Summer is the time for vacation, for everyone. So, naturally, even foreign nationals living, working and/or studying in the U.S. will want to take a vacation. Foreign nationals should not have issues traveling within the U.S. However, if planning to travel to your home country, the Caribbean or abroad, there are some steps that should be taken before doing so.
F-1 Student: Before leaving the U.S. you should visit the school’s Designated School Official (DSO) to verify that your passport and I-94 have not expired. Ask the DSO to endorse the Form I-20 for travel and confirm that you have maintained a full-time course of studies. You should also carry documentation demonstrating your financial ability to cover tuition and living expenses, as well as your ties to your home country. If you do not have a current F-1 visa affixed to your passport, you may need to consular process (unless traveling to a country where automatic revalidation applies) before returning to the U.S., so research and plan accordingly! You may travel while on Optional Practical Training (OPT) (with a current Employment Authorization Document (EAD) in hand). However, at the end of F-1 studies, students have a 60-day grace period before they must leave the country. Foreign nationals who depart during this time will not be allowed to return to the U.S. without some other visa status.
Other temporary visa holder (i.e., H, L, E): It is very important to double check the validity period of your passport – an expired passport will keep you from being able to return to the U.S. and an expiring passport will restrict the period of time during which you will have authorized stay upon your return and will then cause unnecessary expenses and headaches extending your stay to the full validity period of the approved visa. Before traveling, obtain updated letters verifying employment and the current approval notice. Again, if you do not have a current visa affixed to the passport, plan to consular process before returning.
Pending I-485: Never travel out of the U.S. if your Adjustment of Status (AOS) application is pending unless you have applied for and received an approved Advance Parole Travel Permit! Doing so will render the I-485 application as abandoned and you will have to refile or consular process. If you have an emergency that requires you to travel and you do not have an Advance Parole Travel document, you may make an appointment with the local field office and, upon demonstrating the emergency, the field office can issue the advance parole travel document allowing you to travel without losing the AOS application.
Summer vacations should be a wonderful part, if not the highlight, of the year! Don’t let poor planning and lack of knowledge about immigration laws ruin your summer and potentially thwart your plans to return to the U.S. As always, if you have questions or concerns regarding your travel plans and any potential effect on your immigration status, consult with your immigration attorney.