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Advance Parole for Green Card Applicants

For green card applicants who have applied within, and are waiting within, the United States, a frequent concern is travel outside the country.   Family based applicants, for example, are deemed to have abandoned their green card application if they depart the United States while the green card application is pending.  Some applicants may have had valid status at one point (a valid U.S. visa or entry on entry via ESTA, etc.), but the status has now expired.  This would normally subject them to potential time bars from returning to the U.S. after travel outside of the U.S.  Through the green card application process and simultaneously applying for advance parole, such applicants may be eligible for a travel document that will allow them to reenter the United States after their travel abroad, without triggering a three- or ten- year bar from returning to the United States due to their overstay or other status violations.

Obtaining a travel document or “advance parole” is more difficult for green card applicants who entered without inspection than it is for those who overstayed after being inspected and admitted on a visa or visa waiver.  Generally speaking, there must be a compelling reason for these applicants to travel (with the exception of DACA and TPS recipients, who are more liberally granted advance parole so long as they maintain their DACA or TPS status).  An example of a compelling reason might be the serious illness or death of a family member.

For applicants who were inspected and admitted, they generally only need to establish that they have a bona fide personal or business reason for travel, or in rare cases if they need to travel overseas for a visa interview (when the Department of State has determined that the interviewee is unable to return to his or her country of citizenship for visa issuance and the third country requires the interviewee to enter with authorization to travel back to the United States).

If an individual is granted a travel document, then they will need to present both their passport and the travel document upon their return from travel abroad.  Generally, if an applicant has applied for a travel document and an employment authorization document (“EAD”), the EAD card that they receive will also state that it is valid as a travel document.  These individuals may simply present their EAD card along with their passport.

It is important to remember that a travel document is not a guarantee that an individual will be admitted to the United States upon their return from overseas travel.  Anyone presenting to a port of entry will always have to be inspected and admitted, and it is possible for non-citizens to be found inadmissible to the United States and turned away at the port of entry, even for individuals with a travel document, a valid visa, or even a green card.  Therefore, it is important to weigh the benefits of travel against the possibility (even if it is usually slight) of being denied reentry to the United States and potentially abandoning the pending green card application as a result.

If you are interested in learning more about applying for a travel document, please contact Tanner Law Offices at 717-836-0471 to schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys.