While it’s possible to travel with a pending adjustment of status application, it is risky. This article goes over the situations in which you can apply for a travel document, how to apply, and the risks involved in travelling with a pending I-485 application.
First, let’s define adjustment of status. If you are applying for a green card from within the United States with Form I-485, then you are applying through the adjustment of status process. In this process, you are not required to leave the country to attend a visa interview. This article refers to these applicants only.
While your I-485 case is pending, you are not yet a resident of the United States. Unless you have a visa that allows re-entry, if you leave the U.S. with a pending application, you risk not being allowed reentry. If you need to travel abroad, you can apply for an Advance Parole Travel Document using the USCIS application I-131. This document gives you permission to leave the country for a specific period of time, for a specific reason.
In general, I don’t recommend travelling while you have a pending I-485 application. No matter the reason for your travel and regardless of whether you have a travel document, there’s no way to guarantee that you’ll be allowed to reenter the country. Here’s an example that demonstrates this risk.
A colleague of mine filed for an Advance Parole Travel Document on behalf of his client. They were granted the document and the client left to his home country. While he was abroad, the attorney and the client's address in the U.S. received a Request for Evidence (RFE) regarding his I-485 application. He had two months to respond.
The RFE required that the client submit a different version of his birth certificate with his I-485 application. The client went to obtain this document and found out that it would take six months to get. However, the USCIS required he submit the evidence within two months.
There's the problem. The attorney may be able to save the case. Depending on the situation, they may be able to ask for an extension for the RFE. However, it’s more likely that immigration won’t offer an extension, resulting in a denial of the I-485 application. The client won’t be able to reenter the United States and will be forced to apply for his green card from abroad. In all, this could cause him to spend years outside of the United States while waiting for the new application to process.
Because he travelled abroad, he put his case at risk. Was it worth it? I don't know what the situation was that caused him to travel abroad, but it’s important to be aware of the risks when you make this decision.
It’s also relevant to note that in our current political climate, people are getting denied entry to the U.S. at the port of entry more frequently. Even with a valid Travel Document and nothing happening to your pending I-485 application while you’re abroad, you could still be denied entry into the country. Being admitted into the United States is ultimately at the discretion of the border patrol officer who is inspecting you. If they determine there is a reason you shouldn’t be admitted, then they have the authority to deny you entry into the country. Every time you travel, you take this risk.If it's not something urgent, I would strongly recommend that you wait until you become a permanent resident before you travel abroad. If it is an emergency, then I recommend you seek the advice of an immigration attorney before making a final decision.
Immigration Help: Travel Documents
If you have any questions about traveling while your I-485 application is pending, I'd be happy to help. I’m a dedicated and passionate immigration attorney, fluent in English and Spanish, located in the Los Angeles area. Call (310) 803-3040 or visit https://abaudlegal.com/appointment/ to schedule an appointment.
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Sharon is the best lawyer I've had the pleasure to work with. She was very professional, but also offered emotional support during sometimes tough episodes and harsh deadlines. Indeed, I would definitely recommend her. Thanks Sharon! Mallory, the kiddos and I appreciate all your hard work!