IS ADVANCE PAROLE REALLY SERVING THE NEEDS OF INTERNATIONAL TRAVEL?
by Rabindra Singh
Advance parole allows a foreign national to travel back to the United States without applying for a visa.
Under current regulations, certain adjustment of status (AOS) applicants who depart from the United States before their Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, is adjudicated are considered to have abandoned that application, which results in a denial.
This does not apply to AOS applicants who currently are in one of the following nonimmigrant classifications, and remain eligible for and would be admissible in one of the following categories upon applying for admission at a port-of-entry:
- An H-1 temporary worker, or H-4 spouse or child of an H-1;
- An L-1 intracompany transferee, or L-2 spouse or child of an L-1;
- A K-3 spouse, or K-4 child of a U.S. citizen; or
- A V-1 spouse, or V-2/V-3 child of a lawful permanent resident (LPR).
Except for the above-referenced categories, foreign nationals applying for AP on the basis of a pending AOS application must be approved for AP prior to leaving the United States in order to avoid the termination of their pending AOS application LPR status.
The whole purpose of the AP is to facilitate a foreign national’s international travel while she or he is waiting to receive a decision on the pending AOS application.
That purpose seems defeated when USCIS is taking 9.5 to 17 months in adjudicating AP applications. Because of the long-pending AP applications, AOS applicants are left with no choice but to file expedited requests and/or submit congressional inquiries. Sometimes, it requires an AOS applicant to submit multiple expedited requests in order to obtain an AP document. Personally, in certain cases, I submitted two or three expedited requests before USCIS agreed to granting the AP.
All of these activities divert the adjudicator’s time away from actually adjudicating applications as they instead answer questions, handle expedites, and work with legal counsel.
Per Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS) Ombudsman’s 2022 Annual Report, USCIS should authorize AP incident to the filing of Form I-485 and upon providing biometrics to USCIS, thereby eliminating the need to file Form I-131 and allowing for international travel with a receipt for a pending Form I-485.
Additionally, USCIS should consider the validity of AP for individuals with pending Form I-485 until USCIS renders a decision on the Form I-485 or to coincide with current processing times so that the applicants can avoid submitting renewal applications thereby increasing the case workload for USCIS adjudicating officers.
Some of the other recommendation made by the Office of the CIS Ombudsman includes:
- Changing the AOS abandonment provisions such that they only apply to applicants who are not under exclusion, deportation, or removal proceedings and who leave without a receipt notice evidencing AP;
- Moving high-volume Forms I-131 into a digital environment, allowing USCIS to leverage its technological capabilities to electronically notify the applicant and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) when it grants AP;
- Stop considering a pending Form I-131 for AP to be abandoned by travel abroad; and
- Improving the emergency advance parole process by creating a specific track at the Contact Center for obtaining needed in-person appointments; foster well-trained points of contact at the field offices for processing requests; develop a unified system of accountability for tracking the number of requests and outcomes of decisions rendered; and ensure consistent adjudications among field offices.
Incorporating the above-stated recommendations and addressing issues pertaining to AP and associated expedite requests will allow USCIS to free up more time and focus resources on adjudications requiring a higher level of attention such as AOS applications.