Leaving the US While Your Green Card is Pending

Can I leave the United States after filing my adjustment of status application based on marriage to a US citizen?

Hi, Jim Hacking, immigration lawyer practicing law throughout the United States out of our office here in St. Louis, Missouri. Whenever we file an adjustment of status application, we always make sure to make sure to file some accompanying documents, including an I-131, which is an application for a travel document, an I-765, which is for work authorization, and some other documents identifying the individuals involved in the process. There’s obviously the I-130, petition for an alien relative, and then adjustment of status application.

It usually takes about four months from the date of filing for the non citizen to receive their work card/travel documents. In the old days, these would come as separate documents. The travel document would be a piece of paper with the alien’s face on it, and the work card would be separate. For the last two years or so, USCIS has combined those into a single document. The way it works is after you file the I-130 and the I-45 package, a biometrics notice is sent out after the case has been receded, and the foreign is given an appointment date to go to the local service center and to get fingerprinted.

At that point, there are biometrics completed. Those are the biometrics, and then takes about ninety days for the background check to be completed. During that time, you’re in sort of limbo if you’re the foreign national. If you leave before you get the work card and the travel document in the mail, then you are most likely going to be deemed to have abandoned your adjustment of status application. At that point, that becomes a real problem. We recently had a situation where someone did just that. Her father got sick, and she had to leave the United States. Now she’s being forced to [council 00:01:50] her process. That is, she’s going to have to go through the consulate back home in China and deal with the State Department and the National Visa Center and all those other aspects of immigration that make life a little bit more difficult when you’re trying to come from overseas.

Generally, it’s a bad idea to leave before your travel document arrives. The USCIS doesn’t like it. It makes your case very complicated. It slows things down. Obviously, you’re not going to be able to come back into the United States until your I-130’s improved, and you go through the [counselor 00:02:23] process. Think long and hard before leaving the United States. If you haven’t gotten your travel document, a lot of times, especially married couples will have travel plans. Sometimes we have to tell them that perhaps those plans need to be changed. There aren’t many ways to expedite the travel document. The process takes as long as it takes. Sometimes USCIS does take the full ninety or even a hundred days to issue that travel document.

If you have any questions about this, be sure to give us a call at 314-961-8200, or you can email us at info@hackinglawpractice.com. If you like this video, please give us a thumbs up like on the YouTube channel. Make sure to subscribe to our channel so that when we update with new immigration videos, you’re the first one to see them. Thanks a lot, and have a good day.