form, called Form I-131: Application for Travel Document. When you have completed the form, you will have to gather the government filing fees and supporting documentation, and then finally submit them together with Form I-131 to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

Step 1: Complete Form I-131

Form I-131 is officially called the Application for Travel Document. This document is used for anyone applying for a Reentry Permit, a Refugee Travel Document, and Advance Parole. You cannot submit your travel permit request to the U.S. government without completing and signing this form. 

You can complete the form in two ways — either online by creating a MyUSCIS account or on paper by downloading, printing, and completing the most recent version of Form I-131 from the USCIS website. You will need your Alien Registration Number (A Number) to complete your application.

Step 2: Gather Fees & Supporting Documents for Form I-131

When you have completed Form I-131, it is time to gather the $575 filing fee and the required supporting documents. You must include these supporting documents with the Form I-131 application:

  • Your receipt notice from USCIS after filing Form I-485, if your green card is pending

  • Two passport-style photographs 

  • USCIS-issued document showing the validity of your current immigration status — this could be an approval/receipt notice (Form I-797)

  • A photocopy of a government-issued identification document (ID), which must include your name, date of birth, and a photo — examples of acceptable forms of ID include a passport, drivers license, and employment authorization document (EAD)

  • Marriage certificate (if applying for Advance Parole based on your spouse’s pending green card application)

  • Child’s birth certificate (if applying for Advance Parole for a child based on a pending child green card application)

  • Detailed evidence explaining your reasons for traveling — you can explain your reasons with a Declaration of Support Letter

If any of your supporting documents aren’t in English, USCIS requires the documents be accompanied by a certified English translation.

It’s also a good idea to include a cover letter for your application. This short letter explains what supporting documents are in your application and helps keep things organized.

Step 3: Submit Your Application

You can submit your completed Form I-131: Application for Travel Document and supporting documents to USCIS either online or by mail. To submit online, you must first create a MyUSCIS account. Then you can submit your petition through your account on the USCIS website.

If you choose to submit your USCIS forms by mail, you will have to send your application packet to a specific USCIS filing address. The address depends on where you live and what mail service you use to send your forms. For Advance Parole applicants who have a pending Form I-485 (green card) application, you’ll send your documents either to the USCIS lockbox in Chicago, Dallas, or Phoenix. The USCIS website lists these addresses.

If You’re Filing Form I-131 Overseas

If you’re filing Form I-131 overseas, you must first get permission from your local U.S. embassy or consulate. You’ll have to set up an appointment with your local U.S. embassy to make your request in person. The State Department has an up-to-date list of all U.S. embassies and consulates.

How Much Does It Cost To Get Advance Parole?

The filing fee for Form I-131 is $575. If you cannot afford this filing fee, you may be able to apply for a fee waiver by filing Form I-912. You can also check out our tips for fundraising the fees.

You can pay using a money order, personal check, cashier’s check, or credit card. All checks should be made payable to the “U.S. Department of Homeland Security.” If you’re using a credit card, you must also file Form G-1450: Authorization for Credit Card Transactions with your Form I-131 application. USCIS can only process your credit card payment using Form G-1450. 

How Long Does It Take To Get Advance Parole?

It’s currently taking USCIS 6 to 18 months to process Advance Parole applications. Processing times vary a lot by USCIS service center and may change over time. Your Form I-131 application can be delayed if you didn’t fill it out completely and correctly, mail it to the correct address, and ensure USCIS received it. 

The application processing time may take longer if the USCIS service center handling your case is experiencing significant processing backlogs. You can see USCIS’ current processing times on its webpage.

I Have an Emergency. Can I Get Advance Parole Quicker?

In some cases, USCIS will expedite applications. This can reduce the processing time to 30 days. To expedite your Advance Parole document application, you must demonstrate to USCIS that:

  • You’ve suffered a financial loss to your company or person

  • You’re experiencing an emergency

  • You have a valid humanitarian reason

  • You’re affiliated with a nonprofit organization requesting an expedited application for culture or social interests benefiting the United States

  • Your request is made by the Department of Defense or another U.S. government agency to promote the national interest

  • USCIS made an administrative error

  • You have another compelling interest determined by USCIS

USCIS grants emergency Advance Parole requests based on its officers’ discretion in emergencies. To do this, you will have to visit the nearest USCIS office with the following documents:

  • A completed Form I-131

  • Filing fee

  • Evidence supporting the emergency request

  • Two passport-style photos

Successful emergency Advance Parole requests are usually processed on the same day. 

What You Need To Know When Traveling With Advance Parole

Once you’ve successfully applied for Advance Parole, you cannot leave the United States until you’ve received your physical travel document. 

Typically, an Advance Parole document allows you temporary travel for up to one year abroad. However, USCIS reserves the right to revoke your Advance Parole document for any reason. If this happens, you cannot return to the United States without a valid U.S. visa or other documentation. 

You should also be mindful of scheduled fingerprinting (biometric services) and interview appointments. Although your travel permit may allow temporary travel for up to one year, you may miss many of these appointments without regularly returning to the U.S. 

The same goes for regularly receiving mailed communications (such as a notice of action) from USCIS, which help you understand the status of your application. It’s best to make arrangements to receive mail while traveling abroad or update your mailing address with USCIS.

Reentry Into the U.S.

It is important to know that even if you have a valid Advance Parole document, there is no guarantee you can reenter the U.S. after traveling abroad. When arriving at a port of entry upon your return to the United States, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will conduct an inspection and determine your admission back into the U.S. Unfortunately, DHS could deny your reentry. 

It is also possible for DHS to revoke your Advance Parole at any time, including while you are abroad. This can happen even if your Form I-131 application has been approved and you have the correct Advance Parole documents. With these risks, it is crucial to determine whether temporary travel outside of the United States is necessary.