Can You Travel While Waiting for Your U Visa to Be Approved

What is a U Visa?

The United States Congress created U visa status to help crime victims. The purpose of the U visa is to encourage victims of crime to help law enforcement investigate and prosecute crimes without fear of being deported. However, the U visa doesn’t cover all crimes, including domestic violence, stalking, sexual assault, and felony assault, among other crimes.

If you get a U visa, you will get a work permit and the ability to apply for lawful permanent residence (green card) after three years. After five years as a legal permanent resident, you can apply for citizenship (naturalization), assuming you meet all other citizenship requirements.

Can You Travel While Waiting for Your U Visa to Be Approved?

People who have been the victims of crimes committed in the United States or violated U.S. laws may be eligible to receive U nonimmigrants status. One of the most common questions about U visas is whether you can travel while waiting for your visa to be approved. We recommend that U visa applicants don’t travel for several reasons.

You May Not Be Able to Return to the U.S.

If you’re subject to unlawful presence and travel abroad, you may not be able to re-enter the U.S. A pending U visa doesn’t provide reentry privileges. So, for example, if you submit your application and then travel abroad before the decision is made, you wouldn’t be able to re-enter the country until USCIS has transferred your application for consular processing. Depending on the consulate’s workload, it could take months to receive your visa. If your U visa application is denied, you wouldn’t be able to return to the U.S. without applying for a different visa. In addition, U visa applicants can’t receive advance parole for short trips outside the U.S. Even if you could get an advance parole document, you might still be subject to unlawful presence.

You May Miss Important Documents in the Mail

If you applied for a U visa and travel while the decision is pending. In that case, there’s a chance you may miss important correspondence from USCIS—which could also lead to you missing a scheduled appointment or deadline to submit evidence. This could cause USCIS to believe you’ve abandoned your application, or the agency may view your application less favorably.

USCIS May Decide You’re No Longer Eligible for a U Visa

One of the eligibility requirements of a U visa is that you’re required to assist law enforcement officers with the investigation and prosecution of the perpetrators who committed crimes against you. This is needed even after being granted U status. If your application is pending, and you travel abroad, USCIS may decide you cannot actively assist law enforcement—especially if you’re taking an extended trip abroad. Traveling could also call your claims of substantial physical or mental abuse into question, particularly if you’re traveling for pleasure or to a country that doesn’t have adequate medical care.

What Happens After Your U Visa is Approved?

Once your application is approved, you’ll receive U status, but a U visa status is not an actual visa. So you’ll technically be able to travel outside of the U.S., but to return, you’d need to apply for a visa with a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad. This process could result in being stuck in consular processing for a considerable time. Traveling abroad may jeopardize your ability to adjust your status to permanent resident, as you’ll need to demonstrate your continuous physical presence (CPP) in the U.S to receive a green card. A single trip of 90 days or more or multiple trips that equal more than 180 days could affect your CPP, even if your inability to return to the U.S. sooner is due to agency delays. In addition, if you were in the U.S. unlawfully, leaving could trigger a 3- or 10-year bar to reentry; to re-enter, you would need to get a Waiver of Inadmissibility—which can be time-consuming. This could cause you to lose CPP and affect your ability to receive permanent resident status. There is one exception. If you have a pending green card application, you should apply for advance parole so you can return to the U.S. If you don’t do this, your adjustment application will be considered abandoned.

Consult with an Experienced Immigration Attorney Before Traveling Abroad

As you can see, there are several potential challenges when traveling abroad with a pending or approved U visa; for this reason, it’s not advisable to leave the U.S. unless there’s an emergency. In this case, you’ll need to file an Application for Advance Permission to Enter as a Nonimmigrant with USCIS; this waiver will also need to be approved before you receive consular processing. If you have questions about the specifics of your case, it’s best to consult with an experienced immigration attorney before leaving the United States. Contact Ranchod Law Group today at 916-613-3553 or email us at info@ranchodlaw.com to schedule a consultation.