In a recent announcement, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, through Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), introduced revised guidance for submitting travel document applications. Form I-131, designed for this purpose, has been updated with a deadline of October 31, 2025.
Form I-131 is available for a variety of travel needs, including:
- Re-entry permit:
- Allows a lawful permanent resident or conditional permanent resident to apply for entry into the United States without obtaining a returning resident visa from a U.S. embassy or consulate when returning from abroad during the permit’s validity period.
- Refugee travel documents:
- It is issued to individuals with valid refugee or asylum status, or lawful permanent residents who have been granted refugee or asylum status in the United States, allowing them to return without requiring a return resident visa.
- Pre-licensed file:
- Allows individuals currently in the United States to enter for certain purposes. It does not replace the required passport and travelers must accept entry decisions at the port of entry.
- Early departure for long-term residents of the Northern Mariana Islands when traveling:
- Allows long-term residents of the Northern Mariana Islands to temporarily travel to other parts of the United States for lawful reasons without automatically losing their long-term resident status in the Northern Mariana Islands.
USCIS emphasizes that each applicant must submit a separate application for a travel document. Additionally, it provides specific instructions for each type of document:
- Re-entry permit: Requires physical presence in the United States at the time of submission of application, provision of biometric services, and may have varying validity based on individual circumstances.
- Refugee travel documents: Applicants must apply before leaving the United States, and the document is usually valid for one year.
USCIS advises that failure to obtain permission to return to the United States or leaving the United States for an extended period of time without proper documentation may be considered an abandonment of lawful permanent resident status, subject to a determination by the Department of Homeland Security upon return.
The revised instructions are intended to streamline the travel document application process and ensure clarity and accessibility for applicants seeking U.S. immigration proceedings.