Emergency Advance Parole Best Avoided
Originally posted Dec 10, 2010, this article has been updated for MurthyDotCom readers.
It can be difficult to obtain advance parole (AP) on an emergency basis. For this reason, those eligible to apply for AP are reminded to do so far in advance of travel, whenever possible. However, for those who must apply for this immigration benefit on an emergency basis, there are certain steps applicants can take to improve their chances of having such requests approved.
Background: Advance Parole Applications
AP acts as a travel document permitting individuals with pending adjustment of status (I-485, or "green card") applications, to return to the United States after travel abroad. It is necessary to file the AP request while the applicant is in the United States. It is also necessary to have the particular request approved before departure in order to use that AP approval to return on the particular trip. More information on this topic is available in MurthyChat FAQ: Nuances of Travel with Advance Parole (19.Nov.2010).
Given the requirement for approval before departure, individuals who are without an approved AP may run into problems if they need that document for travel. (It may be possible for those with pending I-485s to travel in the H1B, L-1, H-4 or L-2 statuses, if eligible. The restrictions and considerations regarding travel in a nonimmigrant status are beyond the scope of this article.)
Processing Time for AP
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) generally processes AP applications within 90 days. Like the employment authorization document (EAD), the AP request can be filed concurrently with the I-485 filing. Similarly, the AP renewal may be filed 120 days in advance of the expiration date. The USCIS generally issues a single card that is both an EAD and AP when the filings are coordinated. Some people wait or choose not to file the AP renewals. This is particularly so for those who are still subject to the payment of filing fees, as their I-485 cases were filed under a previous filing fee structure.
Any I-485 applicant who potentially has a need to travel abroad, even if no travel is planned, should request and timely renew the AP. This will make everything much easier in the event of the need to travel in an emergency. Typically, emergencies occur when one's aging parents and/or other relatives live outside of the United States. Asking the USCIS to act more quickly than 90 days is a special request that may not always be granted. At the very least, having to make the request in an emergency adds stress to the situation.
Emergency Requests: Service Center
No matter how well one plans, there is the chance of an emergency need for AP. If this occurs, the request for expedited processing should be made to the USCIS service center where the case is pending. It is also possible to make an Infopass appointment at the local USCIS office to request expedited AP processing. The local office generally will communicate with the service center to request expedited processing, if the local office deems it appropriate. In order for the expedited processing to take place, the service center must also agree that the case is appropriate for expedited treatment. If the service center agrees to expedite the AP, the case can be approved and transmitted quickly.
Given this, if it is at all possible, it is best to try to make the emergency request immediately upon learning of the situation. Even a few days can make a difference.
Emergency Requests: Local Office
As mentioned, expedited AP processing is possible via the USCIS service center in appropriate cases. The local USCIS offices are also able to issue emergency APs in true emergencies. The policies and receptiveness to these requests can vary by office. However, typically, local offices would prefer that the matter be resolved through the service centers, if at all possible.
How to Make the Request
It is necessary to have documentation to prove that there is a true emergency. Generally, this means matters of life and death. It can also cover business-related travel emergencies. The USCIS is very unlikely to approve an expedited or emergency AP for self-created emergencies and events, such as weddings, where the need to travel could have been anticipated.
Most true emergency-travel needs involve a dire medical situation or a death in the family. As mentioned above, there can also be consideration for business emergencies. Detailed documentation evidencing the existence and extent of the emergency should be provided to the USCIS at the time the emergency AP request is made, when possible.
Expedited and emergency AP requests should be avoided, when possible. This can be accomplished in many situations simply by regularly filing AP renewals at the earliest permissible opportunity. Taking this step reduces one's chance of needing to make a request for special treatment. If an emergency need arises, however, there is an option to make such requests, assuming one can provide documentation and convince the USCIS of the urgency of the situation. The Murthy Law Firm is available to assist individuals who require assistance in making such an AP request.
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Disclaimer: The information provided here is of a general nature and may not apply to any specific or particular circumstance. It is not to be construed as legal advice nor presumed indefinitely up to date.