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Traveling Inside US as an Immigrant

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Let's talk about problems traveling within the United States for immigrants. Hi, I'm Jim Hacking, immigration lawyer practicing law throughout the United States. Our offices are in St. Louis, Missouri, and San Diego, California. Sometimes I say San Diego first, sometimes I say St. Louis first. It's all good. You know where we are, you know how to find us.

In this video, we're going to talk about traveling within the United States and what an immigrant needs to think about when they're traveling. And so, let's talk about the different categories of immigrants and how this might come up. So, let's start first with someone who has a valid visit visa or a valid non-immigrant visa, say they're here as a student or a worker of some sort. They can generally move around the country. They're going to need their passport. They're going to want to show that they have their visa stamped and that they have their ID. That's going to be what they need to travel around the United States. And it shouldn't be much of a problem.

You never want to leave the United States. You never want to go accidentally into Canada or Mexico, or anything like that. That would be silly. You don't want to do a trip within the trip. So, if you're in the United States, stay in the United States for as long as you want to be here. Don't go on any little side trips, because if you do, they might not let you back in because that's still another entry. Even in your mind, this is your trip to America, that's still two trips, two entries, according to the CBP, and you might have trouble getting back in.

Now, if we're talking about staying within the 48 continental United States, or even Alaska and Hawaii, if you're talking about just those states, and that's what we should be talking about, we're talking about traveling within the United States, let's say that you came on a visitor visa and you filed for an extension, and that's really where this question came from right out of our Immigrant Home group, that somebody said, "I applied for an extension and I want to travel. I haven't gotten approved yet for that extension." And the fact is right now, a lot of extensions are, A, taking a long time and a lot of them are being denied. So there's no real guarantee that that extension is going to be granted.

Now, what if this person wants to travel within the United States while the extension request is pending? That's a little bit trickier. I don't know that I would go to the airport because you're going to have to go through customs or go through TSA and they're going to have your passport. And they're going to see that your entry was for six months. And if you're now beyond that six months, I suppose, if you have your receipt notice, you can show that you have an extension request on file. But, I just don't like the idea of people interacting with Federal Travel Agents, TSA agents at the airport. I just think that's a bad call. So, if you want to drive around the country, I think it should be fine. But as far as traveling within the United States, my recommendation would be not to do that unless and until the extension is granted.

And then of course we have the case of people who have overstayed their visa, or people who are undocumented. I think that's really risky to go to the airport. I would not go to the airport in that scenario. Whenever you're at the airport, you're just feet away from customs and border patrol and they have a hotline to ICE. I just think that so many things can go wrong if you're at the airport and you're out of status or you entered without inspection, and you're trying to travel within the United States. I suppose you could do it with a valid passport, but I just think that would be a really, really bad idea. I think you want to stay under the radar and as always, if you're here without status, or having overstayed a visa, you want to minimize the chances of your interaction with law enforcement of any kind, and that would include TSA agents at the airport. So, these are the kinds of things that immigrants have to think about. It's actually sad to me that immigrants have to think about this.

I understand that people need to get from point A to point B, but depending on your immigration status, whether you're on a valid visa, whether you're on an extension request, or whether you're out of status, there's sort of different categories of things to think about. I hope this video helped, explain it all, and sort of like what my mindset is. Now, I would say that this might be something worth talking to an immigration lawyer about. Now, there's no real case here, nothing really for us to do most likely, but travel ... My wife says all the time, just because you can doesn't mean you should. And I think that's a great motto here. I think that unless it's an absolute emergency, you want to cut down on your interaction with federal law enforcement agents whenever you can.

So, that's our general approach to things. If you have questions, give us a call at 314-961-8200. You can email us at [email protected]. Be sure to join us in our Facebook group, which is called Immigrant Home. If you like this video, we ask you to please share it out on social and please subscribe to our YouTube channel so that you get updates whenever we make videos just like this one. And then don't forget on Tuesdays and Thursdays at noon, we'll be live in our Facebook group and our YouTube channel. That's noon central, most times, answering as many of your immigration-related questions as we can. Thanks a lot. Have a great day.

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