Complete Guide to Form I-131

Posted by Frank Gogol

If you are a non-U.S. citizen residing in the U.S. and have plans to travel abroad, welcome on board. This article will walk you through the ABCs of Form I-131, the document required for international travel. So, before you pack your bags, make yourself fully aware of Form I-131 and be ready for a smooth journey.

What Is Form I-131?

Form I-131 is an important travel application for non-U.S. citizens that is necessary for a problem-free return to the U.S. Form I-131 must be filed with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services before you travel. You will then be granted a valid travel document, usually any one of the following:

Who Needs Form I-131?

Apart from non-U.S. citizens, in some cases, even green card holders might need to submit Form I-131, especially if they have stayed outside the U.S. for more than a year. In such situations, they need a re-entry permit to return home. Even then, they need to ensure that their stay outside the U.S. is not more than two years for the first two re-entry permits.

Documents Required for Form I-131

The documents required to submit Form I-131 include your application together with the fee and a copy of a photo identity document with full name and date of birth. You can use a valid passport, driver’s license, or any official identity document for this purpose. You may need additional documents depending upon the type of application.

Additional Documents Required for Re-entry Permit

  • A copy of the front and back of Form I-551 or a copy of the visa page showing that you are a lawful permanent resident.
  • A copy of Form I-797, the Notice of Action; this is the approval notice of an application to replace Form I-551 or temporary evidence of lawful permanent resident status.

Additional Documents Required for Refugee Travel Document

  • A copy of the document given by the USCIS confirming your asylee or refugee status and the expiration date of this status.

Additional Documents Required for People Currently in the U.S.

  • A copy of any document given by the USCIS confirming your present status in the U.S. AND
  • Any evidence to show the circumstances demanding the issue of the Advance Parole Document OR
    • A copy of the U.S. consular appointment letter if you are going to Canada to apply for an immigrant visa OR
    • A copy of a USCIS receipt proving that you filed the adjustment application OR
    • A copy of Form I-797 to show that the decision on form I-821D was to postpone action if the USCIS has postponed action under DACA. If ICE postponed action in your case, attach a copy of the letter from ICE.

Additional Documents Required for People Outside of the U.S.

  • Form I-134
  • Explanation of why you need an Advance Parole Document, the explanation for the time period of its request, and evidence to support these.
  • Explanation of why you cannot get a U.S. visa, details of when and where attempts for the same were made, or the reason why you could not seek a visa to enter the U.S.
  • Explanation of why you could not get a waiver of inadmissibility to issue a visa, details of when and where attempts for the same were made, and a copy of any DHS decision on your waiver request or the reason why you could not seek a waiver.
  • A copy of any decision regarding immigrant or non-immigrant petition or application submitted for a person to enter the U.S. and evidence of any such pending application.
  • If your identity document is not your passport, you need to attach a copy of the passport. If it is not available, state the reason. In that case, submit copies of Form I-134 sponsor and petitioner’s official photo identities and proof of their U.S. citizenship or immigration status.

Where to Submit Form I-131?

The USCIS accepts Form I-131 both through mail and email. The mailing address differs depending on your immigration status and the type of travel document you need. For example, the mailing address for U.S. military family members is different from that of re-entry permit applicants.

 If you are submitting electronically, you will be directed as to where the supporting documents have to be sent. After the submission of the application, you will receive a confirmation sheet to attach to the supporting documentation to be mailed to the USCIS. You can access the necessary information on the USCIS website.

Form I-131 Processing Time

Typically, the processing of Form I-131 takes up to three months. You may check USCIS processing times to get the exact info. However, you can request expedited processing of your travel document if the situation demands it. Some of these include emergency situations, errors on the part of the USCIS, and humanitarian reasons, among many others.

Form I-131 Frequently Asked Questions

Go through these FAQs if you have a question in mind.

How Long Does Form I-131 Last?

Form I-131 lasts for different time periods depending on the type of document.

  • A Re-entry Permit lasts for two years starting from the date of issue. Note that this cannot be extended.
  •  A Refugee Travel Document lasts for one year and cannot be extended.
  • An Advance Parole Travel Document lasts for a year. You may get a single entry or a multiple entry document.

Is There a Waiver Fee for Form I-131?

Depending on the applicant’s age and type of application, the Form I-131 filing fee falls anywhere between $105 and $575. Every application needs a biometric service appointment that can cost $85. Again, depending on the above-mentioned factors, you may not have to pay anything for it. You are exempted from paying the fee if:

  • You are filing Form I-131 Application Type B or D
  • You have already filed a Form I-485 with a fee on or after July 30, 2007
  • Your Form I-485 is still pending

If you qualify for a fee waiver, submit Form I-912 with proper evidence of your inability to pay the fee along with the application.

Can I Travel After Submitting Form I-131?

There are two different situations here.

First, if you have applied for a Re-entry Permit or Refugee Travel Document, you can travel before the approval. The document can be collected in a USCIS office abroad or any other valid office.

But if you need to give your fingerprints for biometrics, it is wise to complete the process before leaving. Second, if you have a valid Advance Parole and have applied for renewal, it is possible you could travel and be back before the existing document expires. If you are applying for Advance Parole for the first time, you cannot leave the country until the application is approved by the USCIS.

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When you fill out the form, take extra efforts to ensure that you give the correct details, and make them easily readable. It is also suggested you hire a legal professional to complete the form and verify the information you have entered. After all, the paperwork should not hinder your journey.

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