Refugee Travel Document FAQ
Updated on 12/29/2020
Question: What is a Refugee Travel Document?
A Refugee Travel Document is a travel document (similar to a passport) issued to a refugee or asylee that allows him or her to travel outside the United States and then return to the United States with this document.
Question: What’s the different between a Refugee and an Asylee?
Even though the terms “asylee” and “refugee” are sometimes used interchangeably, there is a slight difference between the two categories of immigrants. A refugee is a person who escaped their country of nationality and is unable to or not willing to return to it because they are afraid of punishment.
Actually, a foreign national who is an asylee is also a refugee. As such, all asylees are refugees, but not all refugees are asylees. The difference is that foreigners apply for refugee status when they are outside the United States. Upon approval, they arrive in the United States as refugee. They can apply for green card after they have been physically present in the U.S. for at least one year since their entry to the U.S. as refugee. In contrast, foreigners who arrive in the United States and then file asylum application are asylees if their asylum application is granted by USCIS. They can apply for green card after they have been physically present in the U.S. for at least one year since being granted asylum.
Question: Who needs a Refugee Travel Document?
The following foreign nationals who would like to travel outside the United States need a Refugee Travel Document:
Question: Who can apply for a Refugee Travel Document?
Not sure you are eligible to apply for a Refugee Travel Document? You can free check eligibility through DYgreencard without providing any personal information. When you are ready for applying for it, our professionals can help you handle the application. All you need to do is just answer a few simple questions online. Then we take care of the rest. You entire application package will be carefully reviewed by an immigration attorney to ensure its success. Learn more or get started today!
Question: Can I apply for a Refugee Travel Document if my asylum application is still pending with USCIS?
No. You must be granted asylum status first to apply for a Refugee Travel Document.
Question: I obtained a green card through refugee or asylum status and I have a valid passport, should I apply for a Refugee Travel Document if I want to travel abroad?
Question: What if I fail to apply for a Refugee Travel Document and travel abroad without green card?
You may not be allowed to re-enter the United States. Even if you are readmitted into the U.S. after leaving without a valid travel document, you could be placed in removal proceedings and be deported.
Question: How to apply for a Refugee Travel Document?
Like most interactions with the USCIS, the process for acquiring a refugee travel document involves paperwork. The official USCIS form to apply is the Form I-131, Application for Travel Document.
Be careful that I-131 form can be used to apply for other types of travel document. So make sure you select the right type of travel document when filling out the form.
Question: How much does it cost to apply for a Refugee Travel Document?
Depending on the age of an applicant, the USCIS filing fee ranges from $105 to $220. You may check the filing fee here.
Question: What’s the processing time for an I-131 application?
As with many forms filed with the USCIS, there is a several-month processing time. However, those who need their travel document faster can ask for expedited processing of the Form I-131.
Question: Must I be physically present in the United States when I file an I-131 application for a refugee travel document?
Not mandatory but highly recommended filing the application when you are physically present in the United States.
Question: Can I leave the United States immediately after I file an I-131 application for a refugee travel document?
Yes. However you are likely be required to appear at a biometric appointment in the following 3-6 weeks after filing. At the biometric appointment, USCIS will take your biometric information including fingerprint, photo, etc. If you have biometric appointment at USCIS before, you might be waived such appointment because USCIS has your biometric information on record. Whatsoever, USCIS will notify you to appear or no need to appear at such biometric appointment in the mail.
Question: Can I submit my biometrics while am outside the United States?
Question: Can I reschedule my biometrics appointment?
Question: How long is a Refugee Travel Document valid?
A Refugee Travel Document is valid for up to 1 year.
Question: Can I travel abroad multiple times with a Refugee Travel Document?
Yes, as long as it is valid when you re-enter the United States.
Question: What if I travel back to the country or region that I sought refuge or asylum from?
It is not wise to the return to the country or region that you left to seek refuge or asylum in the United States. Even if you need to see family members or friends in your country of origin, this would not be a wise decision. You may have told the USCIS that you have a credible fear of persecution in your former nation. So if you go back to that place, you are essentially saying that you are no longer afraid. This could negatively affect your immigration status in the United States.
Question: Can a derivative refugee or asylee travel back to the country or region that the principal refugee or asylee sought refuge or asylum from?
It should be fine because unlike the principal refugee or asylee, a derivative refugee or asylee never told the USCIS that he or she have a credible fear of persecution in such country or region.
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