It’s understandable for applicants for adjustment of status to want to travel to their home countries as they wait for months for a green card. New arrivals often feel displaced during their first few years in the United States. You can travel while your adjustment of status is pending but you should be extremely careful not to jeopardize your application.
People who apply for green cards do not have the same freedom to travel as citizens or permanent residents. Typically you must obtain official permission via a bureaucratic process called “advanced parole.”
If you leave the country without permission, USCIS will assume you abandoned your adjustment of status application. You face having to start the process again and pay another $1,140 fee to file Form I-485.
The consequences could be even more serious. You might not be able to return to the United States for months while you apply for a green card from abroad through the U.S. consulate.
Fortunately, USCIS has a process for people who want to travel while their adjustment of status is pending.
Applicants who wish to travel should complete Form I-130 Application for Travel Document. You can use the document to apply for a re-entry permit, advance parole travel, parole for humanitarian reasons, or advance permission to travel for Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) long-term residents.
You must obtain an advance parole document that covers the whole period you will be out of the country. USCIS states if you file the form to request advanced parole and depart the United States without an advanced parole document that is valid for the whole time you are abroad, it will consider your Form I-131 to be abandoned.
USCIS provides information about where to mail Form I-131 on its website. Applicants with a pending I-485 should file their I-131 to the same address as the adjustment of status form.
The process can be time-consuming as well as expensive. You should file I-131 as far in advance of your travel as possible. Ideally, file I-131 at the same time as you apply for adjustment of status if you know when you are going to travel out of the country. An advance parole document for I-485 applicants costs $575. People applying for a refugee travel document must pay $105.
Always make sure that advance parole is approved before you travel. Once you have official permission to leave the county, your trip should not jeopardize the processing of your green card application unless you have to push back an interview slot.
USCIS sets out some exceptions for people who can travel without advanced parole while they are waiting for a green card decision. If you arrived in the country on a K-3 visa, a “fiancé visa” for couples who are already married, the visas can be used to re-enter the United States until a green card determination is made.
People who are in the United States on H or L-based work visas also have more flexibility to travel. H1B visas are given to professionals who work for US-based companies while L1 visas are reserved for candidates who already work for an overseas branch of a U.S. company. These employees can travel on their visas while adjustment of status is pending.
As a rule of thumb, you should be extremely careful about traveling outside the United States while adjustment of status is pending. Advance parole will keep your application for a green card active but you may still get pulled aside and asked questions at the airport when you try to get back into the country. Applicants who change address must also be careful. You must inform immigration authorities of your change of address within 10 days or you can face a misdemeanor offense and even removal from the country.
Avoid traveling overseas while adjustment of status is pending unless you really have to. Our Virginia Beach immigration lawyers can help you protect your status if you have to travel while awaiting a green card. Call us as soon as possible at (757) 464-9224.
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