Form I-131: The Advance Parole Travel Document Explained
If you have 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 on how to plan for your temporary travel.
Written by Jonathan Petts.
Updated March 2, 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 close your green card application case.
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.
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), the spouse or child of a U.S. citizen, or the spouse or child of a lawful permanent resident.
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 the below 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
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. You can speak with an experienced attorney through our Ask an Attorney program for just $24/month. 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
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 complete Form I-131
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 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 and tricks 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 is currently taking USCIS 7 to 16 months to process Advance Parole applications. This is assuming all goes well with your Form I-131 application. That means you filled it out completely and correctly, mailed it to the correct address, and 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 in 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
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 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’ll likely miss many of these appointments without regularly returning to the U.S.
The same goes for regularly receiving documents from USCIS in the mail. It’s best to make arrangements to receive mail while traveling abroad or update your mailing address that USCIS has on file.
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.
Need Extra Help?
If you are confused about how to file your Advance Parole documents, are worried about your green card status, or have general questions about the naturalization process, check out our Ask an Attorney program. For just $24/month you can speak with an experienced attorney and get all of your questions answered.