FAQ About Refugee Travel Document

Persons in refugee or asylee status in the U.S. are not expected to get passports from their own countries. They are allowed to adjust their status to permanent residents only after a year of being an asylee or refugee in the U.S. It is understandable that such persons may need to travel and that they would need documentation to do so. It is to fulfill this need that they are issued refugee travel documents on application to enable them to travel abroad.

Below are some frequently asked questions regarding the refugee travel document:

What is a Refugee Travel Document?

A refugee travel document is issued to a person in the U.S. with asylum status or refugee status for the purpose of traveling abroad and returning to the United States. It is a document that is similar to a passport.

When Would You Need a Refugee Travel Document?

A refugee would need a travel document when he/she wants to travel outside of the U.S. and later return to the U.S.

How Can You Procure a Refugee Travel Document?

It should be noted that a refugee travel document must necessarily be applied for before a refugee leaves the United States. In the U.S., Form I-131, Application for Travel Document needs to be filed with the USCIS for applying for a travel document. The application form must also be augmented with supporting documentation, the relevant fee and passport size photographs of the applicant. The application is then processed and the document is handed over to the applicant within 2-6 months of placing the request.

How to Check the Status of the Application for a Travel Document?

If you have applied for a travel document and don’t know of the status of your request as yet, the USCIS website may be accessed for instantly knowing the exact status of the application.

When is The Right Time to Apply for a Refugee Travel Document?

As mentioned above, a refugee travel document must be applied for before one leaves the U.S. It is generally advised to file for a document at least 60 days before the date of intended travel. If timely action is not taken in this matter, one may even be denied permission to re-enter the country.

Can I File an Application Abroad for the Refugee Travel Document?

It is recommended to file Form I-131 while in the U.S. and at least 60 days prior to date of travel. In case you are already abroad and your stay abroad has been for less than one year, you may be able to file for a travel document at a USCIS office abroad. But it is at the discretion of that office to act on your application. So it is always better to apply for the document before you leave the U.S.

Can I Leave the U.S. While Form I-131 is Still Pending?

It is best to file your application while you are in the U.S. and go for your biometrics appointment when it is scheduled. Once you complete your biometrics you can leave the U.S. requesting that your refugee travel document be sent to a U.S. Embassy or Consulate or a DHS office abroad.

For How Long Is the Travel Document Valid?

A travel document is valid for up to one year. It is also noteworthy that the duration of a travel document cannot be extended and also that it must be applied for immediately prior to travel, as and when travel is required.

Is a Refugee Travel Document Enough to Guarantee Admission into the Country?

It may be considered by some that procuring a refugee travel document is enough license for them to claim their entry into the U.S. This is however untrue. Apart from procuring a relevant travel document, a U.S foreign national must also comply with the inspection processes at the immigration end to ensure smooth admission into the country.

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