Immigration Planning Often Must Come First

The Murthy Law Firm receives many inquiries from individuals who have planned a major event, like marriage, travel, or school, who lastly think to seek advice on how to address these matters related to their immigration. Frustration often ensues when they learn of the immigration restrictions or extended processing timeframes that affect their plans. To avoid problems with immigration laws or procedural delays, it is recommended that immigration advice be sought BEFORE getting down to the details of big plans.

Discuss Marriage Plans with Immigration Counsel in Advance

All too often, weddings involving foreign nationals are planned, dates are set, color schemes are selected, friends and family members are invited, and all the arrangements made. Then, almost as an afterthought, the immigration lawyer is contacted. Frequently, these situations involve U.S. citizens who assume that bringing a fiancé/e to the United States will be quick and easy. From an immigration perspective, a K-1 fiancé/e visa case is relatively fast. The exact timeframe has varied historically, but a minimum five-month turnaround time for processing at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is fairly typical. This does not take into account the time to get an appointment at the appropriate consulate abroad or other delays that may occur. It is vital to get advice on procedures, requirements, and timeframes before making wedding plans. Otherwise, the wedding may be lacking the key component of bride or groom!

Discuss Foreign Travel Well in Advance

For foreign nationals, travel almost always presents immigration complications. It is necessary to make sure that one has the proper travel documents to permit reentry to the United States. It is not always possible to obtain the right documents after one’s departure from the U.S. Some travel documents, such as advance parole (AP) for an individual with a pending application for adjustment of status (I-485), must be filed while s/he is in the U.S. Additionally, an AP is only valid for return travel if it was approved prior to departure on the particular trip. A reentry permit for a permanent resident taking an extended trip abroad must also be filed while the individual is in the United States.

Expediting Not Likely in Most Cases

While there is sometimes a possibility of expediting certain travel documents for emergencies, this generally does not include self-created emergencies due to bad planning. Many people make travel plans, purchase nonrefundable tickets, arrange for time off from work, and only then call the immigration lawyer. The first call made should be to the immigration lawyer, before the plans are made and tickets purchased.

Discuss Education Plans with Immigration Lawyer Early

As in the examples above, applications often are sent, accepted, and plans made to attend a particular college or university in the United States before a call is ever made to an immigration attorney. Sometimes an individual even quits a good job in anticipation of starting a degree program, prior to calling a lawyer.

The complexity of being able to remain in the United States as a full-time student depends upon one’s status. Sometimes, it is a fairly straightforward matter of requesting a change of nonimmigrant status. In other situations, however, this requested change might encounter difficulties. This is the case for one who has not maintained nonimmigrant status or other legal permission to remain in the U.S. It is also the case for one present based upon an employment-based, adjustment-of-status (I-485) application, wherein s/he is not the primary beneficiary. All options and risks must be carefully weighed in advance, with the help of a qualified and knowledgeable immigration lawyer.


Unfortunately, there are many examples of situations in which individuals first commit to a plan and only afterward call their immigration lawyers; job changes and assignments abroad are another prime example. It is often possible to work within the immigration laws to accomplish one’s desired purpose. However, there are procedural hurdles and timeframes to consider when making such important life plans. Absent that, frustration and difficulty are almost guaranteed.

The attorneys at the Murthy Law Firm enjoy working with foreign nationals to map out options available for them to pursue their goals, within the restrictions and timeframes of immigration laws. With proper planning, everything is smoother and more likely to be successful.

While some aspects of immigration have changed in significant ways in the years since MurthyDotCom began publishing articles in 1994, there is much that is still the same. From time to time, clients of the Murthy Law Firm are referred to articles, like this one, which remains relevant and has been updated for our readers.


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Disclaimer: The information provided here is of a general nature and may not apply to any specific or particular circumstance. It is not to be construed as legal advice nor presumed indefinitely up to date.