You are knee deep in the United States immigration process and you start to feel homesick. Perhaps you just want to enjoy a vacation abroad. No problem, just book a flight home for the week, right? No. Unfortunately, the United States immigration process complicates travel abroad.
Once you have started the immigration process, you may need to take certain steps to travel while your application is pending, or choose to not travel at all. The process varies depending upon your status and need for travel. Sometimes, you may not be able to travel without jeopardizing your immigration status.
Travel During Adjustment of Status
After filing your I-485 to adjust status to a permanent resident, you cannot leave the United States without a re-entry permit, also known as advanced parole. If you know you want to travel when filing your adjustment of status application, you should apply for your advanced parole document at that time to avoid delays. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will consider expedited approval in case of an emergency, such as a death or illness of a family member living overseas.
Travel as a Former International Student Waiting on OPT
Upon completing your studies, you must have the appropriate documents to travel back home or elsewhere before beginning work under the Optional Practical Training (OPT) program.
After approval of your optional practical training, you may leave the country if you are working or received a job offer. However, you may not leave before getting a job offer, or you will lose your OPT status. You may also leave during pendency of your OPT application and return to continue your job search.
Effect of Travel on Green Card and Citizenship Eligibility
The time you spend out of the country could affect your green card application or eligibility for citizenship down the road. For example, USCIS may determine you abandoned your green card application if you travel abroad for more than a year. USCIS may also determine that your repeated trips out of the country are evidence that you do not intend to make the United States your home. In general, too many days out of the country might make you ineligible for citizenship.
When Not to Travel
You are not eligible for travel documents under certain circumstances. If you are in the United States illegally, you may be subject to the bar to admission, even if you are married to a U.S. citizen and otherwise eligible for adjustment of status.
As an asylee, you are not permitted to travel to the country from which you sought protection. You risk termination of your asylum status for doing so.
Before travelling, talk to a qualified immigration lawyer that can advise you on the process and warn you about risks to your status. Explore our network of immigration lawyers to find the right lawyer for you.
*The content and materials available via Ask Ellis are for informational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice.