Holiday Travel Advisory
November 18, 2010
Each year as the holiday season approaches we provide our travel advisory to assist you and your foreign national employees prepare for their successful re-entries to the United States after vacations abroad. Please note that we continue to see increased scrutiny from the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security on all applications. Additionally, many visa applicants are experiencing delays in visa issuance overseas due to heightened security clearances. We encourage your continued careful planning and advance notification to immigration counsel so that any potential causes for delay may be vetted and advised prior to departure.
Passport Expiration and I-94 Validity
Customs and Border Protection officers have recently been limiting authorized stay on the I-94 form to the period of passport validity – regardless of the time remaining on the underlying visa. For those whose passports expire less than six months from the date of intended entry, officers may deny their entry into the country. Any foreign national contemplating travel should make sure that his or her passport is valid for at least six months beyond the date of intended entry into the U.S. Additionally, please be aware that the expiration date noted on the form I-94 card, issued upon arrival, controls the length of authorized stay in the U.S. Therefore, foreign nationals should always carefully check Forms I-94 after every entry and be mindful to travel on passports which do not expire anytime soon. Failing to carefully track I-94 expiration can result in a foreign national falling out of status unwittingly – not realizing that the time allotted by the visa or approval does not trump the issued Form I-94 but rather that the I-94 controls the period of authorized stay. If apprehended, such an employee could be put into removal proceedings for visa overstay – even where he or she has time remaining on a visa.
Visa Stamps and Consular Interviews
Most non-immigrant visa holders traveling internationally who do not have currently valid visa stamps in their passports will need to acquire visa stamps at a U.S. Consulate overseas in order to return to the United States. Visa stamp appointments are typically in high demand during the holidays. Although acquiring visa stamps in Canada or Mexico is sometimes an option, please contact counsel to inquire about whether this is a possibility. Please note that some employees may require visas to enter Canada or Mexico.
Regularly Filed H-1B Petitions Taking Longer for Adjudication
H-1B petitions that are filed in the regular course, i.e., those that are not premium processed, are now taking between four and five months for adjudication. As this can create problems for H-1B beneficiaries who need hard copy approvals for travel, to obtain driver license renewals, or to receive other benefits, please contact our office if you need to upgrade cases to Premium Processing. Moving forward, we encourage everyone to plan ahead and provide our office with all documentation in order to get change of status and extension petitions filed well in advance of visa expiration.
Detailed Travel Tips
For additional detailed information to ensure that your foreign national employees maintain proper documentation for international travel and continued seamless employment, please ask us for our firm's Frequently Asked Questions on Travel. We are also happy to provide our FAQ clarifying the difference between the often-confused terms "visa stamp" and "visa status." This FAQ is available under our Corporate Services, Travel Counseling tab.
Best wishes for safe travel this holiday season. Please contact us if you have any questions.
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