4 Travel Mistakes That Could Endanger Your U.S. Visa Status

June 11, 2013 Jamie Gilpin

U.S. visa passport stamp

Here at Envoy we always request that clients with a non-immigrant U.S. visa tell us about their international travel plans. We then evaluate their situations and advise accordingly. Here are four common travel-related mistakes to avoid when traveling internationally:

1. Leaving the United States while a U.S. visa application is pending

USCIS has various rules for visa applicants inside the U.S. that determine if they may or may not travel internationally while USCIS adjudicates their petitions. It’s recommended that you always check with your immigration attorneys before traveling abroad”they can advise you on any specific procedures you might need to follow and any special documentation you should bring. Each situation is unique and you should be sure that you do not put your visa petition at risk.

2. Not checking the U.S. visa appointment or processing wait time

Each U.S. consulate abroad has different appointment wait times and visa stamp processing times. For an updated wait time estimate, please visit the U.S. Department of State’s website at http://travel.state.gov/visa/temp/wait/wait_4638.html. You should also familiarize yourself with the procedure to have your passport returned to you”will you be able to pick it up in person? Will you need to wait for it to be mailed to you? You can review the information located at the website of the U.S. consulate that you will be visiting.  A list of websites may be found at http://www.usembassy.gov/. Be sure to plan enough time for you to get the visa stamp before your flight back to the U.S.

3. Re-entering the U.S. on an old visa stamp

Even if you have a valid visa stamp, you might need to get an updated visa stamp before reentering the U.S. Typically, when individuals enter on an old visa stamp from a previous employer, the immigration officer will stamp the new I-94 with that visa stamp’s expiration date, even if the individual has a more-recent I-797 approval notice. It’s better to get a new visa stamp with the new expiration date so that one has the maximum validity period for the new I-94 (and therefore, more time to be in valid status in the U.S.).

4. Exiting immigration without checking your new U.S. visa stamp

Sometimes immigration officers make mistakes. The easiest time to get these mistakes corrected is right after they happen while you are still at the immigration desk. Even though it feels uncomfortable to stand in front of an immigration officer, always double check that the correct dates and annotations are listed when the officer stamps your passport. The new electronic I-9 procedure should help reduce the incidence of errors, but it’s best to make sure that everything is in order before exiting immigration so your U.S. visa status is not in jeopardy.

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