Filling Out Form I-131 for Advance Parole

If you want to travel before your green card application has been approved, you'll need to submit Form I-131 -- here are line-by-line instructions.

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Let's say you have filed an application for permanent residency while you are in the U.S. and your sister is getting married next month in Argentina: How can you travel without jeopardizing your application? You may file an application for advance parole, which is permission to reenter the U.S. while your Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status is pending. Unless you have permission from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to reenter, you risk forfeiting your residency application. This is done by filing Form I-131, Application for Travel Document. Ideally, you will file this along when you initially file form I-485 to avoid any delays or extra fees. For more information, see "Who Can Apply for a Green Card Through Adjustment of Status."

Read on for practical advice about the benefits of applying for advance parole and instructions on how to fill out Form I-131.

Who Should Apply for Advance Parole, and When to Do So

If you are an applicant for adjustment of status (a green card), you will likely find that many months pass between the time you file your application for residency with USCIS and the agency’s decision on your application. During this time, you should spend most of your time in the U.S. to appear for a biometrics (fingerprinting) appointment, your interview, and to receive any requests for evidence that USCIS might send you.

Nevertheless, you may need to travel abroad before you get your green card. To plan ahead for this possibility, you should file Form I-131 at the same time you apply for permanent residency (along with a Form I-765, Application for an Employment Authorization Document in case you would like to work before your application is approved).

Advance parole allows you to keep your permanent residency application alive after brief international travel. You must remain in the U.S. until your advance parole is approved and your travel document is mailed to you. USCIS will cancel your advance parole if you leave before it is issued.

Adjustment of status applicants aren't the only ones who may need to apply for advance parole. You will also need to file do so -- and also using Form I-131 -- if you need to travel outside the U.S. and you have Temporary Protective Status (TPS), self-petitioned for a green card under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), have a pending asylum application, or have an approved petition for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).

People in removal proceedings and undocumented immigrants are not eligible for advance parole.

Advance Parole Does Not Guarantee Readmission to the U.S.

Even with an advance parole document, you can still be denied U.S. reentry at the discretion of Customs and Border Protection (CBP). This was, in the past, a particular problem for people who had been unlawfully present in the U.S. for 180 days or more; and it remains a problem for anyone who is inadmissible for some other reason. (For more on the grounds of inadmissibility that can railroad your attempts to reenter the U.S., see “Inadmissibility: When the U.S. Can Keep You Out.”) If you think you might be inadmissible, check with an immigration attorney before you leave the country.

The good news regarding unlawful presence, however, is that the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) recently ruled in Matter of Arrabally Yerrabelly, 25 I&N Dec. 771 (BIA 2012) that people with a pending permanent residency application who leave the U.S. with advance parole do not trigger the three- and ten- year unlawful presence bars. However, USCIS has not yet provided guidance on how it will adjudicate advance parole applications in light of the BIA’s decision, so be cautious and consult an immigration attorney before leaving.

Guidance for Filling Out Form I-131 for Advance Parole

Much of Form I-131 is self-explanatory. Here, we will provide guidance for some of the more confusing aspects of the application.

Form I-131, instructions, and the latest filing fees are available on the I-131 page of the USCIS website (www.uscis.gov).

Checklist of Documents to File With Form I-131

Here are the items you will need to include with your Form I-131:

  • Filing fee of $360, made payable by check or money order to “Department of Homeland Security,” (current as of early 2014). If you have already submitted a filing fee with your adjustment of status application, DO NOT need to send an additional filing fee.
  • Two passport-style photographs.
  • A copy of a photo identity document (with photo, name, and date or birth) such as a passport or driver’s license.
  • A copy of the document showing your present status in the U.S., such as a copy of your current or expired visa or approval notice for DACA or TPS.
  • If you are filing Form I-131 separately from your green card, TPS, or asylum application, a copy of Form I-797C Notice of Action showing that the earlier application was either accepted for processing or approved.
  • Evidence showing your reasons and/or necessity to travel, if necessary.

Part 1, “Information about you”: In this section, you will provide your basic personal information. Question 6 asks for your class of admission, which is the visa you used the last time you entered the United States. For example, if you came to the U.S. originally as a temporary visitor for business, you should write “B-1.” If you entered without inspection, write “EWI.” If unsure what your visa code is, check your visa stamp or the passport stamp you received upon arrival.

Part 2, “Application Type”: If you are in the U.S. and seek permission to travel abroad temporarily while your immigration application is pending, check box 1.d.

Part 3, “Processing Information”: If you know your date of departure and how long the trip will last, include that information in Questions 1-2. If you do not already have a trip planned, you can write “unknown” for the date of departure and “N/A” for non-applicable for length of trip. Question 3.a. asks whether you are in immigration proceedings. Note that you must check “No” here in order to be eligible for an advance parole document.

You can skip to Part 7 if you are applying for an advance parole document, so leave Parts 4-6 blank.

“Part 7, “Complete Only If Applying for Advance Parole”: You are asked to attach documents to prove that you qualify for an advance parole document. If you have already submitted your application for a green card, you must include a copy of the receipt notice from your pending application. (If you are submitting this at the same time as an adjustment of status application, USCIS will be easily able to tell that this is your basis for eligibility.)

If you are applying for advance parole because you have been given DACA or TPS immigration relief or you have a pending application for asylum, you should also include your travel itinerary, and any other documents that support your reason to travel.

Note that those approved for DACA may only travel for “humanitarian, education, or work purposes.”

TPS beneficiaries and asylum applicants must not travel back to their home country or the country where they fear persecution or else they risk their protected status in the United States.

For Question 1, if you are applying for advance parole because of a pending green card application and you are not otherwise inadmissible, you should check “More than one trip” even if you only plan on leaving the U.S. once. This way you will be issued a multiple entry document, which is advisable in case you need to make an additional trip outside the United States. Questions 2 and 3 apply to people seeking humanitarian parole because they have left the U.S. before receiving permission to reenter. If you are currently in the U.S., you can leave those questions blank.

Part 8, “Signature”: Make sure to sign and date your application and provide a phone number where you can be reached.

Part 9, “Signature of Person Preparing the Form, If Other Than the Applicant”: This section needs to be filled out only if someone else prepared your application, like an attorney. Otherwise leave it blank.

Make a copy of the entire application package for your records and send the application to the address that applies to you on the USCIS instructions for Form I-131. The address to which you will send your application depends on whether you are a green card applicant, a DACA recipient, or in another status and whether you are filing Form I-131 with another USCIS form or on its own.

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