You’ve gained legal status in the U.S., and you’ve settled into your new life … but you’d like to go back home and visit family. There are many things to consider to ensure that once you leave the U.S., you’ll be allowed to return.
A preliminary note: for immigrants in any status, criminal history will always impact your ability to reenter the U.S. If you have ever faced criminal charges, you should consult with an immigration attorney before considering travel abroad.
1. Permanent residents
One of many benefits of permanent residence is relatively easy reentries to the U.S., with some very important exceptions. First, permanent residents are required to be living in the U.S., and spending more time here than abroad. If you need to live in another country for more than 180 days, you should apply for a reentry permit, which protects your residence against abandonment. Be aware, however, that lengthy trips abroad will impact your future application for U.S. Citizenship, even if you travel with a reentry permit.
Criminal history is another big reason that permanent residents run into trouble at the border. Many crimes make permanent residents “inadmissible.” That means that when they reenter the U.S., they could be required to see an Immigration Judge and defend themselves against deportation. If you have any criminal record at all, even if you think the charges were thrown out or dismissed, you should consult with an immigration attorney before making any plans to travel abroad.
Permanent residents also need a current green card and a passport from their home country to be able to travel. We often see situations in which someone let their green card expire, and now there is an urgent reason to travel, but they can’t because of the expired green card. The best way to prevent this from happening to you is by making sure your green card is always current.
You should also check to see if the country you’re visiting requires a visa. Permanent residents are not always treated the same as U.S. Citizens when it comes to traveling to other countries.
2. Asylees and Refugees
Refugees and those who were granted asylum must apply for a refugee travel document if they wish to travel abroad. Because of the nature of refugee and asylum status, you should not travel abroad using the passport of your home country, and you should never return to your home country. This remains the rule even after you become a permanent resident.
Lengthy travel abroad can impact both your eligibility for permanent residence and your asylum or refugee status itself. We recommend that you wait until you are a permanent resident to make any long trips abroad, as you can apply for a reentry permit at that point.
3. Asylum Pending
Someone who has applied for asylum but is still waiting for a decision from Immigration should not travel abroad. By traveling, you will be considered to have abandoned your application.
4. Temporary Protected Status
Immigrants who have been granted Temporary Protected Status (“TPS”) are allowed to travel in some circumstances. You must apply for travel permission, which is called advance parole. Additionally, if you have ever been arrested by Immigration or ever had to appear in Immigration Court, you should consult with an immigration attorney before traveling. It is especially risky for TPS holders to travel if they’ve been ordered deported in the past.
Similar to those with TPS, immigrants who have been granted deferred action under the DACA program may only travel if they’ve been granted travel permission, also known as advance parole. For those with DACA, getting advance parole is limited to circumstances like medical or family emergencies, or urgent educational or work travel. Even if you are in one of these situations and need to travel, Immigration may still deny your request for advance parole. We feel that it is also risky for people with DACA to travel abroad at this point in time, because the future of the DACA program itself remains uncertain. As with TPS, folks who have ever been arrested by Immigration or had to appear in Immigration Court should consult with an immigration attorney before traveling.
6. Green card application pending
Immigrants in this category have applied for permanent residence with Immigration, but are waiting for a decision. In order to travel abroad, you must ask for advance permission, called advance parole, from Immigration. Without advance parole, your green card application will be considered abandoned if you travel, and you may not be allowed to return to the U.S. With an advance parole document, you can take short trips abroad while your application is pending.
This category is for people that have a temporary visa, such as a tourist visa, work visa, or student visa, and they remain in status at this time. The terms of your visa will control whether you are allowed to reenter the U.S. on your current visa or need to apply for a new visa at the nearest U.S. Consulate. Any violation of your visa (such as unauthorized work, criminal charges, or overstaying the period of time that you were allowed to stay in the U.S.) will make it difficult to use that visa again or obtain a new visa.
8. In removal proceedings
Because of the complexities with removal (deportation) proceedings, it is important to consult with an immigration attorney if you are in removal proceedings and want to travel abroad.
You’ve lived in the U.S. for a while, but you either overstayed your visa or you’ve never had legal status in the U.S. For people in this category, travel abroad usually means that you will be not be allowed to return to the U.S. for the next 10 years. Under very limited circumstances, there are waivers available for people in this situation. You should not travel abroad without consulting with an immigration attorney and determining if you would qualify for such a waiver.
Immigration law is complex, and this article demonstrates these complexities as they apply to travel abroad. Please call us for a consultation if you have an upcoming overseas trip planned and would like to understand the implications of overseas travel on your future in the U.S.
Disclaimer: All materials on this website are presented for general information purposes. The information presented is not legal advice, is not to be acted on as such, may not be current and is subject to change without notice. By providing this information, we have not formed an attorney-client relationship with anyone who may be reading it.