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Can I Travel While My Green Card is Processing?

OK, so you are getting ready to submit your green card application to the US government. This is a major milestone in your life. You have finally reached the moment where your preparation is done and the waiting begins. The question that you have is will you be able to travel back home to visit family while you wait. Or will you finally be able to go on that exotic honeymoon that you have been planning for months. You know that the US government can take on average 7-9 months to process basic adjustment of status green card applications and you want to know if you are going to be locked in the US until the process is finished.

“Can I travel while my green card application is being processed?” is a very common question with a very complicated answer. The most true answer is technically “Yes” but travel at your own risk. It all depends on whether or not you have submitted USCIS Form I-131, Authorization for Travel document or re-entry permit, or advance parole travel document. If you submit the Form I-131 with your green card application and it is approved by the USCIS you are essentially authorized to travel in and out of the US while your green card is being processed.

Yes & No

I know what you are thinking. “Essentially? Either you can travel or you can’t. If it is approved, then I am good to go right?” Not so fast. The weird thing about traveling outside the US after you have submitted an adjustment of status green card application is that you have technically abandoned whatever visa status you enter the United States on. Once that happens you are technically in limbo until the green card application has either been approved or denied. If your Form I-131, Authorization for Travel document is approved and you leave the country, you could potentially have difficulties re-entering the US.

When you arrive at the airport, whether you can enter the United States or not is ultimately at the discretion of the cheerful U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents. Yes, you read that correctly. Even though you have the document from the US Government stating that you are authorized to travel while your green card application is processing, they still can technically deny you entry.

What is happening is that the U.S. Customs and Border Protection sees that you have left the United States while your green card application is processing and assumes that you don’t really care about getting a green card and have abandoned your “pending I-485” case. Although it may be rare, it is enough of a concern for most immigration attorneys to tell their clients to hold off on any travel plans until the green card has been approved and issued.

You Really Should be in the U.S.

The other complicated issue is that after you submit your green card application, you will need to go to your local USCIS office for fingerprinting. The fingerprinting appointment is scheduled by the USCIS and they are not very good at rescheduling. If you are traveling abroad when you get the notice for the fingerprinting appointment, it could be difficult to return back to the US in time to make the appointment.

Even after the fingerprinting is scheduled and done, you will be scheduled for an interview with a USCIS officer. This interview is in person and arguably the most important moment in the process of getting a green card. The USCIS will be sending you a letter in the mail informing you of the date and time of the interview. Rene Kang, attorney at the Law Offices of Jacob Sapochnick explains, “People want to leave before they even get the interview notice, which makes me nervous because there’s no telling when it’ll come, notices can get lost in the mail, and even though the interview notice is weeks before the interview date, if people are outside for an extended period of time, they can risk missing it. It’s not common, but I’m not sure how people can risk doing that.

[clickToTweet tweet=”If you miss your USCIS interview appointment you could cause some serious problems.” quote=”If you miss your USCIS fingerprinting or interview appointment you could cause some serious problems.”]

Immigration Attorneys Can Help You Plan

In the end, every situation is different. These are guidelines and basic rules to follow. I am not an immigration attorney and none of this article should be taken as legal advice. The good news is that Jacob Sapochnick is one of the best immigration attorneys in the country. If you have any questions about this topic or a big trip that you are planning for the same time as your green card application, please contact him here. Immigration attorneys are very good at advising you on the timing and planning of any travel while your green card application is being processed.

Updated on January 15, 2020

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  1. Can I travel to other states for a holiday while waiting for green card,my k1 fiancé visa expires on 03/20/2020 and I would like to visit other state while waiting for my green card. Is it possible?

  2. Hi Roksana, you can travel between states in the U.S. with your state-issued ID or your passport. You do not need an advance parole document to travel between states. Keep in mind traveling to Hawaii and Alaska if also fine, however, if your plane has to land outside of the U.S. for any reason, your green card application could be considered abandoned. Once you have your EAD/AP combo card, you can travel outside the U.S. while waiting for your green card.

    1. Hello! I filed my 485, 131 a few weeks ago and have plans to travel to Hawaii from California and back in December. Both direct flights with Southwest. Anyone here has done this before? Just making sure there will not be an issue with my 131 and 485 currently in process due to this travel to another US state.

      1. Hii, Yes you can! Hawaii is inside of US. You just need a real ID or Passport. I went to Hawaii last year in November, two days after i filled my 485. Have fun!

    2. Hey Matthew

      What if you don’t have a valid visa on your passport to travel domestically while pending for a green card application

      Thank you

    3. What about going to puerto rico when fingerprinting is not done yet? I am not in status now but have a valid Real ID Drivers license. can i go to puerto rico and come back to mainland without any issues?

        1. Also curious about Puerto Rico…looking to go there for our honey moon.

  3. Hello, my mother is currently visiting in the US on a tourist visa, which allows her to stay in the country for up to 180 days. In her case that means she can stay here until July 11. I am naturalized citizen and was planning to file form I-130 for my mother in a near future. However, with Covid-19 outbreak we are concerned she might not be able to fly back (all flights are currently cancelled, and even if they are resumed it might not be safe to fly anyways). We don’t want her to stay past allowed 180 days so, we are considering filing I-130 now. My questions are:
    1. Does immigration office accept I-130 applications at this time?
    2. How did COVID -19 affect timelines for accepting applications, If filed now, will it be in process status before July 11?
    We live in Wisconsin.
    Thank you

    1. Alex, I am in the same boat as you. Except my mom should leave by the end of June. Did you got any answer to your question somewhere? I also think that if we apply for them, they would not be able to leave the US until they get a visa right? Please post if you found out something. I am at lost.

      1. You can file I 539 to extend visa for another 6 months.

      2. Liz and Alex, I have the same case with my mom right now, I am not sure if it is the right time to file for her GC or just and extension and start the GC process when she is back in our country. If we do the GC process now, she will have to go anyway to our country by the endof the year or after COVID flights are back to solve other issues there…Please ping here if you find more info.

  4. Hi there,
    I received my IR5 visa (expiring soon) to then get my greencard. Due to travel restrictions because of COVID can I go to guam as my port of entry to activate the green card (giving my intended US address) and go to the US immediately/shortly after or could I go back home immediately and fly to the US later while I’m waiting for the greencard to arrive?
    Many thanks!
    Hope you’re all keeping safe!

  5. Hi there,

    I received my IR5 visa to activate a greencard. My visa will be expiring soon and because of travel restrictions due to COVID I can’t get to the US. Can my port of entry be Guam? And can I leave Guam once I activate the greencard on arrival? or do i have to wait in Guam until i receive the physical card? Or can I give my intended US address when i enter Guam and fly to that state to wait for my greencard? or alternatively give the my intended US address and leave Guam to go back home before flying back to the US later?

    Many thanks,
    stay safe!

  6. Hi there
    Please help. Due to covid-19 crisis we might move out the country. I was waiting for my interview to be ready schedule since Feb. Is there any chance I can do the interview outside usa? What do I need to do?

    Thank you

  7. Hello,

    Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, my grandmother had to postpone her travel back into the US. Consequently, her green card expired while abroad. However, during this time, her new green card DID arrive to her US address. She just currently does not have it in her possession.

    She has booked travel to come back into the US very soon (within 6 months of last leaving the US, of course), however, in her possession on her day of re-entry, she’ll have her expired* green card. Her family has her new* green card here. Will we be able to give it to her at a point of entry when she travels back to the US? Or should we find a way to get her new green card to her person by her re- entry date?

    THANK YOU for your assistance.

    1. Marianna,
      How did she applied for new card abroad? Online?
      If yes, what about bio metrics and intreview? how did she pass this steps?
      Thank you!

  8. Hello,
    I am a Canadian citizen, I am
    Waiting for I-485 interview, it was postponed due to coronavirus. I do have my advance parole. Can I travel to Canada after my green card interview.
    Please help !!!

  9. Are you able to travel to US territories, like Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands while your green card is pending?

  10. Married to USC.
    My I-485 Interview was completed on 8/21/2020 and the IO was just collecting info virtually and separated us right after an oath and took about an hour to complete, nothing complicated. After a couple hours I got this message that the Interview was completed and the Case must be reviewed. I-130 is same status under review.

    As this might take weeks, months or more than a year to make a decision (whatever). I have my 1st EAD Combo Card with I-131 endorsement valid till June 2021. My question is, Can I got to Canada and come back after a couple weeks because I have to file taxes and some other important things. What if they deny or worst possible when I am in Canada? Can my wife (US Citizen Petitioner) take any legal steps/actions in case denied and I can take steps from Canada?

  11. My husband is waiting for his renewal can we still travel? Or what does he need to travel, we’re just waiting for the card and it’s taking long,…help!

  12. I’m Gerrard from New York, United States. I lost my job a few months back after my divorce with my wife. I tried everything positive to make sure I took good care of my kids but all failed, and I was in debt which makes everything worse. I was kicked out of my home and i had to live with my neighbor after pleading with her to allow me stay with her for some days while i figure out how to get a home which she agreed, but no one was willing to help anymore. I bumped into this page from google and I was excited about this, then I contacted the hackers. I had just $200, so I pleaded with them to help me because of my condition but they never accepted. I believed in this, so I managed to pawn a few things and got $500. I ordered the $10,000 card and I got my card delivered to me by Ups 4 days later. I never believed my eyes! I was excited and upset as well, I managed to withdraw $2000 on the ATM and $2500 the second day. I went to Walmart and a grocery and bought a couple of things for $3000. The card got blocked the third day and I contacted them and I was told it’s a mistake from my end. I’m so happy, I have started all over again and have a good apartment with my kids you can contact him through is via email (dicksonharryblankatmharckers@gmail.com)  

  13. My company is currently in the process of applying for I-140 in premium processing. That said, I have plans to travel to my home country due to a family emergency. My question is: Can I travel outside the US before I-140 is applied?
    Secondly, once I-140 is approved, I understand there is a 6 month window where you can port your priority date to another company without having it revoked.
    Two follow-ups:
    1. Do you have to be present in the US for the duration of 6 months? Does it include PTO?
    2. Does the 6 month account for business days or calendar days?
    Thanks in advance for your help!

  14. I applied for Green Card concurrently with I-485 (EB1C)and I-140 (husband’s). I-140 got approved in Sept 2018. Interview was completed in April 19. During Jan 2020, I had to travel abroad for 3 months. But due to Covid-19, I could return to the US only after 7 months. During this period my L-2 visa was valid but about to expire. I used my Advance Parole to enter USA. Question: Will a 7-month absence in the US will affect my prospects of Green Card Approval?

  15. My son is 27 years old disabled. He left US June 24/2020
    He is condition very difficult he need some treat other country but he is green card approved November 12/2020.
    He can comeback US?

  16. I have applied to renew my greencard. I live in the Rio Grande Valley which is south of the checkpoints. I can travel within the state past the checkpoint while awaiting for my greencard renewal?

  17. What is the application name if my kids r visiting me here in USA and they have green card but they Need to continue their education in Egypt(birth country) for tow years then comeback to USA to live for ever?!

  18. I lost my greencard which doesn’t expire until 2029 and summited a form to get it again. I only have i-797c form waiting on my notice for the biometrics, Its been 7mons since I filled and need to go to Nicaragua to fix some important documents in person. What do I need to travel back? any body had a similar problem?

  19. I will be coming to the USA on a K1 and my son on a K2. Me and my American fiance will be getting married straight after arriving into the USA and then applying for the green card. However, I will have a custody agreement with my son’s father abroad and therefore will need to travel back to my home country for a few weeks a year. How will this be seen?

  20. I applied for I130 (GC ) for my mom when she was in USA with B2 visa and now she travel back to country due to some emergency without any travel documents, now what do i need to do she will be in back country for her GC process.

  21. Hi please my dad is currently living in the US and I’m in Ghana with which he has filed for a green card for me in the US and I want to know why it has kept so long and I want to also know whether I can travel there still awaiting my green card

  22. waiting for my interview in Montreal, can I travel to US for visit while waiting for interview

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