International Travel Alert: Change In Policy Regarding Advance Parole Travel Document Applications

By Benjamin Lau and David Rugendorf

The U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services has recently changed its policy regarding the adjudication of Advance Parole Travel Document applications (Form I-131).

The Advance Parole Travel Document (“Advance Parole”) is a travel authorization granted to qualified applicants of pending Form I-485 Adjustment of Status Applications.  With the exception of H, K, L, and V visa holders, beneficiaries of pending Adjustment of Status Applications are prohibited from traveling internationally until they are issued an Advance Parole by the USCIS.  An adjustment applicant who departs the United States before the Advance Parole is issued will have his or her adjustment of status application denied based on abandonment.

New Policy

The new USCIS policy regarding the adjudication of Advance Parole applications is that if an individual departs the United States while their Advance Parole application is pending, then the Advance Parole application will be considered abandoned and subsequently denied.  This new policy affects ALL Advance Parole Travel Document applications regardless of the applicant’s underlying nonimmigrant status or whether it is an initial application or an extension.

Previous Policy

Previously, the USCIS would approve Advance Parole applications if the international travel occurred while the person held valid travel authorization.  For example, if a person travels using their valid H, K,  L, or V visa stamp, or their approved Advance Parole, their pending Advance Parole application would be approved despite the applicant traveling abroad.

Impact

The new USCIS policy immediately impacts any person who is required to have a valid Advance Parole in order to travel internationally, specifically persons in O, TN, or E status.  The new policy will require these individuals to remain in the United States for approximately 3-4 months while their Advance Parole applications are pending.  This travel restriction may happen annually until the adjustment of status process is completed, as Advance Paroles are generally issued with a one (1) year validity period.

The new policy has a limited impact on applicants who have a valid H, K, L, or V visa stamp in their passport.  A person who holds one of these statuses may travel internationally so long as they have a valid H, K, L, or V visa stamp in his or her passport.  However, if a person in H, K, L, or V status travels internationally while their Advance Parole application is pending, their Advance Parole application will be denied.

Recommendation

For persons with pending Advance Parole applications, we recommend that they remain in the United States until their application has been adjudicated by the USCIS, which generally takes 3-4 months.

Persons in possession of a valid H, K, L, or V visa stamp in their passport, or valid Advance Parole, may travel internationally with the understanding that any Advance Parole application they have pending with the USCIS will be denied.

Persons who do not have a valid H, K, L, or V visa stamp, or valid Advance Parole, cannot depart the United States prior to the adjudication of their Advance Parole application.  Doing so will result in their Advance Parole application being denied, and them being denied entry to the United States.

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