Visa Holders: Plan Now for Holiday Travel
November 10, 2015 | Written by Laura J. Mazel
As we approach the holidays during what has been an intense year in immigration, we provide the following tips to reduce immigration stress and maximize holiday travel enjoyment for employees in non-immigrant visa status. As always, contact your employer or WSM as far in advance as possible if you have questions about the immigration aspects of your holiday travel.
- Confirm that your visa stamp is valid and reflects your current status in the U.S. If you do not possess a currently valid visa stamp in your passport, you most likely will require an appointment with a U.S. Consulate overseas to apply for and obtain a new visa stamp. Typical visa stamps include H-1B, H-4, L-1A, L-1B, L-2, E-3 and O-1. As appointments are typically in high demand during the holiday season, we urge you to make an appointment as soon as possible. You may check current estimated visa appointment wait times by entering the city name at this State Department website. Certain visa holders may be able to revalidate their visas without attending a visa interview — you must check the particular Consulate’s website. Also note that certain travelers with a nonimmigrant visa going only to Canada or Mexico do not need to obtain a visa stamp to return.
- Check your passport expiration date. When re-entering the U.S., passports must be valid for at least 6 months or the CBP Inspecting Officer has discretion to deny admission. Officers are now limiting the period of authorized stay to the period of passport validity, regardless of how much time remains on your visa stamp or previously authorized work status.
- If you have obtained an H-4 EAD work authorization card, note that that card by itself does not authorize international travel. You will need to present a valid H-4 visa stamp in your passport to return to the U.S.
- If you have a pending application to change of status to H-4 with a concurrent application for H-4 EAD work authorization, a departure from the U.S. before the approval will be deemed an abandonment of the change of status application. You will need to acquire an H-4 visa stamp in your passport before returning to the U.S. and, upon return, you should notify the USCIS that you are now in valid H-4 status and request that it adjudicate the underlying H-4 EAD application.
- If you or your spouse has an application to adjust status pending, do not leave the U.S. unless you already have an Advance Parole document in connection with the pending adjustment. The only exception is where you have a valid nonimmigrant visa in your passport that allows for dual intent, such an H-1B or L-1 visa (safest route), or you hold a dual-intent status such as H-1B or L-1 and plan to obtain a visa stamp while abroad and are aware that there may be delays in visa stamping or issues if you are unexpectedly denied the visa stamp.
- If you have an L-1 visa under a blanket L approval, make sure that you also hand-carry and present the endorsed Form I-129S when re-entering the U.S.
- If you have a currently valid nonimmigrant visa stamp, it is prudent to carry current original approval notices with you, as well as evidence of ongoing employment (such as recent paystubs) if you hold an employment-based visa.
Please remember to contact your employer or WSM as far in advance as possible about international travel, and if you have questions about the documents we recommend you carry on your holiday travel.
WSM also always advises clients, upon their return to the U.S, to provide WSM with evidence of your new I-94 electronic admission document so that we ensure that it was issued correctly. You may download a record of admission by accessing the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website.