Can I Travel While My Green Card Application Is Pending?

A woman's hand with red nail polish holding a passport and other legal documents for traveling

Can I Travel While My Green Card Application Is Pending?

Applying for a green card is not usually a quick or easy process. Once an application is submitted, it can take months or years to approve a green card application. In that time, there may be circumstances where you need to leave the country for numerous personal or professional reasons. But can you travel while a green card is being processed? It’s essential to know the answer because traveling while a green card application is pending could result in you being unable to re-enter the United States.

What Is a Green Card?

A green card is a document issued by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) that grants permanent residence to foreign nationals and allows them to live and work in the United States indefinitely. It also will enable holders to:

  • Apply for a US driver’s license or state ID
  • Apply for a Social Security number and receive benefits
  • Apply for US citizenship through the process of naturalization after 3 or 5 years

If you are in the United States and meet the qualifications for a green card, you must apply for it by filing the latest version of the USCIS adjustment of status application (Form I-485 – Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status).

A green card can be revoked if the holder commits a serious crime or is considered to have abandoned their permanent resident status by living outside of the United States for an extended period. Additionally, applying for a green card can take several months to several years, depending on the specific circumstances and type of application. That’s why green card applicants must understand how their plans to travel internationally and their ability to return can impact their application for a green card. 

Traveling With a Pending Green Card Application

Generally, you can travel when your green card application is pending, but doing so requires the proper documentation for travel authorization if you plan to return to the United States. The USCIS issues five different types of travel documentation for specific immigration circumstances that permit you to travel while your green card is being processed, including:

  • Advance parole document
  • Refugee travel document
  • Re-entry permit
  • Temporary Protected Status travel document
  • Carrier documentation

Which one of these authorization documents you’ll need for travel while your green card application is pending depends on your specific immigration status. However, it’s vital to know which ones you need because failing to acquire the proper documentation before traveling outside of the United States may result in your inability to return, your green card application being abandoned, or you may be placed in removal proceedings before an immigration judge.

Does Proper Documentation Guarantee Re-Entry?

However, even if you acquire the necessary travel documentation, it’s critical to understand that border patrol agents have the discretion to refuse your entry back into the United States regardless of the paperwork you have with you or your green card application status. Therefore, having the proper paperwork does not guarantee you will be allowed back into the country. 

The safest decision is to avoid international travel while your green card application is pending. However, if you must travel outside of the United States, it’s wise to consult with an immigration attorney to make sure your paperwork is in order to decrease the likelihood of issues when returning to the United States. In addition, travel documentation can take months for the USCIS to process, so you must consider that and make travel plans accordingly to allow enough time for your documentation to be approved. 

Affordable Legal Aid for Immigration Issues

If you need an immigration lawyer in York, PA, contact Henry & Grogan. We can provide valuable guidance and advice on the green card application process, including eligibility, documentation requirements, and any potential issues or challenges that may arise during the application process.

Our practice focuses on immigration services designed to navigate complex documentation issues and answer questions related to travel while a green card application is pending to help you avoid making mistakes that could cost you your green card or otherwise impact your immigration status. Call us today for a free consultation with a green card lawyer in PA.