Traveling Outside the United States with a Visa

I have a K-1 visa and need to go home to visit my parents. I have an U visa and have an emergency overseas. I need to go back to Germany, China, India (or wherever you may be a citizen) and I am not sure how this will impact my status upon return to the United States. Simply, if you were granted a visa and allowed to enter the United States, what happens if you need to leave for a brief period of time? You may want or need to travel overseas, whether it’s on a vacation or going back to your home country due to a family emergency. Leaving the United States shouldn’t be much of a problem. Returning to the United States, however, might be. As you should absolutely discuss with your immigration attorney prior to leaving, depending on your immigration status and circumstances surrounding your trip outside the United States there may be issues to address well in advance of your departure. The explanation as to whether you can leave and reenter the United States and the process for doing so will depend on the type of visa you have and other facts surrounding your situation.

Traveling Outside the United States as a Visa Holder

Some visas, such as the J-1, F-1 and H-1B, allow individuals to travel overseas and return to the United States without issue. As long as all documents are valid upon return to the United States and any necessary approvals have been obtained before departure from the United States, you’re good to go.

In contrast, other visas do not provide for individuals to reenter the United States. Examples of these types of visas include K-1 and U visas. The K-1 visa is given to the fiancé or fiancée of a US citizen to enter the United States and get married. As such, it is only good for 90 days and for entering the United States only once. This means if the individual wants to leave the United States and come back, he or she won’t be able to do so with the K-1 visa. The two general exceptions, Automatic Revalidation and Advance Parole, are addressed below and worthy of discussion with your immigration lawyer.

Traveling Outside the United States with an F-1 Visa

Students with an F-1 visa are allowed to travel outside the United States as long as they are abroad for less than five months. To reenter the United States, they will need to have the following:

  • Valid passport that will still be valid at least six months after reentering the United States. This six month validity requirement does not apply to individuals from certain countries.

  • Valid F-1 visa (an exception applies in cases where the individual is traveling to Canada, Mexico or an adjacent island. This is called the Automatic Revalidation exception.)

  • Valid Form I-20 that is endorsed by the student’s school’s designated school official.

  • Proof of financial ability to continue attending school in the United States.

If possible, carrying further proof of F-1 status is recommended, such as a letter of good standing from the school or a recent academic transcript. Identify what you will need to possess and processes you need to follow with your immigration attorney well in advance of your departure.

Traveling Outside the United States with a J-1 Visa

Individuals with a J-1 visa may travel abroad. To return to the United States, the following is required:

  • Valid passport that will still be valid at least six months after reentering the United States. This six month validity requirement does not apply to individuals from certain countries.

  • Valid J-1 visa. (An exception applies in cases where the individual is traveling to Canada, Mexico or an adjacent island. This is called the Automatic Revalidation exception.)

  • Valid Form DS-2019 that has a Travel Validation authorization from the individual’s sponsor.

While not required, it is recommended to carry additional documentation proving the individual’s status and acceptance into the J-1 visa program.

Traveling Outside the United States with an H-1B Visa

H-1B visa holders may travel outside the United States, but to reenter the United States, they must provide the following:

  • Valid passport that will still be valid at least six months after reentering the United States. This six month validity requirement does not apply to individuals from certain countries.
  • Copy of the H-1B petition.
  • The original From I-797, Notice of Action (regarding the approval of the original H-1B petition approval).
  • Valid H-1B visa.
  • Several recent pay stubs proving current employment.

As with the J-1 visa, it is recommended to carry additional documentation proving the individual’s H-1B immigration status. Again, address all of these issues with your immigration attorney before leaving.

Automatic Revalidation

Automatic Revalidation is a special program where individuals with expired visas may reenter the United States under the following conditions:

  • The individual is returning from Canada, Mexico or an adjacent island.
  • The individual was outside the United States for 30 days or less.
  • The individual’s expired visa is an F or J visa.
  • The individual possesses a valid admission stamp or paper Form I-94, Arrival/Departure Record endorsed by the Department of Homeland Security.
  • The individual has a valid passport.
  • The individual has not applied for a visa while outside the United States.
Advance Parole

Advance Parole refers to a system for individuals who are legally in the United States, but have no visas. Under normal circumstances, if they leave the United States, they cannot reenter without a visa. However, the Advance Parole system will still allow them to reenter. Additionally, if the individual has a pending application for immigration benefits, such as a Green Card, the individual will be deemed to have abandoned the pending application if they leave the United States. But with Advance Parole, the pending status of the application is preserved when traveling overseas.

To obtain Advance Parole, an individual must complete Form I-131, Application for Travel Document and pay the form fee of $575. It typically takes about three months for the application to be processed. Your immigration lawyer can facilitate this an best ensure that the all the paperwork is completed properly.

  • Form I-131: The Importance of Accurately Completing Immigration Forms

Advance Parole is not available to everyone. For instance, those who have applied for U immigrant status are not eligible for Advance Parole.

What Happens if I Lose my Visa or Passport While Abroad

If your passport is lost or stolen, report it immediately to your home country’s embassy or consulate and find out the specific procedure for obtaining a replacement passport.

If you visa is lost or stolen, do everything you can to confirm it’s truly gone. If you report your visa as lost or stolen and later find it, it will no longer be valid and you will have to apply for a new visa at a US embassy or consulate.

You should also file a police report if either your visa or passport were stolen.

When reporting the lost or stolen visa, contact the US embassy or consulate that issued your visa by e-mail and provide the following information:

  • Full name
  • Date of birth
  • Place of birth
  • United States address
  • Scans of your visa and passport. If this cannot be provided, give the passport number and visa category

You will need to explain, in writing, exactly what happened when you lost your visa or had it stolen from you. If it was stolen, you will need to include a copy of the police report.

Consult with and Retain an Immigration Attorney Before Traveling Outside the United States

The last thing you want to face is a customs or ICE agent confronting you upon your return to the United States after leaving to visit friends or family. Failure to take the proper steps and work through the potential scenarios can have disastrous results. Be smart about your future in the United States. Protect your status in American. Retain experienced immigration counsel today.

Call the New York immigration lawyers and former New York City prosecutors at (212) 312-7129 or contact us online today.

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