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Traveling Abroad Without a U.S. Green Card

Mar 6 , 2024

The Green Card or Permanent Resident Card in the United States is a legal status that allows immigrants access to certain benefits of living in this country. Those who arrive in the territory of the United States hope to have access to this document and to be able to legalize their stay in the United States.

Due to the delicate nature of this process, Green Card applicants usually stay in the country until they receive this document, but this is not strictly necessary as there is a resource that allows them to travel without affecting their application.

This resource consists of a travel authorization that you can apply for as soon as you begin the residency process and that, once approved, will allow you to safely travel outside the United States.

Why do I need a travel permit?

Depending on the type of application: family reunification, marriage, etc., it can take 10 months or even years to get a Green Card. Especially for those who need to visit relatives in their home country or travel on business, this is a long time without leaving the United States.

Without a travel permit, can I leave the United States?

It is a risk you should not take to leave the United States without first obtaining a travel document. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services may automatically cancel your green card application as abandoned.

In a situation such as this, there are two possible scenarios:

  • Restart all procedures and redo all payments
  • Ineligibility for re-entry into the United States

In the first case, the consequences are not determinative of their status, but in the second case, their ability to enter the United States by any other means in the future would be all but eliminated.

When should I apply for a travel permit?

Even if you do not plan to travel, we recommend that you apply for a travel document at the same time as you apply for permanent residence. In the event of an emergency, you will be able to do travel with your permit.

What is the application process?

Submitting your Travel Document Application with your Green Card Application is the fastest way to proceed. Here are the steps you will need to follow to apply for your permit.

Include this information in your green card application:

  • Travel Document Request Form (Form I-131)
  • Copy of your identification card with photo
  • Two passport sized photos

On the other hand, if you have already submitted your green card application at the time you decide to apply for a travel permit, you will have to follow a different set of steps.

Include when you apply for travel documents:

  • Copy of your identification card with photo
  • Two passport-sized photos
  • Acknowledgement that USCIS has received your Green Card petition

How much does getting a travel permit cost?

There is no additional fee for the travel permit.

How long is the validity of a travel permit?

This document will have an expiration date on it, and you will be able to stay outside of U.S. territory as long as you do not exceed that date without renewing your permit. The document is usually valid for a period of one year.

Renewal of travel permit

You may renew your permit up to 120 days prior to the expiration date of your permit. You may want to consider these dates to avoid having your document expire close to traveling or outside the U.S. Territory.

A new I-131 form will be required for your document renewal:

  • A copy of your most recent passport or travel document
  • A copy of the acknowledgement of receipt of your application for a residence card or a residence permit
  • Two passport-sized photos

Delay times

After submitting your application, you will usually receive this approval within 150 days or less. This is also the case for renewals.

Note: Please note that even if your travel document remains active, you should not spend extended periods of time outside the United States, as you may be absent for residency-related appointments. We recommend that you reschedule your appointment if you are unable to return in time for one of these procedures.

Can I get emergency approval?

In case of urgent and unforeseen situations, it is possible to obtain a travel permit in advance. The death or serious illness of a family member is the most common situation for which this exception may be requested. In these cases, you will request an appointment with the USCIS, at which time you will provide the following information

  • A completed Form I-131
  • Two passport-sized photos
  • Evidence of the situation that is forcing you to travel with a sense of immediacy

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