If you have a pending application for a marriage-based Green Card or Adjustment of Status Green Card, you may travel outside of the United States with a travel document known as advance parole. Advance parole acts like a US visa, and specifically allows the traveler to re-enter the United States upon their return.

An advance parole document is perfectly safe when used appropriately, but there are a number of conditions that apply for it to be truly appropriate. Even then, most immigration attorneys recommend against traveling outside of the United States while your Green Card application is pending as the risks rarely justify the reward. Generally speaking, you should only travel outside the United States with advance parole in an emergency situation.

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What is Advance Parole?

When an individual is granted parole, he or she receives permission to physically enter the United States for a specific purpose. An immigrant who has been “inspected and paroled” by Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) at a US port of entry has not technically been admitted to the United States and remains an “applicant for admission.”

When USCIS issues an advance parole travel document, the holder is permitted to appear at a US port of entry to seek parole into the United States. The travel document may be accepted in lieu of a visa, though it does not replace any required passport.

In most cases, an immigrant must apply for and receive advance parole before leaving the United States. In rare circumstances USCIS may issue an advance parole document to an individual who is currently outside of the United States, but these instances are restricted to urgent humanitarian reasons, law enforcement issues, and homeland security-related matters.

How to Obtain Advance Parole

Applicants for advance parole must submit Form I-131, Application for Travel Document, along with the standard filing fee of $575. USCIS typically takes around 90 days to process an advance parole application.

Immigrants who are currently in the United States should include the following documents and supporting evidence with their application for advance parole:

  • A copy of a document that validates your current status in the United States
  • A copy of an official identification document with a photograph
  • A copy of the USCIS receipt for your pending Green Card petition (if you are applying for an Adjustment of Status)
  • A copy of your US consular appointment letter (if you are traveling to Canada to apply for an immigrant visa)
  • An explanation or supporting evidence to prove that the circumstances at hand warrant issuing an advance parole document
  • Evidence that your trip is for employment, educational, or humanitarian purposes
  • Two passport-style photographs that were taken within 30 days of filing

Immigrants who are currently outside of the United States and who qualify for advance parole for extraordinary circumstances should include the following documents and supporting evidence with their application:

  • A copy of an official identification document with a photograph
  • A copy of your passport identity page
  • A description of the urgent humanitarian or significant public benefit reason, including documentation of a need for expedited handling, and the length of time you require parole
  • A completed Form I-134 with appropriate documentation 
  • A statement explaining why you cannot obtain a US visa (if applicable)
  • A statement explaining why you cannot obtain a waiver of inadmissibility (if applicable)
  • A copy of any USCIS, US Embassy, or Consulate decisions on immigration applications or petitions

The Risks of Advance Parole

Generally speaking, immigrants with a pending application for adjustment of status who leave the United States are believed to have abandoned their petition. Any pending applications or petitions would subsequently be denied, forcing the applicant to start the process over (if they still qualify for an adjustment of status). There are only five exceptions to this standard:

  1. You are an H-1 temporary worker, H-4 spouse, or the child of an H-1 temporary worker
  2. You are an L-1 intracompany transferee, L-2 spouse, or the child of an L-1 intracompany transferee
  3. You are a K-3 spouse, or K-4 child of a US citizen
  4. You are a V-1 spouse, or V-2/V-3 child of a lawful permanent resident
  5. You are granted advance parole before you leave the United States

Considering this, the greatest risk of traveling with advance parole is that by some mistake—whether of your own doing or by USCIS—your pending application for an adjustment of status will be immediately denied. Considering the significant processing time for such petitions, that could set your Green Card application back 1 – 2 years.

Even if you properly apply for and receive advance parole before leaving the country, there is still a risk that you may not be allowed to re-enter the United States when you return. An advance parole travel document doesn’t entitle you to parole into the United States—it simply allows you to travel to a US port of entry and request parole into the United States. At the end of the day, the final decision to grant you parole lies with the CBP officer at the port of entry. 

There is also a risk that the Department of Homeland Security (USCIS’ parent agency) may revoke or terminate your advance parole document while you are outside of the United States. Unfortunately, both DHS and USCIS have the authority to take such action at any time. If this happens and you don’t have other travel documents that permit entry into the United States, you will be denied re-admission into the country and your pending adjustment of status application will be denied.

If you have any issues with unlawful presence (e.g. undocumented immigrants) or an overstay (e.g. expired visa), you should not leave the United States—even with an approved advance parole document. If you do leave the country, you may be subject to a 3- or 10-year travel ban when you attempt to re-enter the United States. 

Finally, even if everything goes according to plan and you are re-admitted to the United States with an advance parole document, you will enter the country on parole as an “arriving alien.” In some cases, this can create some issues with your pending Green Card application.

 
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