Form I-131A, Application for Travel Document (Carrier Documentation)
Form I-131A Explained
What is Form I-131A used for?
Certain permanent residents who are outside the United States and no longer have valid proof of permanent resident status may file Form I-131A, Application for Travel Document (Carrier Documentation), to obtain temporary travel documentation for the purpose of boarding a transportation carrier and returning to the United States. It is appropriate to file Form I-131A if you are a lawful permanent resident or conditional resident and returning from temporary overseas travel of less than:
- One year and your Permanent Resident Card was lost, stolen or destroyed;
- Two years and your Reentry Permit was lost, stolen or destroyed; or
- One year and your Permanent Resident Card is expired (in limited situations as described below).
Additionally, other non-citizens who received an Advance Parole Document that is now lost, stolen, destroyed, or damaged while traveling overseas temporarily may file Form I-131A, Application for Travel Document (Carrier Documentation), to obtain temporary travel documentation for the purpose of boarding a transportation carrier and returning to the United States. It is appropriate to file Form I-131A if you are temporary outside the United States and have a lost, stolen, destroyed, or damaged:
- Form I-512/Form I-512L, Advance Parole Document; or
- Form I766, Employment Authorization Card (EAD) with the travel endorsement.
Eligibility to Apply for Carrier Documentation
Who needs Form I-131A?
U.S. law requires transportation carriers like airlines to make sure all passengers traveling to the United States are in possession of a valid passport and any required visa. If you are a lawful permanent resident or conditional resident who has traveled outside the United States, you may use your permanent resident card (green card) or a reentry permit in place of a visa. Likewise, certain foreign nationals may use an Advance Parole Travel Document in order to return to the United States. You will almost certainly experience difficulties when you attempt to return to the U.S. with a lost, stolen, destroyed or mutilated Permanent Resident Card, Reentry Permit, or Advance Parole. You will likely need to request a temporary travel document to reenter the United States.
Absences for One Year or More
Form I-131A, Application for Travel Document (Carrier Documentation), is not a way for permanent residents to renew or replace a green card after abandoning permanent residence. A permanent resident who has been outside the United States for one year or more may not file Form I-131A. Typically, USCIS will presume that a green card holder abandoned their permanent resident status if that person is absent from the U.S. for one year or more. (A reentry permit is one way to avoid this dilemma.) Form I-131A is not a way to re-establish an immigration status. Certain individuals may qualify for a returning resident (SB-1) visa. Please contact an immigration attorney for additional assistance.
Expired Green Card Outside the United States
If you have an expired green card and are presently outside the United States, you likely do not need to file Form I-131A. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) policy permits a transportation carrier bound for the United States to board a permanent resident without special carrier documentation if the permanent resident traveler carries:
- An expired green card that was issued with a 10-year expiration date (and you have been outside of the U.S. for less than a year);
- An expired green card with a two-year expiration date and you also have Form I-797, Notice of Action, showing that you filed a Form I-751, Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence, or Form I-829, Petition by Investor to Remove Conditions on Permanent Resident Status, (and you have been outside of the U.S. for less than a year). The Notice of Action extends the validity of the card for a specified length of time, generally 24 months; or
- An expired green card and has official U.S. military or government travel orders (based on military service or U.S. government employment), regardless of time outside of the United States.
If you find yourself with an expired green card while traveling abroad, check with your airline or transportation carrier before you file Form I-131A. As described above, CBP policy allows them to board you. However, the transportation carrier or airline may still refuse to let you board even if you are in one of the categories above. In that case, you will need to file a Form I-131A, Application for Travel Document (Carrier Documentation).
Child of Permanent Resident Born Abroad
If you have a child who was born outside the United States and is coming to the U.S. for the first time, you may need to request carrier documentation if:
- You are a lawful permanent resident or conditional resident;
- Your child is under two years old; and
- Your child is traveling with you to come to the United States for the first time.
Please check with your airline or transportation carrier first to ensure they will board your child in these circumstances without carrier documentation. If the airline or transportation carrier refuses to board your child without carrier documentation, you will need to pay for and submit Form I-131A for your child.
Form I-131A Instructions
How do I fill out I-131A?
CitizenPath's easy-to-use website helps you prepare the application quickly and accurately. Our online service provides step-by-step I-131A instructions to make it easy. We even give you a money-back guarantee that USCIS will approve your application.
If you prefer to fill out the Form I-131A PDF, you can download instructions from USCIS or follow this summary of directions.
- Type or print answers in black ink only.
- Enter “N/A” if an answer is not applicable and "NONE" if your answer is zero.
- Foreign language documents must be accompanied by a full English certified translation.
- Submit your application with the current USCIS filing fee.
- Submit photocopies for all supporting documents unless an original document is specifically required.
- For Information About You, answer the general questions about name, address and birth. Carefully indicate how you were admitted to the United States or your current status that makes you eligible for carrier documentation. Your alien registration number may be important for this application and making the online payment.
Parts 2 and 3
- For Reason for Application, select the reason you need to obtain carrier documentation. Remember, if you have your card and it expired, check with your airline first to determine if they will board you.
- For Processing Information, provide answers regarding your departure from the U.S. and intended travel back to the U.S. If you were ever in removal proceedings, ever abandoned permanent resident status, or had your status revoked, speak to an immigration attorney before filing the application.
Parts 4, 5, and 6
- For Applicant's Statement, sign your application with black ink. Provide an email and phone numbers where USCIS can reliably reach you.
- For Interpreter and Preparer, provide information if applicable. If you prepared your Form I-131A, it’s only necessary to sign as the applicant. If another person translated or prepared the application for you, be sure Parts 5 and 6 are filled in and signed appropriately.
This is an abbreviated list of Form I-131A instructions. Remember, the required supporting documents to submit with the application are an extremely important part of the application package. CitizenPath provides filing instructions customized to your situation. You’ll get detailed I-131A instructions that explain which supporting documents to gather and take to your in-person appointment.
Where to File I-131A
How to file Form I-131A?
At this time, there is no way to submit Form I-131A electronically, but you can prepare the form with an online service to make sure you prepare it correctly.
You must file the I-131A application in-person at a USCIS international field office or a U.S. embassy or consulate (that has a consular section). Before appearing in person, you must submit the filing fee through the USCIS online payment system. When you appear in-person to file Form I-131A, you must take evidence that you paid the fee, such as a copy of the payment confirmation page or a copy of the email payment receipt notice.
For people who want to make sure they are preparing the application correctly, CitizenPath offers an affordable service created by immigration attorneys. CitizenPath’s Carrier Documentation Package will make the application easy and give you alerts if there’s a problem. You’ll also receive detailed filing instructions so you know exactly which supporting documents to submit with your application. CitizenPath even provides a money-back guarantee that USCIS will approve your application for a travel document.
Form I-131A Processing Time
How long does it take to get a travel document?
USCIS indicates that they have a processing goal of two weeks for Form I-131A, Application for Travel Document (Carrier Documentation). However, the Form I-131A processing time may vary depending on the USCIS workload and the specific U.S. embassy or consulate where you filed.
The best way to get your Form I-131A approved quickly is to prepare the application accurately and get it filed correctly. Mistakes and omissions will cause delays in the process.
You may be able to expedite the Form I-131A processing time if you require urgent travel. USCIS may, at its discretion, expedite certain applications that have provided evidence of an urgent need to travel.
- When you file Form I-131A at a U.S. embassy or consulate, have of your application and supporting evidence in order. Missing information and documents is the biggest delay for applications.
- Provide evidence of your urgent travel requirements. In addition to printed tickets or e-tickets, bring evidence that you must be in the United States. Examples of events that may justify expedited processing include a sick relative or an important a business event.
What to Expect after the Appointment
What happens after filing I-131A?
As mentioned above, the processing time after your in-person appointment is generally two weeks or less. Many embassies or consulates are able to provide carrier documentation within 48 hours of the in-person appointment.
An approved Form I-131A, Application for Travel Document (Carrier Documentation), results in a temporary document to board a transportation carrier and return to the United States. The travel document comes in the form of a boarding foil placed in the applicant’s passport or a transportation letter. The holder of the travel document may present the document to the carrier destined for the United States. Generally, a travel document is valid for 30 days from the date of issuance. Plan your return accordingly.
How CitizenPath Helps You
Is there an inexpensive way to file the I-131A application?
CitizenPath's affordable, online service makes it easy to prepare Form I-131A, Application for Travel Document (Carrier Documentation). Designed by immigration lawyers, the Carrier Documentation Package helps you eliminate the common errors that create delays, rejections and even denials. That's because the service alerts you when your answer to a question may be a problem. You'll also get customized filing instructions based on your situation. It's a powerful, do-it-yourself tool that puts you in control. And we've got your back -- CitizenPath provides live customer support and provides a money-back guarantee that USCIS will approve your application. Get started >>
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