Ukrainians who are in the United States on humanitarian parole and/or Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and wish to travel outside of the United States must first apply to USCIS for a travel document by filing Form I-131, Application for Travel Document. The type of travel document you receive will depend on which status you hold when your travel document is approved.
The travel document application procedures can be somewhat confusing following the recent changes and new procedures that went into effect last year. Below are some clarifications from USCIS that explain the differences between travel for humanitarian parolees and travel for TPS holders.
Why Do You Need a Travel Document Before You Leave the United States?
A travel document serves as a pre-approval for noncitizens to leave the United States for a period of time and re-enter without a visa.
What Types of Travel Documents Are Available for Humanitarian Parolees and TPS Holders?
There are 3 primary types of travel documents issued by USCIS to individuals who entered on humanitarian parole (either “UHP” parolees who entered through Uniting for Ukraine (U4U) or “DT” at southern border (ex. DT parolees)) and/or who hold TPS status.
- Form I-512L, Advance Parole Document (APD) is a general travel document issued to noncitizens to leave the U.S. and re-enter without needing to re-apply for entry.
- It is typically issued for one year.
- At this time, applications for an Advance Parole Document can only be filed by mail.
- An Advance Parole Document allows returning travelers to re-enter but does not grant the returning traveler any new rights or statuses.
- Form I-512T, Authorization for Travel by a Noncitizen to the United States (i.e., TPS Travel Document) is a special type of travel document issued only to individuals who currently hold TPS status.
- It is typically valid through the end of the current TPS term for as long as the holder remains eligible for TPS.
- At this time, applications for a TPS travel document can only be filed by mail.
- A TPS Travel Document allows returning travelers to be admitted into TPS status.
- Emergency Advance Parole is temporary travel authorization granted to individuals who demonstrate an urgent need to leave the U.S. as soon as possible for an emergency situation and cannot wait for a regular travel document to be approved.
- Emergency advance parole can only be requested by making an appointment with an immigration officer at your local USCIS office, and the officer has discretion to approve or deny the request.
- Individuals can request Emergency Advance Parole before or after they apply for a regular Advance Parole Document or TPS Travel Document.
- Emergency Advance Parole allows returning travelers to re-enter the United States even if they don’t hold Form I-512L or I-512T.
What Type of Travel Document Will You Receive When You Apply?
Although most noncitizens will file the same application, Form I-131, Application for Travel Document, the type of travel document you receive will depend on which status you hold at the time your travel document is granted by USCIS. Some Ukrainians who entered on humanitarian parole in 2022 were later granted TPS. Other Ukrainians who entered on humanitarian parole through U4U are in the process of applying for TPS.
** It is important to know that individuals can hold BOTH parole and TPS at the same time. TPS will NOT take away a person’s parole status or the benefits that come with parole. **
- Individuals who only hold humanitarian parole and have not applied for TPS are only eligible to receive Form I-512L (Advance Parole Document).
- Individuals have already been granted TPS and maintain valid TPS will be issued Form I-512T (TPS travel document.
- Individuals who have applied for but not been granted TPS before their travel document is approved will be issued Form I-512L (Advance Parole Document).
- Individuals who request Emergency Advance Parole will be issued Emergency Advance Parole regardless of their status.
Are There Advantages to Traveling with a Form I-512T (TPS Travel Document) over Traveling with a Form I-512L (Advance Parole Document)?
TPS holders who file Form I-131, Application for Travel Document, may be granted a TPS travel document more quickly. It is also possible to file Form I-131 at the same time as Form I-821, Application for Temporary Protected Status.
A Form 512T (TPS travel document) is typically valid through the end of the current TPS term for as long as the holder remains eligible for TPS. In contrast, Form I-512L, Advance Parole Document is typically issued for one year.
Some Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers may have more familiarity with TPS travel. While the decision to allow a noncitizen to re-enter the U.S. is determined on a case-by-case basis, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has published directives to guide its officers in the policies of TPS travel and return. Thus, TPS holders returning on TPS travel may have fewer issues with re-entering on TPS status than if they travel on regular advance parole.
Additionally, TPS holders who travel and return on a Form 512T (TPS travel document) will be “admitted” into the United States on TPS status, as long as they remain eligible for TPS. This is the case even for Ukrainians who were originally “paroled” (i.e., granted entry on humanitarian parole) into the United States. Being admitted on TPS may have advantages over being paroled when it comes to certain immigration protections and future immigration procedures.
USCIS has advised that current TPS holders who have previous, unexpired Form I-512/512L Advance Parole Documents may continue to travel and seek re-entry to the United States on those documents for as long as their advance parole documents remain valid. However, current TPS holders who travel and return on Form I-512L (Advance Parole Document) instead of Form I-512T (TPS Travel Document) will not be admitted on TPS status, and they may lose their TPS status.
How Do You Apply for a Travel Document to Leave the U.S.?
- To apply for either a TPS travel document or an advance parole document, individuals must file Form I-131, Application for Travel Document and select type 1.d in Part 2 Application Type.
- Applicants may file Form I-131 at the same time as filing Form I-821, Application for Temporary Protected Status.
- If they are filing Form I-131 together with Form I-821 by mail, both forms can be sent to the address listed for Ukraine.
- If they are filing Form I-131 separately based on a pending or approved Form I-821, Application for Temporary Protected Status, they should check the Direct Filing Addresses for Form I-131.
- Current TPS holders who hold a prior Advance Parole Travel Document can apply for a new Form I-512T, Authorization for Travel by a Noncitizen to the United States (TPS Travel Document) by filing Form I-131. USCIS will automatically issue 512T, to eligible TPS holders.
- Current TPS holders who already filed and have a pending Form I-131 do not need to file a new I-131.
- However, current TPS holders who filed Form I-131 separately before they filed for TPS or held TPS status may re-file Form I-131 to receive a new Form I-512T TPS Travel Document.
- TPS applicants who need to travel outside of the United States while USCIS is still adjudicating their TPS application may do so if they have a prior Form I-512 Advance Parole Travel Document, or if they apply for and are issued a new Form I-512L Advance Parole Document.
- However, TPS applicants who leave the U.S. while their TPS application is pending with USCIS may be denied TPS, and they may not be allowed to re-enter the U.S.
- USCIS will continue to issue a regular Form I-512L, Advance Parole Document (APD), to individuals with pending initial applications for TPS, individuals who have not applied for TPS, and individuals who are not eligible for TPS.
- Humanitarian parolees without TPS who leave the U.S. while their I-131 application is pending with USCIS will terminate their parole, and they may not be allowed to re-enter the U.S.
- Current TPS holders who have existing, unexpired I-512/512L advance parole travel documents may continue to travel and seek re-entry to the United States for as long as their advance parole documents remain valid.
- However, current TPS holders who travel and return on the Form I-512L Advance Parole Document (instead of the Form I-512T TPS Travel Document) will not be admitted on TPS status, and they may lose their TPS status.
How Long Does It Take to Receive a Travel Document, and Can It Be Expedited?
USCIS indicates that Form I-131, Application for Travel Document, could take 6-10 months to adjudicate. Ukrainians who file Form I-131 at the same time as Form I-821 Application for Temporary Protected Status may receive a Form I-512T, TPS travel document more quickly.
USCIS may expedite Form I-131, Application for Travel Document if it meets certain criteria. Instructions for expediting a request can be found here:
Ukrainians who are experiencing an extremely urgent situation and need to travel outside of the U.S. as soon as possible may request Emergency Advance Parole. This is not the same thing as expediting a previously filed Form I-131, Application for Travel Document. Individuals can request Emergency Advance Parole before or after they have filed Form I-131, Application for Travel Document but cannot wait for the application to be adjudicated.
To request Emergency Advance Parole, you must make an appointment at your local USCIS office by contacting the USCIS through the Contact Center. Bring the following items to your appointment:
- A completed and signed Form I-131, Application for Travel Document
- The $575 filing fee
- Evidence to support the emergency request
- Examples of emergencies include but are not limited to needing to get a medical procedure that cannot be accessed in the U.S., being a caregiver to a family member undergoing their own medical procedure or other emergency, visiting a very sick/ailing family member, or attending a funeral.
- Depending on the type of emergency, evidence may include medical documentation, a death certificate, a letter from a funeral home, a doctor’s note, a notarized letter from a relative, funeral arrangements, etc.
- Documents that are not in English should be accompanied by a certified translation.
- Although not required, a cover letter explaining the purpose of travel and summarizing the documents included in your application may be helpful.
- Two passport-style photos
- Although not required, a copy of the biographic page of your current, valid passport may also be helpful.
Note that Emergency Advance Parole requests are decided on a case-by-case basis. The USCIS officer has the ultimate discretion to approve or deny the request. Even if you demonstrate evidence of a compelling emergency, your request for Emergency Advance Parole may be denied. If the field officer does not approve your Emergency Advance Parole application, you can still apply for a regular travel document to USCIS by mail.
Does Each Person in the Family Need to File for a Travel Document?
Yes, each person who needs to travel outside of the United States must file a separate application for a travel document. Each person’s application will be adjudicated individually to determine which type of travel document (if any) they are issued.
What Is the Fee for a Travel Document, and Can the Fee Be Waived?
The filing fee is $575 per applicant.
Individuals who believe they are eligible for a fee waiver may file Form I-912, Request for Fee Waiver (or a written request) with their Form I-131 applications. They must submit with Form I-912 the required evidence of their inability to pay the filing fee.
For more information about fee waivers, visit www.uscis.gov/feewaiver.
What Happens if Individuals Leave the U.S. Without First Obtaining a Travel Document?
It is important to know that departing the United States before obtaining the correct advance travel document may result in termination of one’s status. USCIS also indicates that individuals who return without a travel document may be denied re-entry into the United States.
- TPS holders (those whose Form I-821, Application for Temporary Protected Status was already approved) who leave before obtaining a Form I-512T TPS travel document may lose TPS and may not be able to re-enter.
- TPS applicants (those who filed Form I-821, Application for Temporary Protected Status but have not yet been approved) who leave without a Form I-512L Advance Parole Document may be denied re-entry into the U.S. upon return.
- TPS applicants who also filed Form I-131 Application for Travel Document but who leave while their I-131 application is still pending will be considered to have abandoned their Form I-131.
- Also, TPS applicants who leave while their TPS application is still pending will be considered to have abandoned their TPS application.
- Humanitarian parolees (those who entered as UHP or DT parolees and remain in valid parole status but do not hold TPS) who leave before obtaining a Form I-512L Advance Parole Document (or Emergency Advance Parole) will terminate their humanitarian parole status.
- Humanitarian parolees who have filed Form I-131, Application for Travel Document, but leave while their Form I-131 is still pending will be considered to have abandoned their Form I-131.
- Individuals with humanitarian parolee who have applied for asylum and intend to travel outside the United States must obtain an advance parole travel document if they wish to re-enter the United States. If an asylum applicant leaves the United States without first obtaining advance parole, USCIS will consider their asylum application to be abandoned.
If You Have a Valid Advance Parole Document or TPS Travel Document, Are You Guaranteed Re-Entry into the U.S.?
Although having a valid travel document issued by USCIS serves as pre-approval to return to the U.S., having advance parole or a TPS travel document does not guarantee that they will be allowed to re-enter the United States.
USCIS states that “issuance of an Advance Parole Document does NOT entitle you to parole and does not guarantee that DHS will parole you into the United States upon your return.” When you return to a U.S. port of entry (an airport or a land border), a CBP officer will make the final decision about whether to allow them to re-enter the United States. USCIS also advises that “DHS will make a separate discretionary decision whether to parole you each time you use an Advance Parole Document to return to the United States.”
USCIS states that “DHS may revoke or terminate your Advance Parole Document at any time, including while you are outside the United States … If you are outside the United States, revocation or termination of your Advance Parole Document may preclude you from returning to the United States unless you have a valid visa or other document that permits you to travel to the United States and seek admission.”
Finally, USCIS warns that “Travel outside of the United States may have severe consequences if you are in the process of adjusting your status (applying for a Green Card). In general, if you are seeking immigrant status (a Green Card) and depart the United States without the appropriate documentation (i.e. advance parole) you may be inadmissible to the United States upon return, or even if admitted, you may be found to have abandoned your application.”
Thus, noncitizens who travel outside of the United States should be aware that there is always some risk (however small, in some cases) of not being able to re-enter.
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