Nearly 260 million people will be flying during the summer. If you’re one of them, traveling abroad to visit friends and family—and you also hold a visa or green card—there are a few things you should keep in mind.
Check Your Expiration Date
This may sound obvious, but make sure your visa, green card, or other travel documents and those of any family members you will be traveling with will still be valid when you return to the U.S.
If your visa or green card is set to expire before your planned return date, we recommend you contact an immigration attorney to discuss your options. If you recently filed to adjust your immigration status, make sure to read about advance parole below.
Make sure you have the proper documents with you when you travel. A valid green card or visa and your passport are crucial documents for you to carry to reenter the U.S. You should make copies of your green card or visa in case it gets lost or stolen. Keep a copy in your suitcase, and give another to a friend in the U.S.
If your green card or visa is stolen, contact local law enforcement authorities. To replace a lost or stolen green card or visa, you will need to go to a U.S. embassy or consulate.
Traveling outside of the U.S. could have dire consequences if you or your family are in the process of adjusting your status. Adjusting your status means applying for:
- A green card
- An extension of a nonimmigrant (temporary) visa
- Changing your nonimmigrant status.
- Refugee or asylum status or permanent residency based on refugee or asylum status
Without a valid advance parole or a refugee travel document, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers will not allow you to return to the U.S. And even if CBP admits you, USCIS could cancel your application. If you are traveling under advance parole, make sure you show that document when re-entering the U.S. Do not re-enter under your previous visa.
If you have an H-1, H-4, L-1 and L2, K-3, K-4, V-2, or V-3 visa, you technically don’t need advance parole to travel abroad after submitting an application to adjust your status. However, a more conservative approach would be to hold off on international travel until after your advance parole is approved.
Advance parole or a refugee travel document does not guarantee admission into the U.S. Individuals must still undergo inspection by an immigration officer at the border. More often than not, individuals re-entering the U.S. with an advance parole document will undergo secondary inspection. The traveler will have to patiently explain in detail the purpose of travel abroad and the nature of the permission to re-enter the U.S.
If your advance parole or refugee travel document remains pending, you should not travel abroad. If you do travel with an application pending, immigration officials will consider your application abandoned, and you will be unable to re-enter the U.S. Instead, enjoy seeing and experiencing more of the U.S. by traveling domestically. Please make sure that your domestic travel does not include a layover in a foreign country!
Applying for Citizenship Soon?
If you plan on taking an extended vacation abroad—and plan to apply for U.S. citizenship in the near future—we recommend you contact an immigration attorney.
To apply for citizenship, you will need to satisfy the continuous physical presence requirement. Under that requirement, an individual must be present in the U.S. at least 50% of the time during the previous five years and have no trips longer than six months outside of the U.S. Depending on your situation, you may have to shorten or delay your trip.
Returning to the U.S.
Having all the appropriate documents does not guarantee admission into the U.S. Upon your return, CBP officers will inspect you and your family at a port of entry. Unfortunately, CBP officers can be intimidating and unfriendly. Try to remain calm and polite and patiently answer any questions the officers may have.
Help is available from the Alcorn Immigration Law team if you need it. Get personalized answers to your questions when you contact our office.