After submitting an asylum application to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), many people find they wait months or years to be called for their asylum interview. But what if they want to travel during that time, even briefly? Here, we'll look at the details of the law as well as the practical realities.
Technically, asylum applicants CAN travel outside the United States while awaiting their interview at the Asylum Office. It's usually not a good idea to do so, however. Even with a pending asylum application, the person will be subjected to questioning from Customs and Border Protection (CBP) when attempting to return to the United States.
If, for example, you have inadmissibility grounds that could be triggered when you leave the country (such as unfavorable immigration or criminal history), you could be denied reentry, even if you have the necessary travel documentation.
Also, depending on the timing, you might actually end up missing your scheduled interview. This will obviously lead to delays in receiving a decision, and in the worst case, could lead to your case being denied.
You should consult an immigration attorney who can best advise you to whether it is in your best interests to leave the United States.
If you decide to travel regardless of the risks, you will need to submit USCIS Form I-131, Application for Travel Document to USCIS in order to receive what's called "advance parole" (permission to reenter the U.S. before your application is approved).
To learn more about this, see Filling Out Form I-131 for Advance Parole. Apply for advance parole well in advance of your trip and make sure you do not leave the U.S. without your travel document.
The biggest travel "don't" for asylum applicants is returning to the country where you have indicated that you fear persecution. If you do so, USCIS will then presume that you have abandoned your asylum application and could even decide that you submitted a fraudulent application—which could have serious consequences such as a permanent bar from reentering the United States.