Non U.S. citizens may need permission to return to the U.S. after traveling abroad. Advance parole and re-entry permits are travel documents.
Advance parole is required by persons traveling abroad, serves as a substitute for a visa to enter the U.S., and is generally sought by persons who have applied to adjust status to permanent resident by filing an adjustment of status application (Form I-485); asylum applicants; persons "paroled" into the U.S.; and persons with Temporary Protected Status (TPS). Advance parole must be applied for before leaving the country. If you fail to do so, you will be considered to have abandoned your application with the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Service (USCIS) and may not be permitted to return. Note: this requirement does not apply to people who have applied to adjust status to permanent resident and are maintaining H-1 status (temporary workers in specialty occupations) or L-1 status (intra-company transferees) or their dependents in H-4 or L-2 status.
Application for an advance parole document is made on Form I-131 and is normally filed concurrently with the adjustment of status application. The USCIS typically takes between 60 and 90 days to issue the advance parole document. In our experience, no special reason ("visiting family members" is more than adequate reason) is required to be provided as the USCIS issues the advance parole document based on properly filed application with correct filing fee. The advance parole document has a validity period of one year and is a multiple-entry document. As long as an adjustment of status application is pending, the application for advance parole can be filed on an annual basis, but no earlier than 120 days prior to expiration.
When admitted to the U.S. on a advance parole document, permission to remain legally in the U.S. is for an indefinite period. Thus, there is no cause for concern if the advance parole document expires after entry to the U.S. as this document is required only for entering the U.S. However, it is prudent to keep an unexpired advance parole document available in case of an emergent requirement to travel abroad. Entry on a advance parole document is not guaranteed, as one is still required to be admissible to the U.S.
Inadmissible criminal convictions, or prior overstay of authorized stay in the U.S. as provided for on the I-94 by more than 180 days, are common reasons for the denial of entry on an advance parole document. An individual maintaining H or L visa status has the option to enter the U.S. on unexpired H or L visa status, or enter using an advance parole document. It is not uncommon for entry to be denied on H or L visa status if there has been violation of H or L visa status, but allowed through presentment of the advance parole document. It is possible to extend or transfer H or L visa status even if entry is made on an advance parole document rather than on H or L visa status.
Reentry permits are required by permanent or conditional residents who wish to remain outside the U.S. for more than one year, but no more than two years. The applicant must be physically present in the U.S. at the time of filing an application for reentry permit (Form I-131), but it is permissible to depart the U.S. once the reentry permit has been filed and biometrics (fingerprinting) scheduled and completed as per USCIS instructions. Please note that an absence of more than one year will break the period of continuous residence required to become a U.S. citizen, even if a reentry permit is issued. Multiple entries to the U.S. can be made through the reentry permit within its validity period.
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[Note: Please consult with an attorney specializing in Immigration & Nationality law for professional advice in specific situations.]