Changes for adjustment of status applicants who travel internationally

In a change of long-standing policy, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services has elected to stop granting advance parole to adjustment of status applicants who travel internationally while their application is pending.

This means that individuals with an H-1B or L-1 visa who travel while the advance parole application is pending, or individuals seeking to renew their advance parole documents, will be deemed to have “abandoned” their applications by leaving the United States. There is no question that this will severely impede international travel options for individuals seeking adjustment of status in the U.S.

First, some background might be helpful: Adjustment of status applicants who wish to travel internationally while their applications are pending must seek permission to travel, which is known as “advance parole.”

Unless the adjustment applicant held H-1B or L-1 status, traveling without a grant of advance parole would lead to an abandonment of the adjustment of status application. However, those applicants holding H-1B or L-1 status were previously able to travel while continuing to have their advance parole applications granted.

In mid-August, however, a few practitioners started to see denials of advance parole applications for “abandonment,” the reason being that the applicant had traveled internationally while their advance parole application was pending. The travel, typically on H-1B, L-1 or on a previous grant of advance parole, was lawful. After some reports of this, USCIS confirmed to the American Immigration Lawyers Association that this was a new interpretation, and would be standing policy moving forward.

Though it’s hard to see the logic in a decision that conflicts with long-standing policy, it will likely take some time to iron out the details. In the meantime, anyone seeking adjustment of status should plan international travel carefully.

There are now more compelling reasons to maintain nonimmigrant status while the adjustment of status application is pending. If you are planning to travel, it would be wise to try to plan travel needs and renewals early to minimize possible disruptions.

Give me a call if you have any questions about this development or about employment-based immigration law in general.

Brad Hendrick heads the immigration law section at Caplan and Earnest LLC. He may be reached at [email protected] or 303-443-8010.