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Can U.S. Asylee Travel Abroad Without the Refugee Travel Document?

Can U.S. Asylee Travel Abroad Without the Refugee Travel Document?


Any travel outside the United States by refugees and asylees needs to be carefully analyzed. Asylees and derivative asylees may not travel outside the United States unless they have been provided with the Asylee Refugee Travel Document, a passport-like blue booklet that is valid for a year. So, if you are a U.S. asylee or refugee, and you want to preserve your right to stay in the U.S. after traveling temporarily abroad, you must apply for this document before you leave the United States.

You can also obtain a refugee travel document if you are a lawful permanent resident (LPR), which means you have a green card, as a result of having been an asylee or a refugee. In this circumstance, you may also apply for this document while you are outside the United States. However, you will have to prove that you were not able to apply before leaving the United States because you had to travel abroad in an emergency. Although you don’t need a refugee travel document if you have a valid green card and you want to return to the U.S. after temporary travel abroad, having this document might make your travels much easier.

Asylee Refugee Travel Document

Asylees who leave the United States before being granted the Asylee Refugee Travel Document may apply for it at a United States consulate or port of entry, but there is no guarantee that it will be granted to them. In cases where the asylee was ignorant of the requirement before leaving the United States, or in case of a medical emergency or some other compelling circumstance that justifies the alien’s not meeting the requirements at hand, USCIS district directors will most likely favorably exercise their discretionary authority. In this case, the asylee must not have intended to abandon asylee status and must have been outside the United States for less than a year. Even if the asylee is readmitted with the travel document, as the Chicago immigration attorney states, they will be subject to examination and questioning in regard to those grounds of inadmissibility that would also constitute grounds for termination of asylum, such as the commission of an aggravated felony or being a national security threat.

The Asylee may also request parole into the United States in case of urgent humanitarian reasons or significant public benefit (pursuant to INA 212 (d)(5)). These are the factors that the district directors may consider:

  • Reasons why the alien was originally granted asylum
  • The circumstances leading to the expiration of or failure to obtain the refugee travel document
  • Whether the alien has returned to his or her country of origin, and if so, the reasons for that return
  • The circumstances in which the alien currently finds himself or herself

The asylee or derivative needs to be cautioned about returning to his or her country of feared persecution since it could affect entitlement to asylee status in some cases. This will not result in automatic revocation of asylum. However, the DHS has the right to inquire whether the asylee has voluntarily re-availed himself of the protection of his or her’s country or nationality. The asylee may be inquired about:

  • The reasons for the return
  • The length of the visit
  • Any other actions that the asylee took while there

For example, visiting a sick relative would not lead to re-ailment. However, purchasing or leasing property or establishing business relations might result in the invalidation of an unexpired refugee travel document under 8 CFR 223.3(b). If there were to be any doubts as to the application of the cessation clause, they should be resolved in the alien’s favor. It is typically easier for the derivative to return to their home country without facing possible revocation of the status than for the principal asylee or refugee.

Those asylees who have incurred more than 180 days of unlawful presence prior to obtaining their asylee status should also be warned of the risks of travel. Leaving the United States may trigger bars to readmission lasting anywhere from three to ten years. While that should not affect their reentry with their Asylee Refugee Travel Document, it will make them inadmissible if they should apply for adjustment of status. This is why every Chicago asylum lawyer urges caution until naturalization.

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Our immigration law firm based in Chicago is dedicated to providing help to our clients facing a variety of situations. Our legal team is composed of the best experts in their field and offers services related to employment and family-based immigration, removal defense, citizenship, federal litigation, and more. Whether you are looking to reunite with your family, further your career, get a better education, or simply enjoy life in the United States, we are happy to help you achieve your immigration goals. We are here to help you find a positive resolution, so don’t hesitate to give us a call.


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