How Long Does it Take to Get Approval After Filing Form I-131?

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In order to have a travel document, one must first file Form I-131.

You should file this form with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to apply for a reentry permit, refugee travel document and advance parole if you have applications pending. You must be physically present in the U.S. when you apply for the above travel documents. Advance parole is used sparingly, that is when a non-immigrant is brought inside the U.S due to an emergency. This is not a document to bypass the normal delays in the issuance of a visa.

Processing Form I-131:

The time it will take for the USCIS to process Form I-131 may vary. Usually, the USCIS processes cases based on the order of when they are filed. The USCIS will notify you by mail when a decision on the case is made or if they need further documentation from you. You should also keep in mind that the current processing time doesn’t show how long it will take to process your case from start to finish. It’s an estimate of how long it’s taking to process the cases that have already been filed.

Processing times can change and the USCIS updates the progress of cases on their site. If you don’t hear from them you may check their website and get an idea of where your case stands. You can also call their customer service line. Each applicant is assigned a receipt number. Your receipt number will begin with three letters and has a series of numbers. You may find it on the receipt notice or biometrics appointment notices that are mailed to you about your case.

Use this number when tracking your case online or when calling customer service. You may also register with the website to get automatic updates as and when there is progress on your case.

Also, you should keep in mind that while your case is pending, cases filed before yours are being processed. The status of your case may not change till it gets to the end of the normal processing time. Secondly, the USCIS will not be able to research your case and give you exact details on the status of your case if you do not have a receipt number. The ability to track individual cases is available only to customers who have their receipt number. Processing times for other cases is provided in general as an estimate.

The USCIS also requires applicants and petitioners for immigration benefits to be fingerprinted for conducting criminal background checks. The fingerprints will be taken at an Application Support Center (ASC). Applicants should not submit a fingerprint card (FD 258) along with their application as a fingerprint card will be rejected.

Note, you will have to submit a biometrics fee in addition to the application filing fee payable to the USCIS. This fee is to cover the cost of fingerprinting. There may be exceptions to applicants and petitioners living abroad who are fingerprinted at a U.S consulate abroad and do not need to be fingerprinted by the USCIS. Other applicants may also find they are exempt from the fingerprint fee.

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