Who May Apply For a Combo Card?

Travel document (advance parole) and employment authorization document (EAD)

When you order a combo platter at a Halal food truck, you conveniently get to eat both lamb and chicken over rice. You don't have to order and pay twice for a lamb and a chicken platter each. Based on the same principle, USCIS initiated issuing the so-called "combo card" to Green Card applicants, resulting in more convenience because they don't have to carry two cards separately, Travel document (Advance Parole) and Employment Authorization Document (EAD). There is a catch though: not all Green Card (lawful permanent residence) applicants are eligible for a combo card. Explore the meaning of two documents and the implications of having them in one card.


Travel document (Form I-131/Advance Parole)

Generally when your visa or Green Card application is pending, you might as well stay in the U.S. until its approval since your travel outside the U.S. can look as if you don't have intent to obtain a visa or Green Card anymore. Travel document (Advance parole) allows you to travel back to the U.S. without applying for a visa. International airlines can accept an advance parole document instead of a visa as proof that you are authorized to travel to the U.S. Note that Travel document (Advance parole) doesn't replace your passport. Advance parole is most commonly used when someone has a pending:

  • Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or to Adjust Status or

  • Form I-589, Application for Asylum and for Withholding of Removal: If you are an asylum applicant and you intend to travel outside the U.S. and return, you must apply for and receive advance parole. If you leave the U.S. without first obtaining advance parole, USCIS will assume that you have abandoned your asylum application.

Note that you need to fill out Form I-131 in order to obtain Travel document (Advance parole).


Employment Authorization Document (EAD)

But for Employment Authorization Document (EAD), only thing Green Card applicants in the U.S. could do is waiting because they are sort of out of status unless they have other nonimmigrant visas such as H1B at the same time. They wouldn't be able to work and make a living for a couple of years. Your Employment Authorization Document (EAD) helps those applicants work in the U.S. for a specific time period. To request an EAD, they must file Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization. They will need to apply for an EAD if they:

  • Are authorized to work in the U.S. because of your immigration status (e.g. asylee, refugee, or U nonimmigrant) and need evidence of that employment authorization, or

  • Are required to apply for permission to work; in other words, you need to request employment authorization itself. For example:

You have a pending Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status.

You have a pending Form I-589, Application for Asylum and for Withholding of Removal.

You have a nonimmigrant status that allows you to be in the U.S. but does not allow you to work in the U.S. without first seeking permission from USCIS (e.g. an F-1 or M-1 student).

In particular, lots of Form I-485 filers also apply for a combo card given that the wait time for a Green Card is quite long on average. You don't need to apply for an EAD if you are a Green Card holder (Lawful permanent resident) because your Green Card (Lawful Permanent Resident Card) is evidence of your employment authorization. You also do not need to apply for an EAD if you have a nonimmigrant visa that authorizes you to work for a specific employer (e.g. H-1B, L-1B, O, or P visa).


Who is Qualified for Combo Card

USCIS gives this combo card only to people applying for adjustment of status (Green Card applicants in the U.S.). Applicants for an EAD or Travel document (Advance parole) on any other basis will have to carry two separate documents. If you want to learn more details about a combo card, check out this link.

Did you know that Lawfully Case Tracker enables you to track all types of forms including Form I-131 for a travel document and I-765 for Employment Authorization Document (EAD). NVC cases are also available for tracking on the app! Download the app now and stay updated on your case status.

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