Can You Travel Outside the U.S. While Your Asylum Application Is Pending?
UPDATED: April 1, 2014
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While you are waiting approval for asylum, you can leave the United States. However it is not generally a good idea. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will make the decision on whether or not to approve your request for asylum. If you leave while that application is pending, immigration laws allow the USCIS to presume that you have abandoned your asylum application. Presumptions mean that they are allowed to guess at your reasons for leaving without having any evidence of why you left the United States. Legal presumptions like these are very hard to reverse or undo. Because of this presumption, your application can be denied or withdrawn. Even though you may miss a family member dearly, a family visit will probably not be sufficient justification to reverse this presumption.
Apply for an Advance Parole
If you feel that you absolutely must leave, you should apply for what is called an advance parole. To apply, you fill out Form I-131 and submit all required documents and fees. Do not leave the U.S. before your advance parole application is approved. Doing so will result in the presumption discussed above and a denial of your asylum application. Keep in mind that the advance parole does not guarantee re-entry. It functions similar to a visa, which means you will still be subject to inspection and final approval by U.S. Customs and Border Protections. Even with your advance parole, you could be denied re-entry. Because situations arise that could delay your re-entry, it is best not to travel, even with permission, while your asylum application is pending. The delay in re-entry could cause you to miss hearings or deadlines associated with your asylum application, and the eventual denial or withdrawal of your asylum application.
Do Not Travel to Your Native Country While You Are Seeking Asylum
Traveling while you wait for the USCIS’s decision is a generally bad idea. However, returning to your native country from which you are seeking protection is an even worse idea. The effect is the same even if you have an advance parole, or permission, to travel while your asylum application is pending. The purpose of an asylum application is to allow persons who are subject to persecution to receive protection in the United States. If you return to your native country, the return can demonstrate that you are no longer afraid of persecution or that the political climate in your country has changed and you are no longer subject to persecution. This presumption can also cause your asylum application to be denied. Additionally, the USCIS may also find that your application was based on fraud, which means you could be subject to additional penalties. You will have to submit and prove a “compelling reason” for returning to your native country while your asylum application is pending in order to rebut any of the negative consequences.
If your asylum application is denied and you appeal the denial to the Board of Immigration Appeals, leaving the United States during the appeal process can have the same effect on your asylum application as discussed above.
When to Consult With An Immigration Attorney
Even though many of the procedures outlined in the immigration process are time-consuming and seem to be drawn out, deadlines and procedures are still extremely important. Travel can result in forfeiture of deadlines or applications. As such, try to wait until after your asylum application has been approved before making any travel arrangements. If you must travel, consult with an immigration attorney prior to leaving the U.S. to review your reasons for leaving and whether they will satisfy the compelling reason standard upon your return.