How long do I have to wait to travel after filing for adjustment of status? Hi, I’m Jim Hacking, immigration lawyer practicing law throughout the United States out of our office here in St Louis, Missouri. Today we’re talking about situations where a family member of a US citizen or a green card holder has applied or is planning to apply for adjustment of status here in the United States. They want to change their status from whatever visa they’re on to a lawful permanent resident, and the question is what happens when I do that? How long do I have to wait in order to come to the United States?
Typically when we file for adjustment of status, we’re going to file many sets of forms. The first form you’re going to file as an I-130 which is a petition for an alien relative. That’s the case of a US citizen saying, “I want to sponsor my spouse or my mother or father or my underage child to get a green card in the United States to become a lawful permanent resident.”
Once you file that application, you have to stay in the United States unless you also apply for something called advanced parole. You file for advanced parole on a form called an I-131, which is a request for a travel document. This is the temporary travel card. Typically it’s combined with your work card if you file an I-765 request for work authorization, but generally, when you file for that green card, you’re going to file that I-130, the petition for an alien relative, the I-485 which is the application to adjust status, and then you’re going to file that I-131 which allows you to travel outside the United States.
Once you file, you’re stuck here, and we often call people in that situation bubble boy or bubble girl where they’re stuck in the United States, they usually can’t work and they can’t travel outside the United States. If they leave before that work card and travel card comes in the mail, then they could be deemed to have abandoned their application, and by then they’ve demonstrated immigrant intent by having their loved one file the I-130 and they might have to consular process. Most likely they’re going to have to go through this process overseas and it really just messes things up when you leave before that a travel document arrives.
We’ve had situations where clients, foreign-born clients who’ve applied for adjustment did have to leave, and typically they end up having to process through the consulate back in their home country and they’re stuck outside the United States. You want to do everything humanly possible to not leave before that work card comes. These days, after you file the application, you’re going to get fingerprinted and it’s going to take a good four or five months for that travel document to come. Every now and then they come faster, but you certainly don’t want to plan any travel before that. I would say allocate yourself six months from the date of filing to have that travel card in hand. At that point, you’re going to be able to go around the globe, leave the United States as long as you give yourself enough time to get back.
If a green card and invitation to an interview comes, you’re going to want to make sure that you can get back fast enough, so generally about six months after the date of filing. Hopefully a little bit sooner, but I wouldn’t plan any travel any sooner than that.
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