Suppose you are going through the immigration process in the United States. In that case, you already know that the laws are incredibly complicated. It is critical to avoid making any mistakes while waiting for an application to be processed. If your adjustment of status is pending, you are likely to be particularly focused on taking all necessary steps to ensure that you can become a lawful permanent resident of the United States. As such, you know that it is necessary to avoid any actions that could affect your case. Yet various situations can arise while your adjustment of status is pending, and it may be necessary to travel. If you need to travel, can you do so while your adjustment of status is pending? Or can traveling negatively affect your case?
Understanding Adjustment of Status Under U.S. Immigration Law
To understand your rights and responsibilities while your adjustment of status is pending, it is vital to understand with clarity what adjustment of status means. As the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) explains, “adjustment of status is the process that you can use to apply for lawful permanent resident status (also known as applying for a Green Card) when you are present in the United States.”
For your adjustment of status to be pending, you will already have applied for a Green Card, which means you will have filed all necessary materials like Form I-485 after determining your eligibility for adjustment of status. Adjustment of status, or a Green Card, means that you can live and work permanently in the United States, and you can start the process of applying to become a U.S. citizen.
If your adjustment of status is pending, you know that you had to show that you were eligible based on one of the requirements under U.S. law, including as the close relative of a current U.S. citizen or Green Card holder, through sponsorship from an employer, through a lottery system, or on humanitarian grounds. Unless you applied for adjustment of status through your marriage to a U.S. citizen, you also likely needed to have a valid visa or be part of the Visa Waiver Program so that you are lawfully in the United States at your time of applying. After going through this complex process, it is critical to ensure that your application is approved and that you do not take any actions that could harm your application. You can use this tool to track the status of an immigration application, petition, or request.
Can You Travel While You Are Waiting for Your Green Card Application to Be Processed?
If you are concerned about doing something that could affect your Green Card application, you might be worried about traveling while your adjustment of status is pending. Can you travel during this period?
Generally speaking, adjustment applications will need to obtain an advance parole document in order to travel outside the U.S. while their Form I-485 (the application for a Green Card, or adjustment of status) is pending. If you are required to obtain an advance parole document and you do not do so, you will abandon your application for adjustment of status. Before you travel, you should consult with an immigration attorney, or you could cause serious harm to your application for a Green Card. An advance parole document is essentially a temporary travel authorization that allows you to reenter the U.S. without getting a visa.
There are some narrow exceptions for travel, meaning that some people with certain visas or who fit into other categories may not need to obtain an advance parole document in order to leave the country. However, you should never assume you fit into one of these exceptions until you have spoken with an experienced attorney.
Obtaining an Advance Parole Document
To obtain an advance parole document, you will need to fill out and submit Form I-131, Application for Travel Document. It is critical to work with an immigration lawyer to obtain an advance parole document since there are many different scenarios in which you can ultimately abandon your adjustment of status application and can lose your ability to reside in the United States.
To be clear, you should not assume you have permission to travel because you have submitted a Form I-131. The application must be approved, and the information about your travel dates must be precise and must be approved. As USCIS explains, “if you file this form to request an advance parole document and depart the United States without having an advance parole document that is valid for the entire time you are abroad, we will consider your Form I-131 abandoned.” Further, “if you file this form to request an advance permission to travel for CNMI long-term residents document and depart the CNMI without having an advance permission travel document, your status will automatically terminate.”
Exceptions to Traveling Internationally While Your Adjustment of Status Application is Pending
If your adjustment of status is pending and you do not have an advance parole document, there are only a few situations in which you may be able to travel internationally without your traveling being considered an abandonment of your Green Card application. In general, without an advance parole document, you may only be able to travel internationally and maintain your application for adjustment of status if your visa falls into an H, K, L, or V status.
H status under U.S. immigration law typically means that you are in the United States on a non-immigrant visa for work or as a dependent of a worker. In most cases, you will have either an H-1B visa or an H-4 visa, although there are other types of H visas, too. According to USCIS, a person in the U.S. with H-1B status has a non-immigrant classification that “applies to people who wish to perform services in a specialty occupation, services of exceptional merit and ability relating to a Department of Defense (DOD) cooperative research and development project, or services as a fashion model of distinguished merit or ability.” To obtain an H-1B visa for a speciality occupation, there are many different requirements, including “theoretical and practical application of a body of highly specialized knowledge,” and “attainment of a bachelor’s or higher degree in the specific specialty.” An H-4 visa is a type of visa that is issued to a dependent family, including a spouse and children, of a holder of an H-1B visa or another type of H visa.
K status usually means having a K-1, K-3, or K-4 visa as a foreign fiancé, spouse, or child of a spouse of a U.S. citizen. K visas are also nonimmigrant visas. A K-1 visa is for a foreign-citizen fiancé of a U.S. citizen, a K-3 visa is for a foreign-citizen spouse of a U.S. citizen, and a K-4 visa is for a foreign-citizen child of the foreign-citizen spouse. In general, having one of these types of visas means that you may be able to travel internationally while you are waiting on your Green Card Application.
L visas are non-immigrant visas for temporary workers who are employed by employers abroad, and who are transferring to the United States in an intra-company transfer to work in an executive or managerial capacity in the U.S., or to work in a position that requires specialized knowledge. L status typically means that you will have an L-1A or L-1B visa. To be in the U.S. on an L-1A or L-1B visa, the employer will usually need to show that they have a new physical location in the U.S., that the employee with the visa has been working in that capacity for at least one continuous year in the last three years, and that the new physical office in the U.S. will support the worker’s position within a year of the visa being granted.
Finally, a holder of a V non-immigrant visa may be able to travel internationally without an advance parole document. A V visa is for a spouse, child, or step-child of a current U.S. permanent resident. While H, K, L, or V status can allow you to travel internationally while your adjustment of status is pending without abandoning your application, you should not assume that you are able to travel internationally without advance parole until you have spoken with an experienced immigration lawyer. Your visa must remain valid throughout the dates of your travel, and you may need to meet additional requirements.
Contact a San Antonio Immigration Lawyer
If you are considering traveling internationally while your adjustment of status is pending, you should know that it is essential to avoid doing so until you have spoken with an immigration lawyer about your case. To be absolutely clear, for most people who are waiting on a Green Card application, traveling internationally while your adjustment of status is pending will mean that you abandon your Green Card application. Do you need assistance obtaining an advance parole document or applying for adjustment of status? Our San Antonio immigration attorneys can help you. Contact the Lozano Law Firm for assistance.
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