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Gotta Go Unexpectedly? Advanced Parole Travel Considerations for Green Card Applicants

By Elizabeth Ji, Founder of The Ji Law Firm

If you’re dealing with a green card application, you’re likely aware this process be lengthy. How lengthy? It can extend over several years due to all the complex legalities. During this period, being away from family and friends may become a real challenge, often tinged with mixed emotions as you miss out on shared experiences and even significant milestones.

Now, imagine you must travel due to an emergency or a major family event. Advance Parole can allow you the flexibility to attend such a significant gathering without jeopardizing your pending green card application. This would enable you to maintain your connection with your loved ones during important moments. Even so, a common question many immigrants ask is: How can I travel internationally without jeopardizing my pending green card?

Traveling back home or to another country during the application process can be filled with risks due to so many strict restrictions. However, there is an option that can be used in some cases. This is the Advance Parole listed above. It may allow you to leave the U.S. for compelling reasons without affecting your ongoing application.

We shall now cover how to obtain and use this tool. So what is Advance Parole? It is a special authorization intended for individuals in the process of adjusting their status to permanent residency or who are otherwise temporarily in the U.S. Importantly, it allows you to leave the country without abandoning your pending application for U.S. residency.

Put simply, you can think of it as a re-entry permit ensuring you can return to America while keeping your ongoing application. To apply, you must fit into one of the following categories:

  1. Applicants with a pending Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status.
  2. Applicants with a pending asylum application, or who have already been granted asylum or refugee status.
  3. People with Temporary Protected Status (TPS) or Deferred Enforced Departure (DED).
  4. Beneficiaries of humanitarian programs.

It’s also important to note individuals with ongoing removal proceedings might need additional clearance before being granted Advance Parole. Below is a step-by-step guide to the application process. (However, I do advise you seek legal advice before considering this option.)

  • You will need to file form I-131, known as Application for Travel Document.

Note: It’s essential to fill this out accurately, providing all required information to avoid delays or denials.

  • You will need ample documentation. Note: it’s key to provide proof of your pending status adjustment application or other evidence supporting your eligibility for Advance Parole. This typically includes a copy of your receipt notice or other correspondence from USCIS.
  • You will need to pay for Filing Fee. Note: there is a charge associated with filing which you must cover unless you qualify for a waiver.
  • You will need to submit your application. Note: once completed, send your form to the appropriate USCIS filing location or process this online.

Importantly, processing times for Advance Parole documents can vary significantly based on the workload at USCIS. It might take anywhere from three to five months to receive your travel document so it’s good to plan ahead of time. However, in cases of extreme urgency, such as a family emergency like death or a severe illness, it is possible to request expedited processing by providing appropriate documentation to justify the rush. Keep in mind the decision to expedite processing is always within the sole direction of USCIS.

Zooming out, understanding the requirements and limitation of Advance Parole is critical. Being informed can help ensure your plans for temporary travel—whatever the reason—do not inadvertently jeopardize your ongoing immigration process. I must also emphasize that while this tool may provide necessary flexibility for green card applicants, it comes with significant risks, including the potential for denial of re-entry into the United States.

Despite holding an Advance Parole document, re-entry is not always guaranteed. Admissions officials at ports of entry maintain discretion based on any changes in the traveler’s circumstances or immigration status since departure. Factors such as updates in legal status or new issues of inadmissibility that could arise during an applicant’s absence may also complicate re-entry. Also, prolonged periods outside the U.S. might lead to questions about your continuous residence intentions. To mitigate these risks and ensure a smooth re-entry, again, you should seek professional assistance.

Upon returning to the U.S., you might face interviews at the port of entry. Here you may need to articulate the reasons for your travel and demonstrate the temporary nature of your stay abroad. Being prepared to discuss your immigration process succinctly and having documents to support your statements are both essential to handling this situation with little hassle.

Moreover, staying updated on recent immigration developments is helpful. Before and while traveling, consulting with your immigration attorney is advisable; they can provide tailored advice specific to your situation and prepare you for potential scenarios upon your return. At Ji Law Firm, we specialize in managing such complex immigration issues and are ready to assist you. Please contact me today to assess whether Advance Parole is appropriate for your situation. With proper legal guidance, you can better understand your options, assess your risks, and take the next steps that are right for you.

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