The green card application can take a while. How long you wait depends on your green card type and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) case processing backlogs. If you’re applying for a green card while in the United States, you typically cannot leave until the application process is over. If you leave, USCIS will discontinue your green card application.
You can apply for an Advance Parole travel document to be able to leave the United States while waiting for your green card and return with permission from the U.S. government. In this article, you will learn what Advance Parole is, who qualifies for it and who doesn’t, and how to apply for Advance Parole step-by-step.
When you apply for your green card from the United States, your application type is called an “adjustment of status.” An Advance Parole travel permit allows current adjustment of status applicants to leave the United States for a temporary period and return without effectively discontinuing their application.
To apply for Advance Parole, you must file Form I-131, Application for Travel Document with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Green card applicants looking to travel abroad for any reason, including a sibling’s wedding, the funeral of a family member, and important overseas business meetings, absolutely must obtain Advance Parole before leaving the United States.
You need Advance Parole if you have a pending green card application and want to take a trip outside the United States while you wait. You will abandon your green card application if you leave the United States without Advance Parole before U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) decides on your green card application. USCIS will terminate any abandoned green card applications, and you would have to do it all over again, which is expensive and time-consuming. To avoid this inconvenience, you should apply for Advance Parole if you’re eligible for it.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) approves travel permit applications on a case-by-case basis. You’re eligible to apply for Advance Parole if you fall within one of the below categories:
On the contrary, you aren’t eligible for Advance Parole if one or more of the following applies to you:
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 re-entry. If you’ve been unlawfully present in the country for more than 180 days to one year, USCIS will bar you from re-entering for three years. If you’ve been without status for a year or longer, USCIS will bar you for ten years.
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.
Outside of being ineligible for Advance Parole, you may just not need it to re-enter the country after leaving. Foreign nationals who have certain valid visas can re-enter the United States based on that immigration status. You may travel outside of the United States without Advance Parole while waiting for USCIS to process your Form I-485 if you are:
After determining whether you can apply for Advance Parole, or if you even need it, you can begin the Advance Parole application process depending on your current immigration status.
The Advance Parole application process is straightforward. 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 fees and supporting documentation, and then finally submit them together with the form to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
Form I-131 is the heart of your Advance Parole application. It is officially called “Application for Travel Document.” 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 the most recent version of Form I-131 from the USCIS website, printing, and completing it.
When you have completed Form I-131, it is time to gather the government filing fee and required supporting documents to be submitted with the form. You must include these supporting documents with Form I-131:
You can submit your complete Form I-131 and supporting documents to USCIS either online or by mail. To submit online, you must first create a MyUSCIS account and submit your petition through your account.
For people who choose to submit their forms by mail, you will have to send your application packet to a specific USCIS mailing address, depending 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. You can find out the specific direct filing address to use by visiting the USCIS website.
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’s website has an up-to-date list of all U.S. embassies and consulates.
Many immigration application forms carry government filing fees. The U.S. government uses this to cover the administrative costs of processing your application. The filing fee for Form I-131 is $575. If you cannot afford this fee, you may be able to apply for a fee waiver using 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 submit Form G-1450, Authorization for Credit Card Transactions with Form I-131. USCIS can only process your credit card payment using Form G-1450.
For whichever payment method you choose, it’s essential to make sure that you have the $575 available after submitting your application so that the payment can go through. If not, USCIS will reject your application, causing a delay in processing.
The Advance Parole processing usually takes 3 to 5 months to process. This is assuming all goes well with your application, that is, 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 get an updated estimate of how long your application’s processing will take on the USCIS website.
Depending on your situation, USCIS can expedite an application to reduce the processing time down to 30 days. To expedite your Advance Parole application, you must demonstrate to USCIS that your situations fall under one of the following categories:
USCIS will grant an emergency Advance Parole request based on their discretion in emergencies. To do this, you will have to visit the nearest USCIS field office with the following documents: completed Form I-131, filing fee, evidence supporting the emergency request, and two passport-style photos. Emergency Advance Parole grants usually process on the same day.
Once you’ve successfully applied for Advance Parole, you cannot leave the United States until you’ve received your physical travel document. It will take approximately 3-5 months to get to you, so you should expect to stay in the United States until you receive the physical document.
Typically, an Advance Parole document allows you to travel for up to a year abroad. However, USCIS reserves the right to revoke your permit for any reason. If this occurs, you cannot return to the United States without a valid visa or other documentation allowing you re-entry into the United States.
When traveling abroad, you should be mindful of scheduled fingerprinting (biometrics) and interview appointments. Although your travel permit may allow you to travel for up to a year, you’ll likely miss many of these appointments without regularly returning to the United States. Please follow the USCIS reschedule procedures written on your appointment notice if you think you’re at risk of missing an appointment.
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.
While Advance Parole will prevent USCIS from terminating your green card application and the immigration benefits that will come with it, it doesn’t guarantee re-entry into the United States. At a U.S. port of entry, border patrol agents can deny your re-entry even if you have proper travel documentation. So, it is crucial to determine whether traveling outside of the United States is necessary before leaving.
If you have been living in the United States for any amount of time without legal immigration status, you’re at risk of being barred from re-entry, which could be three or ten years. If you need to speak to a lawyer about your particular case, please visit the U.S. government’s legal aid website for assistance.
Applying for Advance Parole while waiting for your green card can be complicated, but working with a good immigration attorney can make it easier. If you can’t afford the attorney fees and don’t want to handle your Advance Parole case alone, we may be able to help. If you are eligible, our free web app will walk you through the process and help you prepare and file your application with the U.S. government. Click “Get Started” to see how we can help make your American dream come true!