What Are the Travel Rules for Green Card Applicants ?
There are certain rules that must be followed while you travel abroad as a Green Card holder and while your Green Card application is pending. While your application for a Green Card is being processed, there are certain restrictions on your ability to travel abroad. But there may not be that many restrictions after you obtain your Green Card. You may be able to travel freely but with certain limitations.
Remember that you may not be able to travel outside the United States, while your application for a Green Card is yet to be approved. If you travel, while your application is still being processed, it will be considered that you had abandoned your application for a permanent resident card. Though there may be several valid reasons behind your travel, USCIS officers may consider that you do not have an intention of making the United States your permanent residence. However, USCIS will allow you to travel while you wait for your permanent resident card, if you apply for and obtain an advance parole document. This advance parole document will permit you to return to the country, even if you have not received your Green Card.
Though you may be allowed to travel abroad with an advance parole document, it is not an easy task to obtain this travel document. Your application for an advance parole document must be approved before you could leave the country. You must apply for an advance parole document as soon as you get to know that you must travel abroad before getting your Green Card. At times, USCIS takes a long time to approve advance parole documents, especially during winter.
Certain categories of visas do not require its holders to obtain advance parole documents to travel abroad, while their Green Card applications are pending. If you hold a H-1, H-4, L-1, L-2, K-3, K-4, V-2, or a V-3 visa, you may not be required to get an advance parole document to travel abroad while your application is pending. However, the visa issued to you by a US Consulate must be valid to re-enter the United States.
Your travel restrictions will become less once you receive your Green Card. You may be free to travel abroad, provided that you always hold a valid Green Card and a passport from your home country. But remember that you may not be allowed to remain outside the country for a long period of time after you get your Green Card. You must return to the United States within a year from the date of your departure from the United States. If you do not return to the country within a year, USCIS will consider that you had abandoned your permanent resident status in the United States.
To re-enter the United States after residing abroad for more than a year, you must obtain a returning resident visa from an overseas US Consulate. A long absence may affect your application for US citizenship through naturalization, if your intention is to become a US citizen. If you wish to become a US citizen, your trip must not last for more than 6 months within a five year period.