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What travel document can a U.S. green card holder (with no passport, and no ability to get a passport, such as a refugee) use to enter Mexico via air, and then re-enter the United States? How long would it take to acquire, and how much would it cost?

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There is a whole lot of confusion that make this question difficult to address precisely. Visas typically go in a passport. Stateless people can get special travel documents from their country or residence but refugees typically do have a citizenship (even if they can't always get a passport from their country of origin, in which case they can get this). The latter two aren't specific to Mexico or the US in any way. –  Relaxed Apr 26 '14 at 19:37
You might be looking for a US re-entry permit? At least it should handle the US side of things but I haven't been able to find definitive information about Mexico yet. –  Relaxed Apr 26 '14 at 19:46
@Annoyed I think the "Travel Document" may be what I'm looking for. (Unfortunately, they seem to take up to 6 months to acquire and cost as much as the travel fare!) –  Jacob Krall Apr 26 '14 at 19:55
Do you need to go to Mexico, or do you just need to exit the US and re-enter? –  DJClayworth Apr 26 '14 at 21:55
@DJClayworth The traveler needs to enter Mexico. –  Jacob Krall Apr 27 '14 at 1:12

1 Answer 1

up vote 6 down vote accepted

Visa typically go in (or are used in conjunction with) a travel document (that's actually an explicit requirement in countries I am familiar with, I don't know Mexican law but official websites suggest it's the same there, see below). So even if you somehow got a visa, that wouldn't solve the passport problem. But having a green card should exempt you from any Mexican visa requirement so at least the visa should not be an issue, the travel document is.

The Mexican governement indicates that travelers require a “Passport or valid identification and travel that is valid under international law”. If you can't get a passport, that would mainly leave the 1954 Convention travel document and the Refugee travel document. In the US, you can get the latter from the Department of Homeland Security but not the former (see comment).

The US also issues something called a Re-entry permit but as far as I can tell, it's just some ad hoc document that would allow the person to reenter the US, it might not be “valid under international law” as far as Mexico is concerned. Still, Wikipedia and USCIS suggest that it is in fact accepted as a travel document by many countries so it could be another solution. If that does not work, yet another solution could be to get a US Re-entry permit (for the return to the US) and some form of “laissez-passer” from the Mexican authorities (no idea if they issue something like that or how much it costs but some countries do).

Both the refugee travel document and the re-entry permit are listed as WHTI-compliant travel document by major US airlines like United and Delta so flying should be no problem, provided you have the right to enter Mexico.

None of this is particularly cheap or easy, being a refugee typically sucks. Considering that this is a pretty atypical case, I would try to check everything (including a potential visa requirement in spite of the green card) with the Mexican authorities as soon as possible.

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I assume that being a refugee sucks less than staying :) –  Jacob Krall Apr 26 '14 at 20:03
Being unable to leave the country you are in without extreme bureaucratic measures is pretty much normal for a refugee. But as you say, it sucks less than the alternatives. –  DJClayworth Apr 26 '14 at 21:57
The U.S. is not a party to the 1954 convention, and does not issue 1954 convention travel documents. –  user102008 May 1 '14 at 1:36
@user102008 Thanks, I corrected the answer. –  Relaxed May 1 '14 at 7:26

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