Asylee Travel

by Tudor Mihai Neagu on Oct. 04, 2018


Summary: Asylees who have obtained a green card, or even citizenship, through asylum, may not return to their country of origin where they asserted a fear of persecution, or they may be subject to revocation of their status.

Foreign nationals who are in the asylum process and want to travel to their home country must be careful.  As a general rule, if a foreign national is in the asylum process, meaning they have filed an asylum application, or they have been granted asylum already, and they are waiting to file for a green card, or they have been granted a green card based on asylum, they cannot travel to their country of origin.  If they do so, they risk losing their asylee status or their green card.  If a foreign national has just applied for asylum and they travel to their country of origin, their application will be deemed abandoned. 

Why is that?  Well, when filing for asylum, an applicant is asking for status in the United States because the applicant fears persecution upon return to their country.  The entire case is about why the applicant is afraid to return.  Well, if the applicant secures status based on the asylum case, it means the court believes the applicant that they are afraid to return because they face persecution at home.  If the applicant then travels to the country that they said wanted to persecute them, they are essentially admitting that they were not afraid to return, essentially committing fraud.  Even if the foreign national secures a green card through asylum, traveling to their country of origin can be the basis for a revocation of their green card due to fraud. 

Now, are there exceptions to this rule?  Yes, but very few.  Generally, you need to show compelling circumstances.  What are examples of such compelling circumstances?  Here’s a few: sickness or impending death of a close relative.  In this instance, you would have to provide medical documentation of your relative’s sickness, and always keep a copy that you take with you in your travels. 

Duration of stay is also an important factor.  A short visit may be easier to justify than staying there for several months.  Did you act as though you intended to stay in your country of origin?  Did you buy a house? Leased an apartment?  If so, you will be deemed to have re-availed yourself of the protections of your country, and thus abandoned your status in the US.  Did you renew your foreign passport after you received asylum status, and used it to travel?  That may be viewed as abandoning your asylum status. 

Asylum applicants, meaning people who have filed their asylum claim but haven’t won yet, must request Advance Parole.  Approval of advanced parole applications takes at least 3 months.  Asylees, that is, foreign nationals who have applied and won asylum, before or after getting a green card, do not need advanced parole, but they do need a Refugee Travel Document.  Note that if you won asylum, and you leave prior to getting a green card, your time outside the US will be deducted from the one year.   

It’s important to understand that there are very few guarantees.  The only guarantee is that if you travel without advanced parole as an asylum applicant, you will definitely not be able to reenter.  However, traveling with advanced parole or permission to reenter will increase your chances of reentry, though not guarantee them.


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