Non-citizen Travel – What Documents Do You Require?


If you are not a U.S. citizen you will face an immigration review every time you return to the United States. It’s important to know what documents you require for non-citizen travel.

Many holders of green cards assume they will have no issues when they return to the United States from another country because they are permanent residents.

However, even if you are a permanent resident and you have a green card, you are still subject to review by immigration officials. You should always carry your green card with you when traveling to confirm your status.

person with a suit case and plane coming out of a sunset

Depending on your circumstances there are other documents that you might need. Three documents are detailed by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and you can apply for them by using form I-131.

The I-131, Application for Travel Document, allows certain immigrants to apply for three different types of non-citizen travel documents, namely:

  • Advance Parole
  • Refugee Travel Document
  • Re-Entry Permit

Advance Parole

Advance parole has a fairly limited use. The document is used solely to allow temporary parole of a person into the country. An airline will accept the advance parole document instead of a visa but it’s not a replacement for a passport.

The document can be used when the non-citizen has a pending Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or to Adjust Status. It’s crucial that you obtain advance parole before leaving the country if you have an I-485 application pending or your application will be denied. There are some exceptions for people maintaining certain nonimmigrant statuses.

Advance Parole for Asylum Applicants

If you are seeking asylum and you have a pending Form I-589, Application for Asylum and for Withholding of Removal, you may be able to travel outside the country prior to receiving a final decision.  In these cases, it’s vital that you obtain advance parole. USCIS says it will assume asylum seekers who don’t have abandoned their application for asylum.

Even if you obtain advance parole, it’s not a cast-iron guarantee that you will be allowed back into the country. Instead, you will be subjected to an interview by a U.S. Customs and Border Protection agent.

Refugee Travel Document

Immigrants who have been granted refugee or asylum seeker status who want to travel abroad, require refugee travel documents.

Even if you have a green card, you will require the documentation if it was obtained due to your refugee or asylee status. Refugees and asylum seekers who don’t hold a green card must also have a refugee travel document.

Re-entry Permit

If you are a permanent or a conditional resident you should apply for a re-entry permit if you are going to be away from the United States for a year or more.

This permit allows re-entry to a resident without having to obtain a returning resident visa from a U.S. Embassy or consulate.

USCIS states if you entered the country illegally, you may be barred from returning even if you have been issued with one of the relevant travel documents.

If you have any questions about non-citizen travel documents, our experienced Austin family immigration lawyers can help you with the complicated process.

For help in making a claim or advice call us today for a consultation at  (512) 399-2311.

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