L1 Visa: Traveling While Case is Pending

Posted on January 16, 2007 by Warren Wen | Category: Immigration

Can I Travel In and Out of the U.S., While My Green Card Is Pending?

Through previous articles, I have been addressing some of common questions people may have regarding the L visa, how foreign investors can apply for green card as an L visa holder. The investors often need to travel in and out of the U.S. frequently to handle business matters in different countries. Thus, it is very important for the investors whether they can travel in and out of the U.S. freely when their green card application is pending.

Mr. Chen asked:
I arrived in the United States with L-1A visa in June 2004.  Early this year, I filed a green card application and the case is currently pending.  But, I would need to go back to China for a few months in the second half of this year for my business. Because my L-1 visa is going to expire this year, I worry about whether I could travel in and out the U.S. One of my friends has told me that I should be able to travel in and out of the U.S. freely since I’ve filed a green card application, but I am not sure about this. Hence, I would like to know, in my present status, could I travel in and out of the U.S. freely?

Generally speaking, an L visa holder should be able to travel in and out of the U.S. freely without having to reapply for the visa, as long as his or her visa was for multiple entries and the visa was still valid.  However, if the visa allowed a single entry only or his or her status was extended in the U.S., the alien would need to reapply for the visa for reentry once he left the U.S.  If his or her green card petition is pending during the period, the alien may have another possibility of filing I-131 application for the advanced parole.

In Mr. Chen’s situation, he will have two choices because his L visa is going to expire soon.  If he wants to travel to overseas, he could: 1) apply for the L visa at the U.S. embassy overseas before he re-entered the United States; or 2) apply for the advanced parole.

If Mr. Chen prefers to apply for the L visa at the US Embassy in China, he should bring all the supporting documents for his L-1 visa filing with him.  By doing so, he could reduce the risk of having the L visa application denied by the U.S. Embassy. Once his L visa is denied, he may not be able to re-enter into the U.S.

But, if Mr. Chen does not want to run into the risk of not being able to return to the U.S., he could apply for the advanced parole (I-131). He could file an advanced parole at the USCIS at least three months before he plans to visit China. Typically, the advanced parole is valid for only one year, but they can be renewed yearly.

In sum, the L visa holder can travel in and out of the U.S. while he or she is in the application process for green card.  But, which way is better may all depend on each individual situation. Thus, Mr. Chen should seek help from an experienced attorney to make the best choice for his situation.

This article is only for your reference. Please do not apply mechanically to any exact cases. You are welcome to consult our attorneys at Liu & Associates, P.C. For contact information, please click here.