Depending on your immigration status (including lawful permanent residents) or if you have an application for an immigration benefit pending, you may need to carry different types of travel documents if you wish to return to the United States lawfully after traveling abroad. In certain cases, you should apply for these documents before you leave the United States.
USCIS issues four types of travel documents:
- Advance parole;
- Refugee travel document;
- Re-entry permit; and
- Carrier documentation.
If you have an emergency and need to travel outside the United States, read our Emergency Travel page for additional information.
Advance parole allows you to travel back to the United States without applying for a visa. A transportation company (airlines) can accept an advance parole document instead of a visa as proof that you are authorized to travel to the United States. An advance parole document does not replace your passport.
Please note that having an advance parole document does not guarantee that you will be allowed to reenter the United States. At the airport or border, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer will make the final decision about whether to allow you to reenter the United States.
Advance parole is most commonly used when someone has a pending:
- Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or to Adjust Status: If you depart the U.S. while your Form I-485 is pending without first obtaining advance parole, USCIS will deny your case unless you fit into a narrow exception for people with certain nonimmigrant statuses.
- Form I-589, Application for Asylum and for Withholding of Removal: If you are an asylum applicant and you intend to travel outside the United States and return, you must apply for and receive advance parole. If you leave the United States without first obtaining advance parole, we will assume that you have abandoned your asylum application.
For information on how to apply for advance parole, go to our Form I-131, Application for Travel Document page.
Refugee Travel Document
USCIS issues refugee travel documents to people with refugee or asylum status and to lawful permanent residents who obtained their Green Cards based on their refugee or asylee status.
You must have a refugee travel document to return to the United States if you:
- Have refugee or asylee status but are not a lawful permanent resident (Green Card holder); or
- Are a derivative asylee or refugee.
If you do not obtain a refugee travel document before you leave the U.S., you may be unable to re-enter the United States or you may be placed in removal proceedings before an immigration judge.
For information on how to apply for a refugee travel document, go to our Form I-131, Application for Travel Document page.
Permanent or conditional residents should apply for a re-entry permit if they will be outside the United States for one year or more. While it is valid, a re-entry permit allows you to apply for admission to the U.S. without having to obtain a returning resident visa from a U.S. Embassy or Consulate. Go to our Form I-131, Application for Travel Document page for information on how to apply.
Carrier documentation allows an airline or other transportation carrier to board permanent residents who have temporarily been outside the United States and whose Green Card or re-entry permit has been lost, stolen or destroyed. If you are a permanent resident in this situation, you may need to file a Form I-131A. Go to the Form I-131A, Application for Travel Document (Carrier Documentation) for more information.