The “Advance Parole” I-131 Application for Travel Document

Are you excited? Is everything prepared? Soon you’re leaving for a trip abroad and it’s going to be a glorious time. If only you knew what is expected of you in terms of customs and immigration at the border crossings, that would definitely help to settle some nerves.

We won’t be covering everything here, but we’ll help explain your travel document number. These types of documents are an essential part of your trip. Without it, you won’t be allowed to cross any borders.

What is a Travel Document Number?

You probably already own a passport. If not, you need to get one before you leave on your trip abroad. A few types of documents form part of the overall category which we’ll look into shortly. It’s important for now that you understand which documents you can’t go abroad without.

Types of Travel Documents

As mentioned previously, travel documents come in a few shapes and sizes. The most important travel documents include:

  • Passports
  • Visa
  • Green Cards

Below, we explore each of these types of travel documents in more detail.

Passport

Your passport is probably the most important and well-known travel document available. You can apply for a passport from your birth country. This document helps identify you for travel-related reasons. Let’s see why it is so important.

Why Your Passport is Important

Passports are like keys. You won’t have access to international travel without it. You’ll need one when you pass through your country’s customs and immigration and you’ll also need it again when you want to enter your intended destination.

More often than not, you need to get a visa to enter a country before you even travel there. You must have a passport to qualify for a visa. Take your passport with you when you go for visa interviews or else you aren’t eligible.

Some passports have more “power” than others. The Henley Passport Index helps explain the point. A Japanese passport gets entry to 191 countries without the need for a visa. Whereas a passport from Iraq may only enter 28 countries without a visa. A passport may help you enter a country, but remember to still note how long you may stay on a visaless entry since that differs from country to country. If you don’t keep to those regulations on your trips abroad, you will be in danger of removal procedures.

How to Get a Passport

It depends on what country’s passport you want. You firstly must be eligible for one. Only citizens of a specific country are eligible for a passport (in most cases). You must apply for your passport in the appropriate department of government in your birth country. In America, it is the U. Department of State.

Complete the required forms, include or attach the required supporting documentation, and submit your application. Soon you’ll have your passport. But what is a travel document number and does your passport have one?

Where to Find your Travel Document Number on a Passport

Your passport number is found in the upper right-hand corner of the page which has your photo on it. The passport number has 9 digits and each passport has a unique code. It is also this document’s travel number.

Visa

A little earlier we mentioned this type of document. Travelers need visas to visit foreign countries in most cases. Visas are issued by the citizenship and immigration department of each country (in America it’s called the USCIS). They determine who may enter their country since they hold the jurisdiction over this matter. But why is a visa so important?

Why Your Visa is Important

The visa helps determine the reason for your visit to a country. It prescribes the conditions of your visit. Conditions like the length of your authorized stay in the country, the activities in which you are entitled to engage in, and other details about your stay. A passport may not be enough to enter every country you travel to. Make sure before you leave whether you need a visa too.

When you enter the country you’ll be required to produce your passport at the border officer. If your passport does not get a visa-free entry the officer will confirm your eligibility by a visa. Visas could take the form of an official document and/or an entry made in your passport. This entry in your passport is made by the immigration department of that country’s embassy or consulate in your home country. But how do you get a visa then?

How to Get a Visa

Go to the nearest embassy or consulate of the country you intend to visit found in your home country. Apply for the type of visa you need. The reasons for your visit help to determine the type of visa you need. Tourists get tourist visas and people who go to work there get employment-related visas.

Complete the required forms, supply supporting documentation that proves your eligibility, pay the fees, attend and pass your interview, and soon you’ll have your visa. But what is the travel document number for a visa?

Where to Find your Travel Document Number on a Visa

The visa number on your visa is often printed in a different color. visas have their number printed in red on the bottom right-hand corner of the visa. The visa number is also the travel document number.

Green Card

People who become permanent residents of the U. get something called a Green Card. A Green Card is issued by the USCIS and often only comes after that person proved their eligibility with an appropriate U. visa. Let’s see why a Green Card is so important.

Why Your Green Card is Important

A Green Card does not replace a passport. You could be a permanent resident of the U. by owning a Green Card. But that doesn’t mean you are a citizen. You still need your passport from your birth country. But a Green Card could help improve your travel efficiency when you use it in conjunction with your passport. A Green Card is especially important when you cross the U. border since it helps prove to the immigration officer your eligibility to enter the country.

How to Get a Green Card

Your Green Card number is also the travel document number in this case. It is printed on the backside of your physical Green Card.

Travel Document Number FAQ

So you might still have some questions regarding your travel document number. Here are a few of the more frequently asked questions and some helpful answers.

Will my different travel documents have the same travel document number?

No, it won’t. Each document type has a different structure and a total of digits. For instance, a Green Card number starts with three letters whilst a U. visa number has a total of 8 numerical digits.

Is my passport number the same as my travel document number?

Yes, a passport number is also its travel document number. But please note, your travel document number for your U. passport card will be different since the number on your card differs from your passport booklet.

How much do travel documents cost?

Travel documents differ in cost all over the world. For now, we’ll only look at the costs of U. travel documents.

The price of a passport depends on the type of passport you want. The cheapest adult passport is $110 and the cheapest minor passport is priced at $80. Passports applications require an execution fee of $35 (if applicable).

You can use expedited passport services which will do much of the application work on your behalf and also decrease the waiting time. These services might be able to get your passport within a couple of days as opposed to waiting for up to 8 weeks. They do come at a price and may set you back another $200 or more depending on the service itself.

The most common nonimmigrant visa costs $160. Other types of visas have different costs since it requires different kinds of documentation and/or processing. For instance, an H1B visa fee doesn’t even go to the visa beneficiary. The beneficiary’s U. employer must cover the cost.

A U. Green Card costs $1,225 for an adult and $750 for children aged 13 and younger. This usually includes the $85 biometric fee.

Final Thoughts

Your trip abroad sounds like an exciting time. You are packed and ready to leave. You’re also much more prepared now since you understand the importance of the travel document number of each of your travel documents. Remember to keep those documents safe wherever you go. We hope you make a lifetime of memories on the trip.

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The "Advance Parole” I-131 Application for Travel Document

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Frank Gogol

I’m a firm believer that information is the key to financial freedom. On the Stilt Blog, I write about the complex topics — like finance, immigration, and technology — to help immigrants make the most of their lives in the U. Our content and brand have been featured in Forbes, TechCrunch, VentureBeat, and more.

Green Card Rules Travel2. Removing Conditional Resident Status Based on Marriage3. What Happens After You File for Removal of the Conditions4. Travel Tips to Avoid Re-Entry Problems and Permanent Residence Abandonment5. Understand Continuous Residence6. Abandonment of Permanent Resident Status7. Lost or Stolen Green Card8. Avoid the Hassles – Apply for U. Citizenship

Green Card Rules Travel

The foreign investor must prove to the USCIS:

  • Their investment in the company was not a way to evade proper U.S. immigration procedure.
  • They have invested the required amount of capital to lift green card restrictions.
  • They will be actively involved in the operations of the business.
  • The business should be large enough to sustain the employment of 10 United States workers.

Conditional resident status should be taken very seriously by applicants. They should complete the petition by entrepreneur to remove conditions on USCIS Form-I829.

Entrepreneurs risk deportation if they do not fulfill the requirements of the conditional green card before the deadline. The USCIS also reserves the right to hold the restrictions on the green card and refuse permanent residency.

The investor should seek the counsel of immigration lawyer if problems arise. The lawyer can help the investor prove there was good cause or extenuating circumstances surrounding the green card application process.

Removing Conditional Resident Status Based on Marriage

Immigrants are automatically given a conditional green card if they have married a U. citizen within two years of receiving US residency or an immigrant visa from the USCIS.

Officials give an immigrant a conditional visa to monitor their relationship. The USCIS wants to ensure the relationship is real. After they grant the visitor a two-year visa they are also required to:

  • Return to the consulate for an interview. The department will use the interview to determine if the relationship is real.
  • Provide documentation supporting the validity of the marriage. The documentation should show the immigrant, and the citizen got married for the right reasons and not to obtain citizenship.
  • Complete the I-751 form at least 90 days before the conditional green card expires.

The immigrant is granted permanent residency if the petition is approved.

If the green cardholder does not file the petition, they will be held in court and possibly deported. They will also lose their conditional visa status.

Again, if the applicant misses the petition deadline they must seek the aid of an immigration lawyer If the lawyer can prove, with good cause, extenuating circumstances delayed the application then the applicant may be able to keep their conditional visa status.

What Happens After You File for Removal of the Conditions

Once an applicant has filed for removal of conditions and it has been approved, they are giving clearance to apply for citizenship. Removal of conditions does not automatically make an immigrant a citizen nor does the USCIS automatically file an application for citizenship. Instead, the green card holder is granted a resident visa.

The USCIS sends the green cardholder a document stating that their petition has been approved and they are now in valid immigrant status. They are also called into the consulate for fingerprinting and an interview. The interview must take place before a final decision is granted.

Travel Tips to Avoid Re-Entry Problems and Permanent Residence Abandonment

Permanent residents are required by law to inform the USCIS if they plan to move. They must complete the AR-11 form within 10 days of the move. Permanent residents must also reapply for their visa every 10 years. The reapplication form is Form I-90.

It takes approximately three months to renew a green card. Permanent residents should apply for renewal within six months of the expiration date.

At the port of entry, a U. Customs and Border Patrol agent will ask the resident for their permanent visa card. The card should be valid and unexpired. The resident must also present other valid forms of documentation such as a passport or US driver’s license. Be advised that re-entry to the United States is left up to the discretion of border patrol. They can deny re-entry based on several factors such as a damaged or expired visa.

As a permanent resident, it is your duty to ensure that your visa is clean, valid, and free from any damage. Sometimes, a permanent resident is allowed to enter the country with an expired visa. This happens when the visa has been expired for less than a year. You will be required to pay a fine and complete the Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card (Form I-90).

These regulations do not apply to members of the armed forces or government. A U. government employee or spouse/child of a serviceman is not required to reapply for a visa if they have been stationed abroad. The spouse/child or employee is required to present the green card at the port of entry. They must also be traveling with the service member or en route to meet with them.

There are ways to protect your permanent residency status if you plan to spend an extended amount of time outside the U

  • Keep in contact with friends and loved ones via phone calls and emails.
  • Make sure all U.S. documents such as driver’s licenses and passports are also current.

You may be asked to provide documentation stating that you are, in fact, a resident of the United States and plan on returning to the U. to live. Immigration officials can ask for proof, and these records will help to corroborate your case.

Now, if your trip was due to a job assignment, you can ask your employer to sign a written letter stating that they have commissioned you to travel overseas. They must also detail the date and length of your stay. The statement must also clarify your return to the States to work for the employer or an affiliate.

There are also some other rules to keep in mind. It is not a good idea to return to the United States with guests that are not green card holders or citizens. Officials advise against using a resort area as a port of entry, meaning you must enter the country through a designated port of entry.

If you have purchased a round-trip ticket that is no longer valid once you leave the country, do not return to the U. using that expired ticket. It is also recommended that you refrain from using a private charter, such as a jet, to re-enter the country after an extended stay.

Permanent residents that can provide adequate documentation or justification will be granted a re-entry permit by the USCIS.

However, the USCIS reserves the right to deny re-entry if the resident is frequently traveling overseas and applying for a permit. They can assume that the person does not formally or permanently live in the United States.

Understand Continuous Residence

Permanent residents seeking citizenship must complete the Application of Naturalization (Form N-400). One of the requirements for naturalization is continuous residency for five years. If a person spends over six months in a foreign country, that can affect the approval of their application. To improve their chances of naturalization, permanent residents shouldn’t stay longer than six months in a foreign country.

Abandonment of Permanent Resident Status

The criteria for abandoning permanent residency is broad. It can take two years or even a day for officials to determine that a resident has abandoned their residency. If the resident spends more time traveling outside of the U. than living here, it can be presumed that they have abandoned their residency. Residents that travel to another country with the intention to live there are also presumed to be abandoning their residency.

Residents who fail to file income tax while outside of the country or claims ‘nonresident’ on their taxes can be subject to forfeiture.

Upon re-entry, it is up to Customs and Border Protection to determine if the resident is, in fact, a lawful resident of the United States. Residents can provide proof by sharing mortgage/lease documents, employment records, or tax documents.

Once Customs and Border Protection has established residency, the permanent resident must complete the re-entry form (Form I-131). The form asks specific questions such as the length and purpose of the trip. Once the form is completed, the resident will have to schedule an appointment for fingerprints with the USCIS.

The permit (Form I-131) does allow the resident to leave the country again, but they must be fingerprinted and processed before their departure. Permanent residents that remain overseas for two years or more will have to apply for a Returning resident visa.

Lost or Stolen Green Card

If a green cardholder loses their green card while they are in the United States, they should go to a nearby police station and file a police report. If the card gets lost overseas, the cardholder should contact the U. Embassy or consulate. They will provide a boarding foil that allows the cardholder to travel.

If you are a green cardholder that has been denied re-entry by a customs agent or border patrol, you can appeal the decision in a court of law.

Immigration courts are designed to handle immigration and naturalization disputes. The judge will make the final decisions. A permanent resident should contact an immigration attorney if they have been denied access to the country. They can also contact the Green Card Center to obtain more information.

Avoid the Hassles – Apply for U. Citizenship

Being a U. citizen makes travel easier and can even be less expensive. When you are a U. citizen, you will be granted a U. passport that allows you to travel to anywhere in the world. You will not have the same travel limits or regulations that green card holders have.

Citizenship allows you to re-enter the country without providing documentation that you are a permanent resident or applying for a re-entry permit.

Documents to Bring When Traveling

It is a good idea to bring your foreign passport even when you become a U. citizen. A green card also known as Permanent Resident card (Form I-551) is good for entry into the United States, but it does not work in other countries.

However, permanent residents can travel with an I-551 stamp in their passport. Persons with expired conditional green cards must bring the expired visa and the documents that show they have applied for removal of conditions to the border and customs agents.

Persons seeking asylum in the U. that have a pending application will need to provide an Advanced Parole Document to travel outside of the country. Persons with specialty visas such as an H-1 or H-4 are not required to have an advanced parole document so long as they have already submitted their application for approval.

Green cardholder’s should always keep these important documents on hand:

  • High school diploma
  • College degree
  • Marriage/birth certificate
  • Passport

If you need help with obtaining a green card, you can post your legal need on UpCounsel’s marketplace. UpCounsel accepts only the top 5 percent of lawyers to its site. Lawyers on UpCounsel come from law schools such as Harvard Law and Yale Law and average 14 years of legal experience, including work with or on behalf of companies like Google, Menlo Ventures, and Airbnb.

Green card holders have permanent permission to live and work in the United States, and they can travel abroad and return freely in most cases. However, if your green card expires while you’re outside the country, you won’t be able to renew your status until you return.

The "Advance Parole” I-131 Application for Travel Document

A passport, a green card, and an American flag. As a permanent resident, you have the freedom to travel abroad, but you cannot renew an expired green card while you are outside the U.

What to Do if Your Green Card Expires While Abroad

If your green card expires when you are outside the U. , you will first need to make sure you will be allowed to re-enter the United States. This will depend on how long you’ve been abroad and may require a re-entry permit, proof of an expired green card, or a re-entry visa.

Contact the nearest U. Department of State or U. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) foreign office if you are unsure about your eligibility for re-entry.

If You’ve Been Abroad for Less than One Year

  • Possession of an expired 10-year green card
  • Proof that you have filed to remove conditions on your expired two-year conditional green card

Once you’ve arrived at your port of entry, you will only be allowed in the U. at the discretion of the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer on duty. In addition, you may be required to pay a re-entry fee.

If You’ve Been Abroad for More Than One Year

In many cases, green card holders who remain outside the U. for longer than a year will lose their permanent resident status. If this happens, you will not be allowed re-entry, and you will need to apply for a new green card.

Once you are back in the U. , you can apply for green card renewal through the FileRight. com Form I-90 application package.

Make Sure You Have a Valid Green Card When Traveling

Without any method for green card renewal while abroad, you’ll want to make sure that you never find yourself in this position.

Avoid the problems that come with having an expired green card while outside the U. by:

Renewing Your Green Card Before You Travel

Travel takes planning. This is especially true when traveling outside of the United States with your green card.

Check your green card’s expiration date well before your travel dates. If it is due to expire while you’re outside of the United States, or if it’s already expired, it may be a good idea to file for green card renewal immediately.

Green cards expire every 10 years, and you can apply for a renewal as soon as six months from the green card’s expiration date.

Keeping Your Green Card Safe

While traveling with your green card, do what you can to make sure that it’s protected. For example, you can keep it in the hotel safe or in another location that you know is secure.

Also, it’s a good idea to keep a photocopy of your green card in another part of your luggage so that you’ll have proof of your status if your card is lost or stolen.

Remembering Your Green Card

Don’t forget to always bring your green card with you when you go abroad. Your green card is effectively your return pass to the United States, and it is essential to have it with you at all times.

Apply for Green Card Renewal With FileRight. com

Whether you file before taking a trip overseas or after you return, FileRight. com offers a no-hassle, risk-free way to renew your green card. Our Form I-90 application package includes error detection and a double guarantee, so you can be sure that your application is complete and accurate.

Find out more and ensure your eligibility today by taking our online Green Card Renewal Qualification Quiz.

green card holders are considered permanent residents and can travel to Canada without a visa. However, if you are a green card holder, you may need additional documentation depending on how you travel to or through Canada. Flying has the most restrictions.

If you’re wondering what you need to do as a green card holder to travel to Canada or pass through it on your way to another country, we’ll give you all the details. Depending on what documents you have, your travel to or through Canada may be easier than you think.

The "Advance Parole” I-131 Application for Travel Document

A Canadian flag flying in Vancouver. If you are a green card holder, you can travel to Canada with Electronic Travel Authorization from the Canadian government.

Travel Between the U. and Canada Is Relatively Easy

This unique relationship has resulted in special immigration provisions for Canadian and U. citizens and permanent residents. However, if you are a green card holder, you will still need valid travel documents (like your green card and passport) to cross the border.

Flying Into or Through Canada Requires a U. Passport

Canada is a foreign country, and like all foreign countries, you will need a valid passport to travel through the air internationally. Since you are not an American citizen yet, you will need to have a valid passport from your home country to use Canadian airports. Green card holders cannot obtain U. passports.

Once you become a full U. citizen through naturalization, you can apply for a U. passport and use that instead of your current one. You also need one more piece of documentation. You must file an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) with the Canadian government.

Do I Need a Visa to Go to Canada If I Have a Green Card?

No visa is required to simply travel to Canada if you are a U. citizen or permanent resident with a green card. Generally, permanent residents are allowed to travel to Canada freely and remain for a 6-month stay. You can also apply for an extension if you want to stay longer.

Entering the country as a visitor does not allow you to work in Canada or study for an extended period of time. To work or study, you may be required to get a special immigration permit.

What Is an Electronic Travel Authorization?

An Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) is similar to a visa but for visa-exempt foreign nationals traveling by air to Canada. Similar to how other travel documents work, the eTA is linked to your passport and is valid for up to five years or when your passport expires, whichever comes first.

Once you have an eTA, you can travel to Canada as often as you want and stay up to six months. The cost of getting an eTA is CAD $7 and you can apply online. You will need your passport, an email address, and a credit or debit card.

Note that eTA approval does not mean you can get into Canada! Green hard holders must still present their green card and passport to the border officer and answer their questions.

A Common eTA Mistake

The Canadian Government has an app and website called ArriveCAN. This tool gives you information about the current travel restrictions and requirements to enter and stay in Canada. You can also get informed on the latest pandemic travel restrictions.

As of this writing, Canada is requiring all travelers to enter their travel plans into ArriveCAN within 72 hours before they enter the country. This is likely to help with tracing any coronavirus cases. Please look at ArriveCAN for the latest information for green card holders traveling to Canada.

Will Traveling to Canada Affect My Permanent Resident Status?

International travel as a permanent resident won’t put your green card at risk. If you plan on staying abroad for longer than a year, you will need to fill out several essential forms and ensure that your re-entry to the U. is as smooth as possible.

Make the Proper Arrangements Before You Travel to Canada

Even though you don’t need a visa to travel to Canada as a green card holder, you should still make proper arrangements to ensure that nothing goes wrong, such as:

  • Ensuring that your green card is valid for the duration of travel
  • Having all your travel documents and authorizations organized and secure before and during your trip

As long as you take the proper steps, you can avoid many risks and any potential problems arising from traveling with your permanent resident status.

Travel Internationally Worry-Free

Canada is one country where the United States green card holders don’t need a visa to enter. However, if you are visiting anywhere else globally, you may need to fill out paperwork and several applications to get cleared. If you’re planning a trip soon, FileRight can help you get started today.

Posted by in Immigrants | Updated on August 23, 2022

USCIS was forced to take action due to a lack of funds. Thus, it announced that more than 13,000 employees will be furloughed in August. Despite contacting the Congress and asking for help, USCIS didn’t hear back from them. Therefore, having fewer employees means they will work slower. If you were approved for permanent residency in the U. , then you will have to wait at least 6 months to receive your green card.

Can you go outside the U. under these circumstances? How to travel abroad without a green card? Read all about it here.

Is a Green Card Needed to Travel Abroad?

A green card is not necessary to be able to travel abroad. Basically, a green card is a document that proves your permanent residency. In other words, it serves as proof that you can work and live in the United States legally. More than that, it shows your registration according to immigration laws. This is way different compared to a visa, which is known to allow someone to stay in the United States, but for a temporary period only, and with a certain purpose.

So, a green card is not necessary to travel abroad. You can still travel without it. If you applied for a green card and you were approved, yet you haven’t received your document, traveling is possible as you’re already a permanent resident. Remember that when you entered the U. , your passport was stamped by the border officer. The stamp included your permanent resident status. Having said that, you should check out the expiration date of the stamp. Usually, it should be six months from the time the stamp was applied. If you travel outside the U. , you only need to make sure that you come back before the stamped expiration date.

Moreover, since you need your passport to travel, you must check the expiration date for it too. The passport has the permanent residence stamp on it, so you need it to be able to travel.

What Documents Are Needed to Travel Without a Green Card?

One thing is certain – you cannot travel without your documents. Traveling outside the United States without having the right documents may affect your ability to come back. So, if you want to reenter with no problems, you should ensure you have them. What’s even worse is that not having your documents may even cause USCIS to abandon your green card application, and you don’t want that to happen.

If that happens, you may have to re-file your paperwork. Not to mention that you even put yourself at risk of being deported if you don’t have the right documentation upon returning to the United States.

Another necessary document is, of course, your passport. Passports are crucial when traveling abroad. What’s more, the passport will contain your permanent resident and status stamp. The stamp contains an expiration date that is needed by the CBP officer when you re-enter the States. The passport itself needs to still be valid and. If it expires, you can apply for a renewal online on the Department of State website.

Even if you renew your passport, you should keep the old one and have it with you as the permanent residence stamp is on it too. A copy of the passport and stamp should also be left in the U. in case you lose your document, or it gets stolen. Make sure to leave it with a trustworthy person in the U. If something happens, then this person can just fax a copy of the document to an embassy or consulate that is closest to you. As such, the institution will allow you to travel even if you don’t have a green card at the moment.

Also, you need to fill out Form I-90 and once you do it, you should print your receipt. It has to be kept for your own record. Other than that, you will need a copy of your I-485 receipt number as well.

How to Travel Without a Green Card?

If you want to travel without a green card, you will have to make sure you do it before the permanent residency stamp in your passport expires, or else you may not be allowed to return. If you end up staying outside the country for too long, then the U. may think you want to live outside the United States – thus, you might not need a green card.

You have to be careful because a lot of people have lost their permanent residence status through abandonment due to this. With that in mind, your visit abroad should not be longer than 6 months.

Considering you spend so much time and effort preparing for the green card procedure, the last thing you want to do is lose your status. So, if you want to travel without a green card, it’s best to get some legal help. Consulting an immigration attorney may be the right move to make when you don’t want to mess up your situation. The attorney will make sure you comply with all immigration laws and have all the right documents before leaving the U. for a temporary period while your green card is in the making.

Can I Travel If My Application Has Been Submitted?

Even if you submitted an application that is still pending, you can travel outside the United States. This can happen if you contact the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and obtain a travel document from them.

Basically, they will be able to issue a document known as the “Emergency Advance Parole”. This document can be obtained if you submit Form I-131. But it’s important to keep in mind that you should only request this document if you have an emergency and really need to travel abroad. Once you obtain it, traveling outside the U. and coming back without issues will be possible.

At the same time, you should know that the document doesn’t guarantee you will be able to reenter the States. The CBP officer will be the one making the final decision whether you can reenter the U. or not.

Read More

Even though your green card has yet to be handed to you, you can still go outside the United States, as long as it’s only temporarily. Staying abroad for too long would put you at risk of losing your permanent residency. You just need the proper documents and you can travel abroad. Moreover, make sure you consult an attorney before your trip if you want to make sure you don’t miss anything – it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Frank GogolI’m a firm believer that information is the key to financial freedom. On the Stilt Blog, I write about the complex topics — like finance, immigration, and technology — to help immigrants make the most of their lives in the U. Our content and brand have been featured in Forbes, TechCrunch, VentureBeat, and more.

Stilt, Inc strives to keep this blog information accurate and up to date. All information is presented without warranty. Discrepancies may be found. This blog does not consist of legal advice.

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What is the Diversity Visa Lottery?Each year, the Diversity Visa program allows 50,000 randomly selected people — only from countries that don’t send many immigrants to the United States — to obtain permanent residency (commonly called a “green card”). It’s a way for individuals and families who otherwise wouldn’t have any way to legally immigrate to the United States to get a green card.

The "Advance Parole” I-131 Application for Travel Document

Diversity Visa Cost

There is no fee to enter the green card lottery. However, if you’re selected and choose to apply for a Diversity Visa, you’ll need to pay the mandatory green card application fees. Once selected, you’ll receive information and details of the required fees on the Diversity Visa website at dvprogram. state. gov.

Diversity Visa Timeline

The winners of the green card lottery are typically notified 7 months after submitting their entry. Once selected, it can take up to 14 months to be scheduled for your interview and receive your visa, depending on how soon you apply for your visa. For example, if you applied for the 2023 green card lottery during the registration period (Oct-Nov 2021), the winners would be announced sometime in May 2022. You would only be allowed to apply for your visa during fiscal year 2023, which is from Oct. 1, 2022 through Sept. 30, 2023. The sooner you apply during that year, the sooner you will be scheduled for your visa interview and be issued your visa. Once you have your visa, you must enter the United States on or before the expiration date printed on your visa. A Diversity Visa is typically valid for up to 6 months from the date of it was issued.

Diversity Visa Eligibility

There are two main requirements when applying for a Diversity Visa:Country of birthIn order to be eligible for the Diversity Visa, you must have been born in a country that sent less than 50,000 immigrants to the United States over the past 5 years. There is some yearly variation in the countries that are eligible, but Canada, China, India, Mexico, and the United Kingdom never make the list, because these countries all send a large number of immigrants to the United States.

If your native country is not eligible, there are still two ways you could qualify for the Diversity Visa:

  • If your spouse was born in an eligible country, you can apply with your spouse and choose your spouse’s birth country on your application.
  • If neither of your parents were legal residents in your own country of birth, you can choose your mother or father’s country of birth.

How to Enter the Green Card Lottery

Participating in the lottery is relatively easy. You fill out a form on the State Department’s website while it is available, from early October through early November. Most of the questions are easy to understand; however, there are a few places where these extra suggestions may be helpful:

  • For “country of birth,” list the country you were born in, regardless of where you currently live. If the country has a different name now than it did when you were born, use the country’s current name.
  • For “country of eligibility,” list either your country of birth, or—if you qualify to use your spouse’s or your parents’ birth countries—list that country. The country you currently live in is irrelevant for this question.
  • Your spouse: You must list your spouse, even if he or she doesn’t live with you and does not intend to immigrate with you.
  • Your children: You must list all of your biological children and all of your adopted children, no matter how old they are. You should also list all of your step-children under age 21, even if you are no longer married to their parent.

Selection and Notification

The winners of the Diversity Visa lottery are chosen at random by a computer program, with a certain number of visas allocated to each region of the world and no one country receiving more than 7% of the Diversity Visas available in any given year. If you’re selected in the green card lottery, you and your family members will have to meet the same requirements as any other U. green card applicant. Certain types of criminal records could make you ineligible for a green card. There are also some medical conditions that could make it difficult or impossible to get a green card.

What Happens Next?

If you’re selected in the green card lottery, it’s important to act fast, even though it could still be a year or more before you’re able to come to the United States. There are two reasons to act immediately: First of all, your application must be processed and your visa must be issued by the end of the fiscal year for which you were selected. Second, there are more people selected for the Diversity Visa than there are visas available, and if you wait until the last minute there might not be any visas left. When you’re notified that you won the Diversity Visa, you’ll get a numerical rank, which will tell you when you can apply for your visa. Towards the end of July, you can check the State Department’s visa bulletin to see when you can submit your application. The first visas are available on October 1, the first day of the U. government’s fiscal year, and you can submit your application up to 90 days ahead of time. If you’re outside the United StatesThe vast majority of people who are selected for the Diversity Visa aren’t in the United States, and will apply for a green card through the U. consulate in their home country. As soon as you see that there is a visa available, you should submit form DS-260 with the National Visa Center. Once your application is processed, it will be forwarded to the U. consulate, which will schedule a visa interview. If you meet all the requirements, you will be approved for your immigrant visa at the interview. If you’re in the United StatesIf you’re in the United States in a temporary immigration status (technically known as “non-immigrant status”) when you win the Diversity Visa lottery, you’ll apply for a green card through United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) by filing Form I-485. You should submit your application as soon as a visa becomes available, based on the visa bulletin.

Avoiding Scams

Unfortunately, the Diversity Visa program is sometimes abused by scammers as a way to defraud hopeful immigrants. Here are a couple of tips to avoid common scams related to the Diversity Visa:

  • Entering the Diversity Visa lottery is free. Anyone claiming to collect a fee on the Department of State’s behalf is scamming aspiring immigrants.
  • The Department of State does not notify winners either by mail or by email; the only way to know if you’ve been selected is to check your application using Entrant Status Check.

Diversity Visa FAQs

Am I eligible for the green card lottery if I’m married to a U. citizen or have other family in the United States?If you’re married to a U. citizen, you could still apply for the Diversity Visa lottery. However, there’s little advantage to doing so, since you will almost always be able to come to the United States sooner by applying for a marriage-based green card instead. If you have another family member who could sponsor your green card, it might still be worthwhile to apply for the Diversity Visa lottery. Some family-based immigration categories—for example, siblings of U. citizens—take a very long time, and you would be able to come to the United States much sooner if you won the Diversity Visa lottery. How many Diversity Visas will go to each eligible country?United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) calculates the number of Diversity Visas allocated to each country based on a formula outlines in Section 203(c) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). No one country can received more than 7% of the total number of Diversity Visas available each year. Is there a minimum age to apply for a Diversity Visa?There is no minimum age requirement, but the need for a high school education or work experience disqualifies most people under 18 from applying. How long does it take to get a Diversity Visa?The winners of the green card lottery are generally notified 7 months after applying. It can take up to 14 months to for the government to schedule your interview and issue your visa, depending on how soon you apply for your visa. Can I enter the Diversity Visa lottery if I’m in the United States?Yes, you may enter the green card lottery from anywhere, including from within the U. Can my spouse and I each submit separate entries?Yes, each spouse may submit their own Diversity Visa entry. If one of the spouses is selected, then the other spouse will qualify for a green card as your dependent. What if I’ve lost my confirmation number?You need your confirmation number to access the Entrant Status Check — the online portal where you see whether or not you’ve been selected. If you lose your confirmation number, you can retrieve it using the email address you used to register for the lottery. How much does it cost to enter the green card lottery?There is no fee to enter the Diversity Visa lottery. However, if you’re selected and choose to apply for a Diversity Visa, you’ll need to pay the mandatory green card application fees. Why was the Diversity Visa lottery established?The Diversity Visa was established by the Immigration Act of 1990 as a way to increase the diversity among immigrants to the United States. There have always been a handful of countries from which the majority of immigrants to the United States come, and Congress established the Diversity Visa program to increase the number of immigrants from smaller countries and countries that don’t send many immigrants to the United States.

The permanent resident card, sometimes called the green card, is proof of permanent residence in the United States. Once you have the green card and are granted permanent resident status, you are eligible to leave the country for short periods of time. You will be able to enter many countries without a visa and all you will need to present is your passport issued from your country of citizenship. Beware that if you leave the United States for longer than one year the U. Citizenship and Immigration Services can revoke your green card, as they can consider it to be an abandonment of your permanent residence.

Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean

A “good neighbor” policy allows green card holders (regardless of their country of citizenship) to enter Canada and Mexico without a visa. However, you will still be required to present your passport at the port of entry into the foreign country and green card at the port of reentry into the United States. There are also some some countries in the Caribbean that will allow U. permanent residents (regardless of their country of citizenship) to enter their country, for purposes of tourism, without a visa. These countries include the Bahamas, Bermuda, Cayman Islands, Dominica and Jamaica.

Country of Citizenship

When issued a green card you are not an American citizen so you must continue to abide by the regulations of your country of citizenship. In some cases visas will be waived for people who have green cards, but that depends on the country of your citizenship. The best way to know whether or not you can travel with your green card and no visa is by checking the embassy website for the country you wish to travel to. This website will have that information and also everything you need to start the visa application process if need be.

Unincorporated Organized Territories

If you are looking to plan a vacation but and do not want to travel with a visa, there is always the option to travel to an unincorporated organized territory of the United States. Although they are technically not individual countries they can offer a unique experience that will be perfect for travel. The unincorporated territories of the United States include: Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the United States Virgin Islands.

Things to Consider

Other things to consider before you travel, and if you intend to travel without a visa, are your reason for travel and your length of stay. Visas are generally needed to most countries for long-term travel or travel with a purpose other than tourism. Long-term travel is generally defined as a stay in a country that will last longer than 90 days. Be sure to double check the embassy website before you leave, because there are some countries that require a visa for stays longer than 30 days regardless of your reason for visiting.

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