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Can You Travel While Waiting for Green Card?

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May I travel while waiting for naturalization?

Hi, I'm Jim Hacking, Immigration Lawyer practicing law throughout the United States at our offices in St. Louis, Missouri, and San Diego, California. Coming January 2021, we're opening our new office in San Diego.

In today's question, it comes from a Facebook group, and someone wanted to know, "Can you travel while waiting for green card?"

In here, you’ll learn:

  • When should you travel while waiting for a green card?
  • Risks of traveling before and after getting the green card
  • Tips to keep in mind during the naturalization process

Immigration Tips and News

Can You Travel Before Filing for Naturalization?

So if a lawful permanent resident has been in the United States for five years in LPR status or three years, if they're married to a US citizen, they are eligible and can apply for US citizenship. One of the requirements is that they have been in their home district for at least 90 days before filing.

So if you're going to travel and you're going to be gone for a long time, you might want to do that after you file for naturalization. You want to make sure that you don't mess around with that 90-day residency requirement before you apply for citizenship.

Disadvantages of Traveling With Pending Green Card Application

But once your case is on file, and once you have your receipt notice, the question is, can you travel abroad?

Here are reasons better not to travel for so long.

You could miss your interview.

In the old days, I would tell clients not to travel. I was very nervous about that, but I've seen so many cases over the years where people have traveled, and it hasn't been a problem. Obviously, you're going to need to be able to get back quickly in case there's an interview. So you don't want to be off in the jungle with no communication, but if you travel shortly after you file, you should be fine. Most naturalization cases, these days are, taking between seven, 12, to 14 months for the interview. So you should be okay.

You can’t fulfill the requirements of being in the United States.

Now the one thing that you might think about is if you have a lot of travel if you've traveled a lot during the five years of your lawful permanent residency or the three years based on marriage if you've traveled a ton and it's really close as to whether or not you have enough time in the United States, that is if you've been in the United States at least half the time, while in LPR status, you might not want to travel because that just highlights the fact that you've been gone a lot. And so you want to make sure that you never get over that time of being outside the United States for more than half the time.

You have the possibility to cancel the whole process.

The other thing is that we've seen instances and had cases where people have traveled to certain countries while their case was pending. And that screwed up their background check. I went to an interview in Long Island last year with a very nice young lady who had actually received her interview notice, and then her mother-in-law or her father-in-law, I can't remember which, had passed away. And she left very quickly to go to Pakistan on a last-minute trip.

Well, going to Pakistan on a last-minute trip right before your naturalization interview is a really good way to get your interview canceled. And it actually that's, in fact, what happened, and that interview so far has not been rescheduled. So we might have to sue on that one.

But those are my thoughts on travel.

Is it Okay to Travel After the Naturalization Process?

Generally, yes, it's okay to travel, certainly for a short trip. Obviously, you're going to want to bring your unexpired green card, and your passport. You want to have proof of your status. That's why you bring your green card.

But you don't want to be gone too long, and only go if you really need to. If you could avoid it and go after you get your citizenship, you should.

Now one thing about that is that after you get your citizenship, you can't travel on your old passport. So you're going to have to wait, not only to get sworn in as a US citizen but also to get back your American passport.

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Tips When Traveling During and After Naturalization

Here are tips when traveling while waiting for a green card:

  • Obtain Advance Parole Document (AP). An AP document is a travel permit that allows you to leave and re-enter the United States while your green card application is pending. You can apply for an Advance Parole travel document by filing Form I-131, Application for Travel Document.
  • Be aware of the travel restrictions of your current immigration status.
  • Make sure you have all of the necessary documentation when you travel.
  • Make sure you have a valid passport and visa for the countries you plan to visit.
  • Keep a copy of your green card application receipt with you at all times.
  • Be prepared to explain your travel plans to immigration officials.
  • If you have any questions about traveling while waiting for a green card, you should consult with an immigration attorney.


So these are my thoughts on traveling after or during the naturalization process.

If you have questions about immigration services, give us a call (314) 396-2314. You can email us at [email protected]. Be sure to join us in our Facebook group, which is called Immigrant Home.

Also, if you liked this video, we ask that you please share it on social and subscribe to our YouTube channel so that you get updates whenever we make videos, just like this one.

Thanks a lot. We'll see you next time.


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