Reminders for the New Year: Part 2 of 425 Jan 2013
This is a continuation of our immigration-related reminders to MurthyDotCom readers for the 2013 New Year. Part 1 of this article focused on I-94 issues and expiration dates. The expiration dates of documents related to the immigration process, avoiding problems resulting from these expirations, and our recommendations for addressing such matters are the topics addressed in Part 2 of this series of reminders for the New Year.
Travel Documents: Valid Visa for Reentry
Those who have plans to travel outside of the United States in the upcoming year must make sure their travel documents are in order. If a visa foil (commonly referred to as a stamp) is needed for reentry into the United States, it is important to double check the visa expiration date printed on the visa stamp in the passport. For many, a current visa in the appropriate nonimmigrant category is required for reentry into the United States after travel abroad.
Obtaining a Visa
It is important to remember that visa applications are made at U.S. consulates abroad. Appointments for visa interviews must be made in advance, and supporting documents must be completed and at hand for the interview. Application instructions are available online. These should be reviewed well in advance of the appointment. Instructions are subject to change and there are variations from one consulate to another with respect to some of the requirements and procedures. [Individuals requiring assistance with visa applications may wish to contact our affiliate, Murthy Immigration Services, Pvt. Ltd., with offices in Chennai and Hyderabad, India.]
As many MurthyDotCom readers are aware, it has become far more difficult to obtain certain visas at the consulates. At this time, we continue to caution against travel for IT consultants in H1B status, if they will need to obtain a new visa stamp to return to the United States. We know this is not always possible, but the risks should be considered, especially when the travel is not mandatory.
Even if a new visa is not needed, travelers should make sure they have proper documents to present to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials upon their return to the United States at ports of entry. To avoid possible problems with reentry, it is important for travelers to understand the requirements for entry in their particular status and to be ready to explain the purpose for their requested time in the United States. They should have appropriate documents to verify their explanations, for example, a recent letter from the employer for those seeking to enter in employment-based categories. Readers who have concerns regarding these matters should seek advice the Murthy Law Firm prior to travel.
The Murthy Law Firm is also experienced in CBP matters and addressing a range of issues that come up following attempts to enter the United States. This experience includes helping victims of wrongful expedited removals by CBP. Those who have encountered difficulties at a port of entry, including refusals of admission, deferred inspection, and inadmissibility findings, should promptly seek qualified legal advice. Many such issues can result in long-term or permanent ineligibility for future immigration benefits.
Obtaining Advance Parole
Most people who have filed applications for adjustment of status (I-485), are eligible to apply for advance parole (AP). This document permits individuals with pending I-485 applications to travel outside the United States and reenter to continue their I-485 processing. It almost always makes sense to apply for AP. It can be used as a backup option, even if one has valid H or L status. Given the difficulties faced by many in connection with the visa application process, the AP may provide an attractive alternative.
Persons who are in the United States based solely on the pending I-485, such as those working on EADs, must have AP if they wish to travel outside the United States. AP is normally issued for multiple entries within one year. At this time, it can be issued in combination with the Employment Authorization Document (EAD) and, in some cases, the combination EAD/AP card will have a two year validity period. The expiration date of the AP is clearly listed on the document. Travel on AP must be completed prior to the expiration date. That is, a traveler must return to the United States prior to the expiration date indicated on the document or the card.
Individuals are advised to apply for AP in advance of the expiration date to avoid delays in travel. AP renewals can be filed up to 120 days in advance of the expiration date. In the case of a true emergency, AP generally can be requested at a local USCIS office on a same-day basis. However, this procedure is at the discretion of the local USCIS office and most offices are reluctant to issue these documents except in truly extreme situations, such as the death or serious illness of a close family member. Any such emergent request needs to be thoroughly documented.
With respect to AP, the USCIS initiated a combination EAD/AP card in early 2011. While the dual benefits of EAD and AP can be granted in a single card, it remains necessary to separately file the required forms requesting each benefit. The same applies to renewals and extensions of EADs and APs. We have found that there is some confusion in this area. For that reason, readers are reminded that the EAD requires the filing of an I-765 form and the AP requires the filing of an I-131, both in the initial request and any renewal requests.
Travel documents must be reviewed prior to departure. There are some steps, such as obtaining AP, which cannot properly be filed from outside the United States. For those who need to apply for visas, there are often supporting documents that should be gathered prior to departure from the U.S. Many unfortunate situations can be avoided by checking expiration dates of important documents, like the visa and AP, well in advance of departing the United States.
Originally published 30.Dec.2011, this NewsBrief has been updated for MurthyDotCom readers.
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