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I-131 Processing Time: A Comprehensive Guide for Filing the Form

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Are you applying for Form I-131, otherwise known as the Application for Travel Document? With this document, applicants can request travel documents from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). It is essential for those traveling abroad or re-entering the United States after traveling internationally.

Unfortunately, the I131 processing time can be confusing. Several factors can influence how long it would take to be completed. These include filing categories and immigration policies.

In this comprehensive guide, we'll cover the different aspects of I-131 form processing time, including:

  • The purpose of Form I-131 and how long it takes for USCIS to process it
  • How to avoid the common delays that may occur along the way
  • What to do when the processing time gets delayed

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What is Form I-131?

Form I-131, or the Application for Travel Document, is a form that allows non-US citizens to apply for a travel document that will grant them permission to re-enter the U.S. after traveling abroad. The travel document is necessary if the individual is not a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. And they plan to travel outside the U.S. temporarily.

Here are the three types of travel documents that one can get by filing Form I-131

  • Re-entry Permit: This document is issued to permanent residents who plan to travel abroad for more than one year but no less than two years. Once granted, the applicant can use this permit to re-enter the U.S. without losing their lawful permanent resident status.
  • Refugee Travel Document: This document is issued to refugees, asylees, and individuals with temporary protected status who must travel abroad and return to the U.S.
  • Advance Parole Travel Document: This document is issued to individuals with a pending Adjustment of Status application or another pending immigration case who must travel outside the U.S. while their case is pending. It allows them to re-enter the U.S. while their adjusted status case is still pending.

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How Long Does It Take to Process Form I-131?

The processing times for Form I-131 vary depending on the travel document requested. USCIS provides estimated processing times on its website. You can check case processing times, but these are subject to change.

According to the USCIS website, the estimated processing times based on 80% of completed cases for the last six months are:

  • Advance Parole Document: 7 to 16 months
  • Reentry Permit: 6 to 16 months
  • Refugee Travel Document: 6 to 16 months

Important Note: The processing times are subject to change, especially during unforeseen circumstances.

Factors that can affect I-131 processing time

Here are some of the factors that can affect the processing time for Form I-131:

  • USCIS workload -- During times of high volume, processing times may be longer than usual. These include peak travel seasons and when there are changes to immigration policies or regulations,
  • Completeness and accuracy of the application -- Any mistakes or omissions can lead to processing delays or even denials. Ensure the application is complete, accurate, and accompanied by all necessary documentation.
  • Request for additional evidence -- USCIS may request other evidence or documentation supporting the application. Applicants must respond promptly to any such requests to avoid further delays.
  • COVID-19 pandemic -- In response to the pandemic, USCIS has implemented various measures to protect the health and safety of its staff and the public. This has led to backlogs and processing delays.

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Tips to Avoid Delays in Processing

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Completing Form I-131 accurately and attaching all the required supporting documents is crucial. Here are additional tips to help applicants avoid common mistakes that can slow down the processing of their application:

Carefully review the instructions

Before filling out Form I-131, carefully review the instructions provided by the USCIS service center. The instructions explain each section of the form. It also includes the required supporting documents and the eligibility criteria.

Provide accurate information

All the information provided on the form must be accurate, including personal details such as name, date of birth, and address. Any incorrect information can delay the processing of the application or even result in a denial. So, always double-check all information before submitting the form.

Submit all required documents

Supporting documents may include:

  • a copy of the applicant’s passport
  • passport photos
  • evidence of their eligibility for the travel document

Failing to submit any of the required documents can delay the processing of the application.

Use the correct filing fee

Each type of travel document has a different filing fee. Applicants should use the correct fee when submitting their initial application. USCIS may reject the application if the incorrect fee is submitted, which will cause further delays.

Submit the application early

Applicants should submit their applications early, especially if they have upcoming travel plans. Processing times can vary. Early submission can help ensure that the travel document is received in time for the planned trip.

You can check the status of an application for a travel document online. Just enter the receipt number on the USCIS receipt notice and click "Check Status."

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What To Do If the Processing Time Is Delayed

If the processing time for Form I-131 is delayed beyond the usual time frame, there are several steps an applicant can take:

Check the USCIS website

Applicants can check the USCIS website for updates on processing times and any alerts or notices related to the application process. The website provides information on any processing delays or changes to processing times.

Contact USCIS

If the processing time has exceeded the usual time frame and there is no information on the USCIS website, applicants can contact USCIS to inquire about the status of their application.

USCIS offers ways to contact them, such as through their customer service phone line or by submitting an online inquiry.

Submit a Service e-request

Applicants can submit an e-request to USCIS if their application is outside of normal processing times. A service request asks USCIS to check the case and take any necessary actions to move the case forward.

Contact an immigration attorney

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If the processing time for Form I-131 is significantly delayed or there are other issues with the application, an immigration attorney can help.

Our immigration lawyers here at Hacking Immigration Law, LLC, can provide guidance and advice on how to proceed. We can also help the applicant prepare any necessary documents or forms.

In addition, they can help you request expedited processing of the I-131. It’s where applicants need to convince the USCIS for fast service, if necessary.


Getting an approved travel document through Form I-131 is essential for non-US citizens who wish to travel outside and re-enter the U.S. While the processing times can vary, applicants can take steps to avoid delay or denial. If you want to return to the US with a refugee or asylum status application, you can also apply for a Refugee travel document.

For further assistance or information, visit the USCIS website or contact a qualified immigration attorney.

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