A person holding a non-immigrant visa and living in the United States does not have lawful permanent resident status until they receive their green cards. But this process can take a while, some months or even years to complete. During this time, applicants are unsure of whether or not it’s safe for them to travel outside the U.S.
The General Rule
As a general rule, a person with a pending green card or I-485 adjustment of status application should not travel outside the U.S. Lawyers would advise against traveling until the green card is received to make sure that no problems arise with their case and they don’t encounter issues with immigration.
However, there are two situations wherein a person with a pending green card application can travel outside the U.S.
People with a pending I-485 adjustment of status case should refrain from traveling outside the U.S. But some may be allowed to do so if they meet any of these two exceptions:
They Have An Approved I-131 Advanced Parole Travel Document
A holder of an I-131 advanced parole document may be able to travel outside the U.S. during the pendency of their green card application. However, this is provided that their travel document states that it also serves as I-512 advance parole. Some people may receive this notice in a separate document or it can be listed at the bottom of their EAD card.
They Are In Valid H1B or L1 Status
Even without the approved I-131 advanced parole travel document, a person may still be permitted to travel outside the U.S. while their green card is pending as long as they are in valid H1B or L1 status.
H1B visa holders are those who have been petitioned by their employers to work in a specialty occupation in the U.S. L1 visa holders, on the other hand, are intra-company transferees who have been assigned to work in the company’s U.S. branch on a temporary basis.
Speak to a Lawyer Before Traveling Outside the U.S.
Anyone who has a pending green card application should speak to a lawyer before they travel outside the U.S. — even if they have an approved I-131 advanced parole travel document or are in valid H1B or L1 status.
A lawyer may be able to find details in their unique cases that can potentially cause a problem if they were to travel outside the country.