Immigration Q & A: I married a U.S. citizen, but can I still travel on my student visa?
Question : How to Travel
“I am in the U.S. on a student visa. I am 24 years old, from Ireland, and married my U.S. boyfriend last month. I have to travel home next month for a few days and I’m concerned. Can I still travel on my valid F-1 student visa? Will it take long to get a green card? We will be filing the paperwork soon for the green card but haven’t gotten around to doing so yet.”
You have a couple of options. If your trip to Ireland is absolutely necessary next month you should travel using your student visa, and file the paperwork for permanent residence (green card) when you return.
Presumably you are still studying, or employed as part of the 12-month optional practical training that F-1 students are eligible to avail of after studies are complete, so re-entering the U.S. on the F visa will be valid.
With regards to filing for permanent residence while in the U.S., there’s one very important point that you must bear in mind. After all the paperwork has been filed, the applicant must not leave the U.S. without first obtaining an advance parole document from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS).
U.S.-based residents who are candidates for permanent residency, such as those married to U.S. citizens, apply for what’s known as adjustment of status. Such filings permit the applicant to be processed at a USCIS office in the U.S., saving the need to travel to a consular office abroad.
However, an advance parole document is a must for those who need to travel abroad during the time it takes to process the adjustment of status. Depending on where the applicant resides, it can take more than a year for the adjustment to be completed. Advance parole grants the applicant permission to re-enter the U.S. from trips abroad during the processing time.
An applicant’s pending adjustment case will be considered abandoned if the applicant travels outside the country and attempts to re-enter the U.S. without advance parole, which is why the document is so important to obtain.
After submitting your adjustment paperwork you will receive a filing receipt from USCIS. Once you have this you can then file for advance parole using USCIS Form I-131 (Application for a Travel Document). The form can be filed electronically at the USCIS website, www.uscis.gov, and the filing fee is $305.
Depending on place of U.S. residence, it can take roughly three months for advance parole to be approved, and approval must take place before the applicant departs the country.
The I-131 instructions clearly say, “If you travel before the advance parole document is issued, your application will be deemed abandoned if you depart the U.S., or (if you) attempt the enter the U.S. before a decision is made on the application.”
Some adjustment of status applicants do not have to obtain advance parole before traveling abroad. They include those on valid H-1B and L-1 employment visas. These applicants can re-enter the U.S. with either of those visas.