One concern a lot of people have when they apply for asylum in the United States — or once they receive asylum here — is if or how it affects their ability to travel to other countries. In this section, we will provide the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about this issue.
Can I travel as an asylee?
If you are an asylee, your application for asylum in the United States has been approved. That also means you have certain rights, including the right to travel outside of the United States. However, there are certain rules you must follow in order to do so.
Specifically, you must get a special travel document called a Refugee Travel Document, which can be used instead of a U.S. Passport. This is important because if you fail to do so before you leave the United States, you may not be able to re-enter the country upon your return. Depending on your situation, you may even be placed in removal (deportation) proceedings.
You can apply for a Refugee Travel Document by filing Form I-131, Application for Travel Document, with United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The agency recommends that you do so at least 60 days (two months) prior to leaving the United States.
If you do not file for a Refugee Travel Document prior to leaving the United States, a USCIS office overseas may accept your application. However, a USCIS office in another country is not legally obligated to do so, and may not accept your application if there is any evidence you could have filed while you were still in the United States. Finally, you may only pursue this option if you have been outside the United States for at least one (1) year.
You can use a Refugee Travel Document for up to one year.
Can I travel to my country with asylum?
Yes, you can — but it really isn’t a good idea and you should avoid doing so unless absolutely necessary.
This is because the U.S. government granted your asylum based on your claims of past persecution or fear of future persecution in your home country. If you ask to go back without providing a valid reason, or if you can’t explain how you were able to go there without being harmed, the U.S. government may simply conclude that your asylum claim was invalid. It may also terminate your asylum status in the United States.
Can I travel while my asylum application is pending?
Again, the answer to this question is technically, “yes.” You can travel outside of the United States while you are waiting for the government to make a decision about your request for asylum. However, most immigration experts advise against doing so unless it is absolutely necessary. This is because the authorities can question you and there is no guarantee you’ll be allowed to come back into the country upon your return.
If you must travel to another country while your asylum application is pending, you must apply for Advance Parole before you leave the United States. You can do so by completing Form I-131, Application for Travel Document. If your request is granted, you will be allowed to re-enter the United States prior to approval of your asylum application.
Immigration experts also advise against returning to the country where you claim that you were persecuted or have fear of being persecuted while your asylum application is pending. If you do so, the government will assume that you either abandoned your asylum application or submitted a fake one. If the government determines that you filed a fraudulent asylum application, you may never be allowed to set foot in the United States again.