Form I-131 – Application for Travel Document for the United States

1. What is Form I-131 and when should it be used?

Form I-131 is the Application for Travel Document in the United States. It is used by individuals who are lawfully residing in the United States and need to obtain a travel document in order to re-enter the country after temporary travel abroad. This form is commonly used by green card holders, refugees, and asylees who need to travel internationally but do not have or cannot use a passport from their home country. Form I-131 can also be used to apply for a re-entry permit, refugee travel document, or advance parole document. These travel documents allow individuals to leave and return to the U.S. without jeopardizing their immigration status.

2. Who is eligible to apply for a travel document using Form I-131?

1. Those who are eligible to apply for a travel document using Form I-131 include lawful permanent residents, refugees, asylees, and certain nonimmigrants who have a critical need to travel outside the United States but cannot obtain a national passport from their country of nationality.
2. Lawful permanent residents (Green Card holders) may need a travel document if they plan to stay outside the U.S. for more than one year or if their Green Card has expired, been lost or stolen, or is otherwise inaccessible.
3. Refugees and asylees may apply for a refugee travel document or reentry permit if they need to travel outside the U.S. for humanitarian reasons or if they fear persecution in their home country.
4. Nonimmigrants with a valid status may apply for an advance parole document if they have a pending adjustment of status application or compelling circumstances that require them to travel internationally.

3. What are the types of travel documents that can be obtained using Form I-131?

Form I-131, Application for Travel Document, allows individuals to apply for different types of travel documents for the United States. The types of travel documents that can be obtained using Form I-131 are:

1. Reentry Permit: This travel document allows lawful permanent residents (Green Card holders) to travel abroad for up to 2 years without losing their permanent resident status.

2. Refugee Travel Document: Individuals granted asylum or refugee status in the United States can use this travel document to re-enter the U.S. after temporary travel abroad.

3. Advance Parole Document: This travel document allows certain individuals who are adjusting their status in the U.S. to travel abroad temporarily with the intent to return to the U.S. without abandoning their pending adjustment of status application.

Each of these travel documents serves a specific purpose and has its own eligibility requirements and validity periods. It is important for applicants to carefully review the instructions and requirements for each type of travel document before submitting Form I-131 to ensure a successful application process.

4. What are the supporting documents required when submitting Form I-131?

When submitting Form I-131, there are several supporting documents that are typically required to be included in the application package:

1. Copy of government-issued identification: A clear copy of a government-issued identification document, such as a passport, that establishes your identity.

2. Evidence of your immigration status: This can include a copy of your visa, Form I-94 Arrival-Departure Record, or your green card (Form I-551) to demonstrate your legal status in the United States.

3. Travel itinerary: Providing a detailed travel itinerary, including flight bookings or other transportation arrangements, can help support your reasons for needing a travel document.

4. Fee payment: The applicable filing fee for Form I-131 must be included with your application. This fee is subject to change, so it’s essential to check the most current fee amount on the USCIS website.

Additionally, depending on the specific circumstances of your travel document application, USCIS may request additional supporting documents to establish your eligibility. It is crucial to carefully review the instructions provided with Form I-131 and ensure that all required documentation is included to avoid delays in processing your application.

5. How long does it take to process Form I-131?

The processing time for Form I-131, Application for Travel Document, can vary depending on the individual circumstances and the current workload of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). As of my last update, USCIS estimated that it could take approximately 5 to 7 months to process an application for a Reentry Permit or Refugee Travel Document. However, processing times can change, so it is recommended to check the USCIS website for the most up-to-date information. It is important to submit a complete and accurate application to avoid delays in processing. You can also consider requesting expedited processing in certain circumstances, such as emergencies or upcoming travel plans, but USCIS will determine whether to grant the request on a case-by-case basis.

6. Can Form I-131 be expedited in cases of emergency travel?

Yes, Form I-131 can be expedited in cases of emergency travel. To request an expedited processing of your application, you must clearly state the reason for the expedite request and provide evidence to support your claim of an emergency situation. Examples of situations that may warrant expedited processing include a serious illness or death of a family member, urgent business travel, or other unforeseen circumstances that require immediate travel. It is important to note that not all expedite requests are granted, and USCIS will review each request on a case-by-case basis. If your expedite request is approved, your Form I-131 application will be processed more quickly than the standard processing times.

7. How much does it cost to file Form I-131?

The cost to file Form I-131, Application for Travel Document, varies depending on the purpose of the application. As of the latest update in 2021, the filing fee for Form I-131 is $575 for most applicants, which includes the application for a Refugee Travel Document and a Re-Entry Permit. However, there are specific instances where the fee may differ, such as for those under the age of 16 filing with the fee exemption. In such cases, the fee is $575 minus the $85 biometric services fee, resulting in a total of $490. It is important to check the official USCIS website or consult with an immigration attorney to confirm the most up-to-date fees before submitting Form I-131.

8. Can Form I-131 be filed online or does it need to be submitted by mail?

Form I-131 can be filed online or by mail. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) allows applicants to submit Form I-131 electronically through their online filing system. This option provides convenience and faster processing times for applicants who choose to file online. However, if you prefer to submit a paper application, you can still mail the completed Form I-131 along with any required supporting documents to the appropriate USCIS address. It’s important to carefully follow the instructions provided by USCIS for either online or mail submission to ensure that your application is properly filed and processed without delays.

9. What are the common reasons for travel that warrant the use of Form I-131?

Common reasons for travel that warrant the use of Form I-131 include:

1. International Travel: Individuals who need to travel outside of the United States temporarily and do not have a valid green card or refugee travel document may need a travel document to re-enter the U.S.
2. Humanitarian Reasons: Those traveling for medical treatment, visiting a sick relative, or attending a funeral in another country may require a travel document to facilitate their return to the United States.
3. Work Related Travel: Individuals who need to travel internationally for work, such as business trips or assignments abroad, may need a travel document if they do not possess a valid green card or other authorization for re-entry.
4. Educational Purposes: Students or researchers who need to travel abroad for educational purposes, such as studying abroad or attending conferences, may require a travel document to ensure they can return to the U.S.
5. Personal Reasons: Other personal reasons for travel, such as family emergencies, weddings, or other significant events happening outside the U.S., could also warrant the use of Form I-131 to obtain a travel document.

It is important to note that individuals should carefully review the specific eligibility requirements and guidelines for Form I-131 based on their immigration status and travel needs before submitting an application.

10. Can Form I-131 be used for international travel only or also for domestic travel within the U.S.?

Form I-131, Application for Travel Document, can be used for both international travel and domestic travel within the United States. The travel document issued through Form I-131, known as the Reentry Permit, can be utilized when traveling internationally to re-enter the U.S. without having to obtain a visa from a U.S. consulate abroad. Additionally, the Reentry Permit can also serve as a valid form of identification for domestic air travel within the U.S., as it is considered an acceptable form of identification by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). It is important to note that the Reentry Permit is specifically designed for lawful permanent residents and refugees/asylees who need to travel internationally while maintaining their status in the U.S.

11. Can someone with a pending Form I-131 application travel outside the U.S.?

No, individuals with a pending Form I-131 application cannot travel outside the U.S. until they receive their approved travel document, such as a Refugee Travel Document or Advance Parole Document. Traveling outside the U.S. without the appropriate authorization while a Form I-131 application is pending can result in the application being deemed abandoned or denied. It is crucial to wait until the travel document is approved and in the individual’s possession before leaving the country. Applying for Advance Parole using Form I-131 allows individuals to re-enter the U.S. after temporary international travel for humanitarian, business, or educational purposes while their adjustment of status application is pending.

12. Can a green card holder apply for a reentry permit using Form I-131?

Yes, a green card holder can apply for a reentry permit using Form I-131. A reentry permit allows a permanent resident to reenter the United States after traveling abroad for an extended period of time (up to 2 years) without losing their green card status. To apply for a reentry permit using Form I-131, the green card holder must meet certain eligibility requirements and submit the form along with supporting documents to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). It is important to carefully follow the instructions provided in the form and provide accurate information to avoid any delays in the processing of the reentry permit application.

13. Is there a deadline for filing Form I-131 before the intended travel date?

Yes, there is a recommended timeframe for filing Form I-131 before the intended travel date in order to allow for processing by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). It is generally advised to submit the application at least 60-90 days before your planned travel to ensure enough time for processing and approval. However, it is important to note that processing times can vary, so it is best to check the current processing times on the USCIS website to determine the most appropriate timing for your specific situation. Additionally, it is essential to include all required documentation and information with your application to avoid delays in processing.

14. Can Form I-131 be used to reenter the U.S. after a temporary absence?

Yes, Form I-131, Application for Travel Document, can be used to reenter the United States after a temporary absence. This form is commonly used by Lawful Permanent Residents (LPRs) or asylees and refugees to apply for a travel document, such as a Reentry Permit or a Refugee Travel Document, which allows them to reenter the U.S. after traveling abroad for a temporary period. The Reentry Permit allows LPRs to maintain their status while staying outside the U.S. for up to two years, while the Refugee Travel Document allows asylees, refugees, and asylee or refugee derivative status holders to travel internationally and return to the U.S. Note that the specific rules and requirements for reentry using Form I-131 can vary based on individual circumstances, so it is important to carefully review and follow the instructions provided by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) when submitting the application.

15. Can Form I-131 be used for undocumented immigrants to travel outside the U.S. and return?

1. No, Form I-131 cannot be used by undocumented immigrants to travel outside the U.S. and return. This form, also known as an Application for Travel Document, is typically used by lawful permanent residents, refugees, and asylees to apply for permission to travel outside the United States and return legally. Undocumented immigrants do not have legal status in the U.S. and are at risk of being barred from re-entering the country if they were to leave.

2. Undocumented immigrants who depart the U.S. may trigger the 3 or 10-year unlawful presence bars upon departure, which would prevent them from returning legally for a specified period of time. Instead of using Form I-131, undocumented immigrants should seek legal advice from an immigration attorney to explore their options for obtaining lawful status or pursuing other forms of relief that may allow them to travel internationally without facing severe consequences. It is important for undocumented individuals to understand the potential risks associated with travel outside the U.S. and to seek proper guidance before making any decisions that could impact their immigration status.

16. What is the difference between a reentry permit, refugee travel document, and advance parole document obtained through Form I-131?

A reentry permit, refugee travel document, and advance parole document are all travel documents that can be obtained through Form I-131, but they serve different purposes:

1. Reentry Permit: This document is for lawful permanent residents (green card holders) who intend to travel abroad for an extended period (up to 2 years) without losing their permanent resident status. It allows them to reenter the United States without obtaining a returning resident visa from a U.S. consulate or embassy.

2. Refugee Travel Document: This document is for individuals with refugee or asylee status who are unable or unwilling to obtain a passport from their home country. It allows them to travel abroad and return to the United States as a refugee or asylee.

3. Advance Parole Document: This document is for individuals with pending applications for adjustment of status (e.g., green card applications) or other specific immigration benefits. It allows them to temporarily travel abroad for urgent humanitarian, work, or educational reasons and return to the United States without abandoning their pending application.

Each of these documents has specific eligibility requirements and restrictions, so it is important to carefully consider which one is appropriate for your situation before applying through Form I-131.

17. Can Form I-131 be filed while inside the U.S. or does it need to be done from outside the country?

1. Form I-131, Application for Travel Document, can be filed while inside the United States. This form is typically used by individuals who need to travel abroad temporarily and then re-enter the U.S. without obtaining a new visa. Common reasons for filing Form I-131 include applying for a re-entry permit, a refugee travel document, or an advance parole document.
2. It is important to note that the filing requirements for Form I-131 vary depending on the specific circumstance and immigration status of the applicant. For example, individuals in the U.S. with pending applications for adjustment of status may be eligible to file Form I-131 concurrently with Form I-485. On the other hand, individuals who are in removal proceedings or have been ordered removed may face restrictions on their ability to apply for a travel document.
3. Therefore, individuals who wish to file Form I-131 should carefully review the eligibility requirements and instructions provided by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) before submitting their application. It is recommended to consult with an immigration attorney or accredited representative for guidance on the filing process to ensure compliance with all applicable regulations and requirements.

18. How long is a travel document obtained through Form I-131 valid for?

A travel document obtained through Form I-131 is typically valid for one year from the date of issue. However, there are certain circumstances under which the validity period may be shorter or longer:

1. Conditional Permanent Residents: For individuals with conditional permanent resident status, the travel document is valid for only two years.
2. Refugees and Asylees: Refugees and asylees typically receive a travel document valid for two years.
3. Re-entry Permits: In some cases, individuals applying for a re-entry permit through Form I-131 may receive a travel document valid for up to two years.

It is important for individuals holding a travel document to be aware of its expiration date and to apply for a renewal in a timely manner if needed in order to maintain their ability to travel internationally.

19. Can a travel document obtained through Form I-131 be extended or renewed?

Yes, a travel document obtained through Form I-131 can be extended or renewed under certain circumstances. Here are some key points to consider:

1. Travel documents, such as a Refugee Travel Document or a Re-Entry Permit, issued using Form I-131 have expiration dates.

2. If your travel document is set to expire and you need to travel outside the United States, you can apply for a renewal by submitting a new Form I-131 with the required supporting documents and fees.

3. It’s important to apply for the renewal well in advance of the expiration date to avoid any travel disruptions.

4. Additionally, if you are unable to return to the United States before the expiration of your current travel document due to unforeseen circumstances, you may be able to request an extension under certain circumstances.

5. Extensions are typically granted for valid reasons such as medical emergencies, natural disasters, or other extraordinary situations that prevent timely return to the U.S.

6. To request an extension, you will need to provide a detailed explanation of the circumstances preventing your return and submit supporting documentation along with your request.

7. It’s crucial to follow the specific instructions provided by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) regarding the extension or renewal process to ensure timely and accurate processing of your application.

Overall, both extensions and renewals of travel documents obtained through Form I-131 are possible, but it’s essential to adhere to the guidelines and requirements set forth by USCIS to avoid any complications or delays in your travel plans.

20. Are there any restrictions on travel destinations when using a travel document obtained through Form I-131?

1. When using a travel document obtained through Form I-131, there are some restrictions on travel destinations that applicants should be aware of. The primary purpose of the travel document is to allow individuals to re-enter the United States after temporary travel abroad, particularly for those who do not have a valid passport from their home country. Therefore, the travel document is generally meant for travel related to the individual’s circumstances that necessitated their application for the document.

2. While there are no specific limitations on which countries the holder of a travel document can visit, it is essential to consider the individual’s immigration status and any travel restrictions that might apply to them. For example, individuals with certain types of visas or pending immigration applications may have limitations on travel to certain countries. It is advisable to check with an immigration attorney or the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for guidance on any travel restrictions specific to your situation before planning international travel with a travel document obtained through Form I-131.