What Is Travel Documents?

Let’s talk about what is Travel Documents. A travel document is a form of identification that governments provide to citizens or visitors to cross international borders. The United States government issues a wide range of travel documents. The type of travel document you require is determined by your immigration status as well as the purpose of your trip.

Travel documents are basically your permission to travel the world. Without the necessary ID, your business abroad can become a nightmare. You always want to make sure you have the correct travel documents for your specific trip to avoid disastrous consequences.

Two American passports with visa or tourist cards tucked inside all stamped and ready to go.g

Types of travel documents

Passports, passport cards, and arrival/departure records are the most basic types of travel documents. These required documents allow US citizens to travel abroad and return to the country legally. Non-nationals who enter the country temporarily use arrival/departure records.


Passports are issued by the US Department of State (DOS) to US citizens. A US passport allows you to return to the United States after travelling abroad. American passports serve as identification and proof of citizenship in the United States. In most countries, they are recognised as valid forms of identification.

Identity cards

The passport card enables citizens of the United States to travel to Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Bermuda at land border crossings or sea ports of entry. Passport cards were introduced by the Department of State in the summer of 2008 as a less expensive alternative to traditional passports. A passport can be obtained by any US citizen. They are about the size of a standard driver’s licence or credit card.

I-94 forms and arrival/departure records

The Arrival-Departure Record, Form I-94, is used to record when and where foreign nationals enter and leave the United States. The form is intended for temporary visitors to the United States who are not US citizens or permanent residents (green card holders). The date the traveller entered the country and the date the traveller is required to leave is documented on Form I-94.

As of 2013, I-94 forms are generated electronically by US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and are not provided to travelers. If a traveler wants a copy of their Form I-94, they can obtain one through the CBP Arrival/Departure Record page.


Citizens of foreign countries usually need a visa to travel to the US. You can apply for a US visa at the US embassy or consulate in the country where you live. The type of visa you will need depends on why you want to travel to the US.

Once your visa is granted, a consular officer at the US embassy or consulate will insert the visa into your passport. A visa is usually a stamp or loose piece of paper that shows the purpose of your trip and the period of validity of the visa. The validity of your visa is listed with an “expiry date” – you cannot enter the US after this date.

The Department of Homeland Security will determine the length of time you are permitted to stay in the US at your US port of call. Your “departure date” will be recorded on Form I-94. This is the deadline for you to leave the United States. This is the date on which your immigration status will expire.

Travel Documents Under Special Circumstances

For special circumstances, the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issues three types of travel documents. These travel documents enable people to enter the country without a visa. To re-enter the United States, a person may need a passport in addition to a travel document.

You can file Form I-131, Application for Travel Document, and ask for:

  • Preliminary Parole Document
  • Travel document for refugees
  • Permission to re-enter

People who were in the US illegally may not be allowed to re-enter the US even if they have a travel document. People who are classified as asylum seekers and applied for asylum on or after 1 April 1997 may lose their asylum if they return to the country from which they applied for asylum.

Advance parole

The advance parole document allows people who are in the process of adjusting their status, refugees and asylum seekers who are applying for an immigrant visa to re-enter the US. These people could be barred from re-entering the US unless they were granted parole before they left. Their applications could also be rejected.

Airlines may accept an advance parole document in lieu of a visa, but people with an advance parole document will still need a passport to re-enter the US. You must apply for and receive parole before leaving the US. To apply for advance parole, complete Form I-131.

Adjustment of status applicants may be eligible for a special card that shows they can travel and work. Eligible individuals can receive this card when they file Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, and Form I-131 at the same time (at the same time). You can file them through Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Resident or Adjust Status, or later.

Advance parole does not guarantee that you will be allowed to re-enter the US. The decision is left up to the CBP officers who inspect you at your US port.

Travel documents for refugees

USCIS issues refugee travel documents to people who are classified as refugees or asylees, or to green card holders who have refugee or asylee status.

You must have a refugee travel document to return to the US if you have refugee or asylee status and are not a permanent resident. Your family members who are classified as derived asylum seekers or refugees will also need refugee travel documents to re-enter the US.

If you do not obtain a refugee travel document before leaving the US, the person may be denied entry to the US or deported from the US.

Re-entry permit

A re-entry permit allows permanent residents or conditional residents to apply for re-entry after being outside the US for a year or more. People who receive reentry authorization do not need to apply for a return resident visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate.

Emergency travel

USCIS can process a travel document application more quickly in an emergency. USCIS considers the following situations to be extraordinary events:

  • Failure to leave may cause serious financial loss to you or the company you work for.
  • You are in a life-threatening situation.
  • You must leave the country due to a humanitarian situation, such as a natural disaster or other extreme situation abroad that requires your assistance.
  • A nonprofit organization has asked you to leave the U.S. to participate in a cultural or social program abroad that is of U.S. interest.
  • The US government has asked you to leave the country to attend to a situation abroad that affects US interests. (This request must come from an official US government agency and state that delay would harm the US government.)
  • USCIS made an error in your documentation.
  • Your departure from the country is in the interest of USCIS.

Business trips, weddings, holiday parties, and other planned events would not normally be considered emergencies.

To request faster processing of your Form I-131 petition, call the USCIS National Customer Service Center at 1-800-375-5283. You can also attach a written request and travel documents that support your request to your Form I-131 application. Or you can go to your local USCIS office and ask for faster processing.

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