With the holidays fast approaching, traveling internationally may be on your mind. Planning a trip is fun and exciting. However, foreign national employees and employers should note that there may be some immigration requirements to meet depending on the destination(s), including any transit travel through certain countries or regions. The following holiday travel tips will help you prepare for common immigration requirements and in turn, reduce stress, save time and ensure compliance.
As always, if you have any questions, consult your legal counsel for assistance.
2023 Holiday Travel Tips
Envoy Global’s holiday travel tips are designed to help foreign nationals who hold a U.S. work visa and HR professionals who need to help their employees navigate the travel process. The following tips are general guidance on situations you may encounter traveling to and from the U.S. As we mentioned earlier, please consult with your immigration counsel for additional guidance.
Ensure Your Immigration Travel Documents Are Valid
Much of preparing for travel takes place well in advance of your departure date. In some cases, you may need several weeks or even months to ensure your travel documents are ready to go when you are.
Below is a list of common travel documents that you may need for traveling.
Passport: Your passport must be valid through the validity period indicated on your Form I-797 Approval Notice, which is usually at least six months. Otherwise, your period of stay in the U.S. may be shortened.
Visa stamps: Most nonimmigrant workers will need a valid visa stamp for the appropriate nonimmigrant category in their passport to re-enter the U.S. In most instances, if your visa stamp is expired, you will need to apply for a new visa at a U.S. Embassy/Consulate before you return.
Make your visa appointment before you depart! Note that holiday travel demand may result in long wait times for visa appointments, so be sure to book your appointment early! For convenience, you can schedule an appointment on the Department of State (DOS) website.
I-797 Approval & Petition: If you are in the U.S. on a nonimmigrant employment-based petition, make sure you have your most recent Form I-797 Approval Notice, along with a full copy of your employer’s nonimmigrant petition.
L-1 Blanket Petition Applicants: You will need to present your endorsed Form I-129S stamped by an immigration officer.
Proof of Continuing Employment: Bring copies of your three most recent paystubs and/or an Employment Verification Letter from your employer to show continued employment in the U.S.
Permanent Residents/Permanent Residence Applicants: Make sure that you have your green card and that it is unexpired and undamaged.
If your green card/Adjustment of Status Application is pending: If you have a pending green card or adjustment of status application, have your valid Advance Parole document or a valid H-1B visa or L-1A/L-1B nonimmigrant visa to re-enter the U.S.
If you have a pending advance parole application: We recommend that you wait for it to be approved before traveling internationally, as the advance parole application may be denied if you depart the U.S. while it is still pending.
Note Transiting Requirements
If you must transit through another country to get to your destination (e.g., layover), you might need to have a valid visa and other documents to continue your journey.
If you have any questions regarding the country’s visa requirements that you will be transiting through, consult with legal counsel for specific information based on your travel route.
Anticipate Travel Delays
International travel can incur many unexpected delays.
To avoid unforeseen delays, you can add extra time to your trip to cover increased wait times for U.S. Customs inspection, security checkpoints and other related procedures. If possible, arrange travel that is refundable or can be rescheduled if needed.
Navigate Immigration Requirements for Returning to the U.S.
Depending on where you’re returning from and how long you’ve been away, you may have different experiences returning to the U.S. Here are some situations you may encounter and how to handle them.
Questions from U.S. Customs: If you are stopped or questioned by U.S. Customs officers, U.S. immigration officials or other Port of Entry/Airport personnel, be cooperative, listen carefully to any questions asked and answer clearly and concisely. You may be asked questions on your immigration status, such as:
- Who is your employer?
- What is your job title?
- What do you do in the U.S.?
- How long do you plan to stay?
You should review the job details listed in your most recently filed visa petition so you can answer these questions. If you do not know the answer to an officer’s question, it is okay to say so. It is better to answer truthfully than make up an answer that can become problematic later. If you have any questions about how your job details appear in your petition, check with your legal team before leaving.
Arriving at U.S. Entry: You do not have the right to an attorney when at a Port of Entry or Preflight Inspection Facility. However, immigration officials may allow you to contact your legal team if necessary.
After your return, you’ll need to Check your I-94 Arrival/Departure Record online at https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov > Get Most Recent I-94.Confirm that your information is correct and that you were given the right status and duration of time and if you were not or are unsure, contact your legal team.
How Can HR Professionals Facilitate Holiday Travel for Foreign National Employees?
HR professionals can assist with holiday travel in several ways, including
Plan ahead. HR teams should meet with their employees and legal team prior to the employee’s travel to determine what steps the employee must take for traveling.
Set expectations. Traveling smoothly is a team effort! Employees should understand any restrictions that may be problematic for traveling and/or working abroad and plan accordingly.
Stay informed. Through Envoy’s website and U.S. and global news alerts, employees and HR teams can stay updated with the latest travel information.
There are many aspects of international holiday traveling to be aware of. Along with these holiday travel tips, preparing in advance and working with an immigration services provider like Envoy can help HR teams and foreign national employees have a stress-free experience.
Happy holidays, and safe travels from the Envoy team!
Envoy is pleased to provide you with this information, which was prepared in collaboration with Anne Walsh and Joy Ang, Partners, at Corporate Immigration Partners, P.C., a U.S. law firm who provides services through the Envoy Platform (the “U.S. Law Firm”).
Content in this publication is for informational purposes only and not intended as legal advice, nor should it be relied on as such. Envoy is not a law firm, and does not provide legal advice. If you would like guidance on how this information may impact your particular situation and you are a client of the U.S. Law Firm, consult your attorney. If you are not a client of the U.S. Law Firm working with Envoy, consult another qualified professional. This website does not create an attorney-client relationship with the U.S. Law Firm.