Can I travel internationally after filing my U Visa application?

While leaving the U.S. raises no issue, returning might be very complicated and in some situations restricted for a long period of time. Technically, after your U Visa is approved you can request an additional document called an Advanced Parole by filing Form I-131. The purpose of this document is to allow you re-entry in the United States in case you are travelling internationally. However, if you don’t already have another valid U.S. immigration status (such as a student visa or alien worker dependent visa), travelling before becoming a Lawful Permanent Resident (or a green card holder) might be concerning and discouraged. Here are some reasons why that you should take into consideration before deciding to travel:

  1. You have a duty to cooperate with law enforcement and your absence from the U.S. may affect your ability to cooperate in the investigation and prosecution of the criminal activity that allowed you to file for a U Visa in the first place;
  2. Your departure might trigger your inadmissibility back into the US if you have previously been in the country illegally. You are considered to have been in the U.S. illegally when you entered the United States without inspection or you overstayed in the U.S. beyond your authorized duration of stay. This can happen even if you already have an approved U visa. Currently, there are three-year and ten-year admission bars under INA section 212(1)(9)(B). Although you can ask the Immigration Services to allow you entrance by applying again for what is called a waiver of inadmissibility, you will have to remain outside of the US until it gets approved, which is usually a very long time;
  3. If you remain outside the United States for 90 days or more, you ruin your chances of being eligible to apply for a green card. This is true even if the extended absence is through no fault of your own. You can read more about the eligibility criteria for obtaining a green card under the question below.
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