Traveling with Advance Parole: Comparing the Benefits and Risks

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If you are an undocumented person living in the U.S. who dreams of traveling abroad, you are not alone. As an immigrant, who came to this country at just three years old, I also had that same dream and never thought it would become a reality. However, this summer, I had the opportunity to return to my country of Mexico with a travel permit known as Advance Parole. Advance Parole gave me temporary permission to travel outside of the U.S. and return lawfully. If you are interested in learning more about this travel permit, keep reading.

Next, I am going to answer the following questions:

  1. What is Advance Parole? 
  2. What are the risks of traveling with Advance Parole?
  3. What are the benefits of traveling with Advance Parole?
  4. What advice is there for a first-time traveler using Advance Parole? 
  5. How long can you stay outside the U.S. with this travel permit? 
  6. Who can I contact if I need legal advice?

What is Advance Parole?

Advance Parole (AP) is a travel document issued by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) that allows certain immigrants to travel outside of the United States and return lawfully. AP must be requested before leaving the country and carried along with other travel documents. 

For more information on Advance Parole, such as; how to apply, who is eligible, and the application cost, I encourage you to read our article: Everything You Need to Know About Advance Parole.

What are the risks of traveling with Advance Parole?

Choosing to apply for and travel with Advance Parole is a big decision. It’s critical to learn as much about the process as possible and consider all the risks and benefits in order to choose the best path for you.

Traveling while undocumented always involves some risk, and Advance Parole is no exception. Some risks may include:

  1. Not being able to return to the U.S.
    It is critical to note that Advance Parole approval does not guarantee you will be allowed to re-enter the United States. Individuals must be “admissible” to re-enter the U.S. after a trip abroad. There are many reasons why someone can be found “inadmissible.” One of the most common reasons is that they have a previous removal (deportation) order or certain criminal convictions. 
  1. Going through the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) inspection. 
    As previously stated, the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer at the airport or port of entry has the final say on whether to allow you to re-enter. If possible, talk to a legal representative before you leave to understand all the risks involved.

While traveling with AP does have its risks, it also has several benefits and can create new opportunities that might not otherwise be available to you, such as:

  1. Reconnecting with your family and your roots. 
    My family immigrated to the U.S. over 20 years ago, when I was just three years old. Growing up, I always dreamed of being able to visit Mexico and see my family again. Because of Advance Parole, that dream became a reality this summer, and I was able to hug, laugh and share memories with my family in Mexico. I knew the risks of traveling with AP, but I would do it all again because there are no words to express how it felt to finally hug my family again after such a long time.
  1. Pursuing educational or professional opportunities.
    Advance Parole can be used to study abroad or attend a work conference in a different country.
  1. Seeking medical treatment that would otherwise be too costly in the U.S.
    Another valid reason to request and travel with AP is to seek medical treatment that you may not be able to afford in the U.S. 
  1. Adjusting your status. 
    Another reason people take the risk and travel with AP is that, in some cases, it can make future immigration options easier to attain. For example, if a DACA recipient enters the U.S. with an Advance Parole entry, they could complete the green card “adjustment of status” process inside the United States.

What advice is there for a first-time traveler using Advance Parole? 

If you have decided to travel with Advance Parole, below are several tips tol help you prepare for traveling abroad. 

  1. Be sure to book your flights and accommodations after you receive your official Advance Parole document. This is very important because you must only stay abroad within your approved travel dates. 
  • Example: If you are approved to travel from July 28 to August 28, it is highly recommended that you come back at least one week before the deadline listed on your approval notice in case of any unexpected travel delays. 
  1. Bring the following original documents with you and leave copies with a close relative in the U.S.
  • Advance Parole approval notice
  • Passport
  • Most recent DACA approval notice
  • COVID-19 vaccination card
  • State identification card, or driver’s license
  1. Book your connecting flight into the U.S. with at least a 3-4 hour layover. 
    You will have to go through various steps upon re-entry to the U.S. Be prepared to have your passport checked, be fingerprinted and have your picture taken. 
    You will also go through a secondary inspection. There you may be asked your reason for travel, how long you were outside of the U.S. and where you stayed by a CBP officer.

Who can I contact if I need legal advice?

As stated throughout this article, we recommend talking to an immigration attorney or legal representative to discuss if Advance Parole travel is a good option for you. If you need affordable legal advice, we encourage you to read the following article: Meet the Organizations that Offer Legal Assistance in the United States.

**Noticias para Inmigrantes is a media and communications organization that provides independent reporting and commentary on issues affecting immigrants in the United States. We do not provide legal assistance or legal advice for any case unless we interview a specialized source on the subject. It is critical to clarify that each case is different, and it is important to consult with your attorney.

Mitzi Colin Lopez is a Digital Ads Content Creator and Experimenter at Noticias Para Inmigrantes. Her origin as a Mexican immigrant characterizes and drives her to empower the Latinx, Hispanic and immigrant communities. She is a recent graduate of West Chester University, where she obtained her bachelor’s in Political Science and Spanish. Her passions include social justice, advocacy, hiking, traveling, and weightlifting.