Foreign residents from certain designated countries can obtain Temporary Protected Status (TPS), which allows them to remain in the United States for a limited period of time, protected from unsafe conditions in their home countries. People granted TPS can also obtain work authorization in order to legally work and support themselves during their U.S. stay. However, TPS does not automatically grant the ability to return to the U.S. after traveling abroad.
If you are in the U.S. with TPS and wish to travel abroad, this article can help you learn how to apply for a travel document. (For information about how to obtain TPS in the first place, see Nolo’s article Temporary Protected Status (TPS): How to Apply.)
If you have TPS and wish to return to the U.S. after traveling abroad, you need approval from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). To apply for this permission, complete and file Form I-131, Application for Travel Document. If approved, you will receive a travel document known as “Advance Parole.” This document will allow you to travel abroad and to return to the U.S. within the time period for which you are authorized. This permit is often authorized for multiple reentries, but you can remain outside the U.S. for only a total of 90 days.
For more information about how to complete form I-131, see Filling Out Form I-131 for Advance Parole.
There may be some risks that you will need to consider if you are considering traveling outside the U.S. after a grant of TPS.
If you have TPS but have not yet obtained Advance Parole from USCIS, you should not travel outside the United States. Leaving the country without the proper travel documents can cause you to lose your TPS designation. If this happens, you will likely not be able to immediately return to the United States.
Even if you do have proper travel documents, it is extremely important that you return to the U.S. within the time period that you are permitted to travel listed on your Advance Parole document. If you attempt to return to the U.S. after the allotted time expires, you may be denied entry into the country, and it is also possible that your TPS will be considered abandoned due to a failure to maintain continuous residence in the United States.
In addition, you need to make sure that you will not miss important deadlines associated with your TPS grant while you travel abroad. For example, if you must soon renew your TPS status or if your TPS is scheduled to expire in the near future, it is probably best to wait until you update your immigration status before you travel. It is possible to miss important information from USCIS about your status or other applications you have filed during the time that you are outside the United States. For example, many TPS designees also have pending applications for asylum or permanent residence. Missing deadlines for any immigration application you may have pending with USCIS can be highly detrimental to your case.
If you entered the U.S. without inspection or if you overstayed your visa for a certain amount of time prior to obtaining TPS, it is best to consult with an immigration attorney prior to traveling outside the U.S., even if your application for Advance Parole has been approved.
There are situations when travel outside the U.S. may hurt your case. For example, if you have previously traveled outside the country while on TPS, when you are inspected by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, you may risk a finding that you previously abandoned your TPS status at an earlier date. If you committed other immigration violations in the past, such as entering the U.S. with invalid documents, or you overstayed a visa by a significant amount of time, you may not be permitted to reenter once your eligibility for reentry is assessed at the border.
However, in other situations, such travel outside the U.S. could be beneficial – particularly if you have a qualifying relationship upon which you may be able to apply for permanent residence. Recent case law (for example, see the Board of Immigration Appeals case, Matter of Arrabally Yerrabelly) has opened up the possibility for people who are in the U.S. to travel and return with an Advance Parole document even if they accrued unlawful time in the past. This can be very beneficial for a TPS holder who, for example, entered without inspection but later married a U.S. citizen. Upon return from travel abroad, the individual has now been inspected by an immigration official and, as a result, may be eligible to apply to adjust status to permanent residence based on marriage.
There are many countries designated for TPS, and each individual situation is different and may be very complicated. Leaving the U.S. for any reason during a pending application, after a grant of TPS, or while a person is not a U.S. permanent resident or citizen has inherent risks. The best practice is to consult with a qualified immigration attorney before deciding to travel abroad.