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 Temporary Protected Status (TPS): How to Apply.)
WARNING: Owing to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, travel outside the U.S. is ill advised as of 2020, for health reasons and due to the risk that you'll be unable to return when you wish to. In particular, non-U.S. citizens or residents from certain countries with major outbreaks are not allowed U.S. entry until further notice.
If you have TPS and wish to return to the U.S. after traveling abroad, you first 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 the required form, see Filling Out Form I-131 for Advance Parole.
There could 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 to 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 could be denied entry into the U.S., and it's also possible that your TPS will be considered abandoned due to a failure to maintain continuous residence in the United States.
In addition, you must make sure that you will not miss important deadlines associated with your TPS grant while you travel abroad.
For example, if the time is coming to renew your TPS status or if your TPS is scheduled to expire in the near future, it's probably best to wait until you update your immigration status before you travel. Otherwise, you might miss important information from USCIS about your status or other applications you've filed during your time 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 might 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, 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. can 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 might 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 might 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 might be able to apply for permanent residence.
Immigration case law (such as the Board of Immigration Appeals case, Matter of Arrabally and Yerrabelly) 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 particularly helpful for TPS holders who have a separate right to apply for a green card. Someone who, for example, entered the U.S. without inspection but later married a U.S. citizen could, upon return from travel abroad, theoretically be considered to have been inspected by an immigration official and thus be eligible to apply to adjust status to permanent residence based on that marriage. This would having to leave the U.S. to apply through a consulate, and facing a possible bar to return. (See Who Can Apply for a Green Card Through Adjustment of Status.)
This strategy can only work in certain parts of the United States, however. In 2020, USCIS designated an AAO decision, Matter of Z-R-Z-C-, as an adopted decision, meaning it will apply it as a general policy. But TPS holders who live
within the jurisdictions of the Sixth and Ninth U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeals are not affected. These federal courts have both found that a grant of TPS by itself constitutes an inspection and admission for purposes of adjusting status (no travel required). (See Ramirez v. Brown, 852 F.3d 954 (9th Cir. 2017); Flores v. U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Servs., 718 F.3d 548 (6th Cir. 2013).)
There are many countries designated for TPS, and each individual situation is different and can be 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.