Procedure to Apply for Travel Document/Form I-131A
A lawful permanent resident (LPR) typically requires a valid green card (I-551) or a reentry permit to return to the United States. If the I-551 or re-entry permit is lost, stolen, or destroyed, the LPR can file form 131A (application of travel document) at a United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) field office or with a consular section at a U.S. embassy or consulate.
An LPR may apply for a travel document if:
- S/he is returning from a temporary international travel of less than one year and the permanent resident card (also known as a green card or form I-551) has been lost, stolen, or destroyed;
- S/he is returning from temporary international travel of less than two years and the approved reentry permit (form I-327) has been lost, stolen, or destroyed.
The duration of an LPR’s absence from the United States will be calculated from the time s/he departed the U.S. to the time s/he pays the fee for form I-131A.
Form I-131A may be filed in person at the USCIS field office or with a consular section at a U.S. embassy or consulate. The form must be accompanied by evidence that the applicant has paid the fee. Effective December 23, 2016 the filing fee is USD 575. This fee can be paid by applicant or representative. It is important to provide accurate first and last names, date of birth, and A Number as they appear on the LPR’s green card or re-entry permit. The filing fee may be paid online through the USCIS online payment system using a credit or debit card or U.S. bank account.
The processing time is two weeks. Once issued, the document will be valid for up to 30 days and cannot be extended.
LPRs with expired Green Card
Although regulations generally require an LPR to travel with a valid green card, CBP (Customs and Border Protection) policy permits an LPR to travel to the U.S. without carrier documentation under the following circumstances:
- If the LPR possesses a green card that was issued with a 10-year expiration date and s/he has been outside the U.S. for less than a year; OR
- If the LPR possesses a green card with a two-year expiration date AND s/he also has a form I-797, notice of action, for form I-751 or form I-829 to remove the conditions on his/her permanent resident status. The notice of action extends the validity of the green card for a specified length of time, generally one year; OR
- If the LPR is a military service member or employee of the U.S. government (or an LPR dependent of such an individual) on official U.S. military or government travel orders, regardless of time outside of the United States.
However, it is still possible for the airline or transportation carrier to refuse boarding of the LPR. We at Murthy Immigration Services strongly recommend the readers to file form I-131A and obtain a transportation letter prior to travelling on an expired green card in order to avoid delays and complications during travel.
Child born abroad to an LPR
In case an LPR’s child is born abroad during his/her temporary absence from the U.S., the child may enter the U.S. without a visa if the following circumstances are fulfilled:
- The applicant is an LPR or holds an immigrant visa;
- The intended travel should be before the child turns two years old; and
- The child should accompany the LPR on his/her first return to the U.S.
A child fulfilling the above criteria should be permitted to board the flight without any travel document. In their instructions, the CBP advises travelers to check with airlines prior to travel. If the airline refuses to permit a qualifying child o board, then, s/he may approach the consular post for issuance of a boarding letter. Under these circumstances, one need not file form I-131A or pay a fee prior to travel.
One may apply for form I-131A by following the above procedure. Should one require assistance with the application process, attorneys at Murthy Immigration Services are available to help.