Decoding Form I-131: Your Passport for International Travel as a Non-Citizen
Non-US citizens needing to travel abroad and subsequently return to the US must file Form I-131, known as the Application for Travel Document. This form enables applicants to secure travel documents such as Advance Parole, Reentry Permits, and Refugee Travel Documents.
The filing fee for Form I-131 is $575, and payment can be made via a money order, personal check, cashier’s check, or credit card.
Understanding Advance Parole
Advance Parole serves as a travel permit for non-citizens with ongoing green card applications or select immigration statuses, allowing them to travel abroad without disrupting their application process. However, it’s important to note that an Advance Parole document does not guarantee admission into the United States, and it is different from humanitarian parole.
If the document expires while the holder is abroad, difficulties in returning to the US may arise.
Navigating Through Reentry Permits
A Reentry Permit is a document that allows lawful permanent residents (green card holders), also known as lawful permanent resident, to travel outside of the United States for a specified duration without relinquishing their permanent residence status. It’s advisable to apply for a re entry permit, which is a type of travel document, even if there are no specific travel plans, as there are no drawbacks to doing so.
However, if an individual has been present in the US without legal immigration status and subsequently leaves the country, they may face a bar from re-entering the US for either three or ten years, depending on the duration of their stay without legal status.
The Role of Refugee Travel Documents
A Refugee Travel Document is a type of travel document that provides those with asylum or refugee status the ability to return to the US after travelling outside the country. This documentation is a key part of helping individuals who have sought refuge maintain their stability and security. To apply for a Refugee Travel Document, one must file Form I-131 and be physically present in the United States at the time of application. The processing time for a Refugee Travel Document is approximately three months.
Travelling without a Refugee Travel Document may result in the inability to re-enter the US and potential removal proceedings.
Who Should Consider Filing Form I-131?
Form I-131 eligibility depends on the applicant’s immigration status and the type of travel document required. Individuals with pending applications for adjustment of status, asylum, or temporary protected status (TPS) may be eligible for Advance Parole. Asylees, refugees, and permanent residents who obtained their status as a refugee or asylee may request a Refugee Travel Document. To understand the specific eligibility criteria for each type of travel document, it’s essential to consult the official instructions and regulations provided by the U.S. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is a government agency of the U.S. federal government. It is responsible for adjudication services related to immigration.
Eligibility Criteria for Advance Parole Applicants
The eligibility for Advance Parole is determined on a case-by-case basis, with specific criteria for green card applicants. Certain circumstances, such as a pending adjustment application or a criminal record, can disqualify an individual from applying for Advance Parole.
Applicants for adjustment of status are required to travel and attend their green card interview within the US.
Special Considerations for Refugees and Asylees
Refugees and asylees must meet certain requirements to obtain a Refugee Travel Document. They must submit Form I-131, along with relevant documents, and apply while physically present in the United States.
Holding refugee or asylum status simplifies the application process for a Refugee Travel Document, enabling individuals to travel internationally and return to the United States.
Step-by-Step Guide to Completing Your Form I-131 Application
Filing Form I-131 includes multiple steps such as accumulating the required documents, paying the applicable fees, and submitting the application. Reviewing the USCIS service center’s instructions is imperative to ensure accurate and comprehensive application completion. Failure to provide the required documentation or submitting an incorrect fee can result in the rejection of the application by USCIS.
Compiling the Necessary Documentation
To complete Form I-131, you will need the following documents:
- A receipt notice from USCIS
- Two passport-style photographs
- A USCIS-issued document demonstrating the validity of your current immigration status
- A photocopy of a government-issued identification document
- Evidence that explains your reasons for traveling
- Certified English translations if needed
Compiling and arranging the required documentation, including any pending form, in advance is key to a seamless application process.
Fee Payment Strategies
Form I-131 fees can be paid through various methods, including:
- Money orders
- Personal checks
- Cashier’s checks
- Credit cards
If you’re unable to afford the filing fee, you can apply for a fee waiver by filing Form I-912, demonstrating your inability to pay. Submitting the correct fee is vital to prevent application rejection by USCIS.
Submitting Your Form I-131 Application Package
Once you’ve compiled the necessary documentation and prepared Form I-131, it’s time to submit your application package. Ensure that all documents are securely placed in the envelope to prevent any damage during transit. Label the envelope and the cover letter with the relevant mailing address and USCIS form number.
Where to Send Your Application
The correct mailing address for your Form I-131 application depends on your eligibility and residence. Consult the USCIS Lockbox Filing Locations Chart for Certain Family-Based Forms page for the appropriate address or visit the USCIS website for further details.
Tracking Your Receipt Notice and Application Progress
After submitting your Form I-131 application, USCIS will review it for completeness. Upon successful review, you’ll receive a receipt notice indicating the subsequent steps in the process, such as the date and time for your biometrics collection at the local USCIS Application Support Center. It’s important to monitor the receipt notice and adhere to any USCIS instructions.
You can track the status of your application online by entering the receipt number on the USCIS website.