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Traveling on a Dual-Intent Visa 

Wondering if you can travel outside the US using a dual-intent visa while your green card application is pending? Here, we will outline the options, regulations, and potential risks for traveling when you have a dual-intent visa. This article will review traveling and reentering the US on a dual-intent visa, which visa types allow for reentry into the US while a green card application is pending, and applying for Advance Parole while on these visa types.

For information on traveling abroad while on other nonimmigrant visa types, please click here.

Non-Immigrant and Immigrant Intent

To receive approval for a non-immigrant visa (such as B-2, F-1, J-1, etc.), a visa applicant must prove to the consular officers at the US Embassy or Consulate that they only plan to stay in the US temporarily on that visa. In addition, they must show that they do not have any plans to stay in the US and become a permanent resident. They must prove that their reasons for applying for that visa match the purpose of that visa, such as visiting for no more than 60 days, studying to complete a degree, or completing a 1-year Au Pair program.

Immigrant visas, such as K-1, CR1, and IR1, allow the applicant to immigrate to the US. With these visas, the applicant does not have to have any plans to depart the US once they arrive. They will need to prove to the consular officers that they intend to move to the US permanently.

What is a “dual-intent” visa?

Dual-intent visas, such as H-1B, K-1, and L, allow for both immigrant and nonimmigrant intent when entering the US. Someone who enters the US on a dual-intent visa for a temporary stay is less likely to be scrutinized if they also plan to immigrate to the US.

Though they have dual intent, K-1 visas only offer a single entry into the US – once a K-1 visa has been used to enter the US, it cannot be used to travel outside the US and reenter again on the same K-1 visa.

Please note that the O-1 visa is also considered to be a dual-intent visa; however, the travel restrictions for O-1 are a bit different from H-1B, K-1, and L visas. Please continue reading for more information about O-1 travel information.

Can I travel outside the US after I submit my green card application?

Someone on a nonimmigrant visa cannot travel and reenter the US while their green card application is pending without approved travel authorization (Advance Parole). However, in many cases, someone who is on a dual-intent visa can travel and reenter the US on that visa. They do not need Advance Parole to return to the US after a brief trip (less than 6 months).

Please note, however, that someone who does not have a valid, unexpired visa stamp in their passport for their dual-intent visa must apply and be approved for that visa at a US Embassy or Consulate abroad before being authorized to reenter the US. 

Why do I need a visa stamp?

Once someone has applied for a dual-intent visa type like H-1B while inside the US through the “change of status” process, they will receive an I-797 Approval Notice from USCIS once their change of status is approved. 

The I-797 Approval Notice will show that their H-1B status has been approved and that they are authorized to work for the employer who sponsored that visa. However, if they travel with this document alone, they may find themselves stuck outside the US when Customs and Border Protection (CBP) inspects them at the airport. CBP does not accept I-797 Approval Notices for reentry into the US. For this reason, the dual-intent visa holder must obtain a visa stamp at the US Embassy or Consulate abroad to return to the US on a dual-intent visa.

It is essential to plan if you do not have a dual-intent visa stamp on your passport. If you plan to take a short, week-long trip abroad, you may not have enough time to receive your visa stamp before returning. Remember that many US embassies/consulates have ‘busy’ seasons around holidays, so securing your appointment before travel can help you save time.

For example, if someone in the US applied for a Change of Status from the F-1 visa to H-1B and their Change of Status was approved, they would not have an H-1B visa stamp in their passport. An I-797 Approval Notice from USCIS is insufficient for reentry into the US.

Likewise, if someone has an expired H-1B visa stamp in their passport but extended their H-1B while in the US, they would also need to apply for a new visa stamp to reenter the US on H-1B while their green card application is pending.

Please remember that each entry into the US is at the discretion of the CBP officer who inspects you at the border – there is never a guarantee that you will be allowed entry. However, the risk of being denied entry is low if you have the proper documentation (e.g., your valid, unexpired passport and unexpired H1B visa stamp).

Should I apply for Advance Parole if I have a dual-intent visa?

If someone is on a dual-intent visa, like H-1B, and they submit Form I-131 for Advance Parole with their green card application, they would be able to use that travel authorization once approved. Doing so can be helpful in situations where their H-1B expires or they fall out of status on that visa. There are some things to be aware of for those in the United States dual-intent visas when they apply for Advance Parole:

  • If someone travels and re-enters the US on their dual-intent visa while their Form I-131 is still pending, their Form I-131 is likely to be denied for abandonment. 
  • If someone plans to maintain their dual-intent visa status, but travels and re-enters the US on their Advance Parole instead of their visa, then the government will cancel their visa, and they will no longer have that status in the US. They will be “paroled” into the US rather than entering on their visa.

I am on an O-1 visa – can I travel while my green card application is pending?

While an O-1 visa is a dual-intent visa, it does not have the same travel benefits as other dual-intent visas like H-1B and L. If someone on an O-1 visa and has a pending green card application travels outside the US, their green card application is very likely to be denied for abandonment. For this reason, traveling outside the US on an O-1 without an approved Advance Parole is not recommended. Also, be aware that, as with other visa types, if someone enters the US on Advance Parole instead of the O-1 visa, USCIS would cancel the visa, and they would no longer have O-1 status in the US. When the government cancels the visa, they would also lose the work authorization that the visa provides. 

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Updated on January 20, 2023

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