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Obtaining a Refugee Travel Document: Navigating International Travel as a Refugee/Asylee

Discover a little-known fact: asylum applicants can travel abroad while their asylum applications are being processed, following specific steps.

What is a Refugee Travel Document?

A Refugee Travel Document is a crucial travel document for individuals with refugee or asylum status in the United States. It serves as a substitute for a passport in most cases and allows you to travel outside the U.S. while ensuring your ability to return.

How to Apply for a Refugee Travel Document

To initiate the application process, you need to complete Form I-131, known as the “Application for Travel Document.” Connect Jeelani Law Firm to learn more about this possibility and explore your options.

Validity of a Refugee Travel Document

Once issued, a Refugee Travel Document remains valid for up to one year. It’s essential to plan your travels accordingly within this timeframe.

Timing is Key

If you’ve been granted asylum or refugee status and intend to travel abroad, it’s advisable to file Form I-131 for a Refugee Travel Document before leaving the United States. It is recommended to submit the application no less than 60 days before your planned departure date.

Exception for Overseas Filing

In exceptional cases where you have already left the United States and have been outside the country for less than one year, a USCIS office overseas may consider your application. However, it’s crucial to note that this discretion is not guaranteed, especially if it is evident that you could have filed the form before departing the United States.

Filing Form I-131 While Abroad

You can file Form I-131 while you are abroad, and your physical presence in the United States is not mandatory for USCIS to approve your application and issue a Refugee Travel Document. If your biometrics (photograph and fingerprints) have been obtained, you can send your Refugee Travel Document to a U.S. Embassy, consulate, or DHS office overseas for collection.

Biometrics Collection

When filing Form I-131, instructions for biometrics collection at a designated Application Support Center (ASC) within the United States will be given. It’s essential to complete this step before departing the U.S. If you leave the country before providing biometrics, USCIS may deny your application.

Traveling to Your Country of Origin

Traveling back to the country where you experienced past persecution or claiming a fear of future persecution is allowed only for specific circumstances. However, certain risks are associated with such travel. If you have been granted asylum, your asylum status may be terminated if it’s determined that you have voluntarily availed yourself of the protection of your country of nationality, acquired a new nationality, or are no longer eligible for asylum due to a fundamental change in circumstances. Discuss with our attorneys at Jeelani Law Firm.

Maintaining Refugee or Asylee Status

To avoid any complications regarding your refugee or asylee status, it’s essential to be prepared to explain your travel patterns and demonstrate that you have not re-availed yourself of the protection of your home country. Travel that suggests a return to the country from which you fled should be carefully explained to immigration authorities to avoid losing your refugee or asylee status.

In conclusion, while traveling as a refugee or asylee can be a rewarding experience, it comes with legal considerations that must be addressed. Contact Jeelani Law Firm today for assistance with your immigration needs!

Jeelani Law Firm, PLC

JEELANI LAW FIRM, PLC is regarded as one of the top immigration law firms in the industry. We handle all immigration matters including family based adjustment of status/green card cases, citizenship filings, representation of businesses and employees when filing L1A/B Petitions, H1B petitions, and Permanent Labor petitions. Our firm also litigates immigration cases dealing with delayed adjudications as well as appellate matters before the U.S. Federal Courts, U.S. Immigration Courts, USCIS and the BIA. Given the complex nature of immigration law, inexperience can lead to many mistakes which may result in delays, denials, and loss of filing fees and valuable time. Contact our office and we will take care of the rest.