The holiday season is once again upon us! If you have plans to travel outside of the U.S. in the coming weeks, we encourage you to prepare early by taking the following steps now to ensure that you are travel ready:
- Step 1: Check the validity of your current passport
In order to be admitted to the U.S., Custom and Border Protection (CBP) typically requires a passport to be valid for at least 6 months beyond the requested admission expiration date (i.e., the expiration date on your I-797 approval notice). If your passport is expiring soon, we advise obtaining a new passport prior to your trip.
- Step 2: Check the validity of current visa stamp & make an appointment with a U.S. Consulate abroad, if necessary
A visa stamp obtained from a U.S. Consulate abroad is required for entry into the U.S. If you have not yet obtained a visa stamp or if your current visa stamp is expiring soon, you should obtain a new visa abroad before returning to the U.S. Prior to your trip:
- Make a visa appointment: https://www.usembassy.gov/
- Find estimated wait times: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas/visa-information-resources/wait-times.html
- Pay the nonimmigrant visa application processing fee (MRV): https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas/visa-information-resources/fees/fees-visa-services.html
- Determine if you are also required to pay a visa reciprocity fee: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas/Visa-Reciprocity-and-Civil-Documents-by-Country.html
- Gather necessary appointment documents: We advise checking the processes and procedures for the specific U.S. Consulate you will visit however applicants are typically required to bring the following to their appointment:
- Original I-797 approval notice
- Copy of petition documents
- Copy of interview appointment notice
- DS-160 confirmation page with CEAC barcode
- Passport valid for at least six months beyond your I-797 expiry date
- One 2”x2” passport-style photo
Keep in mind you will need to leave your passport with the U.S. Consulate to process your visa, which can take a few days to a few weeks dependent upon Consulate timeframes. A small percentage of visa applications will undergo administrative processing, which could further delay the return of your passport.
- Step 3: Check if travel will impact any pending USCIS applications
If you have an application currently pending with a USCIS Service Center, contact the ZP attorney handling the application to discuss how travel outside the U.S. could impact the process.
- Step 4: Check for COVID-19 related travel restrictions
Many countries still have COVID-19 travel restrictions or bans that may impede your ability to travel and/or obtain a visa from a U.S. Consulate abroad. Check for any restrictions and requirements for the countries you plan to visit or travel through: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/international-travel/index.html
The U.S. requires all foreign travelers arriving via air to provide proof of being fully vaccinated prior to boarding their flight to the U.S. Ensure you are traveling with the proper documentation to meet this requirement: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/international-travel/index.html
Upon Your Return to the U.S.
- Step 5: Obtain a copy of your new I-94 admissions record ASAP after arrival
It is your responsibility to obtain and ensure accuracy of the I-94 admissions record issued to you in the CBP database after each entry into the U.S.: https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov.
The I-94 admissions record governs your period of stay in the U.S. The “Admit Until Date” on your I-94 record should match the expiration date on your visa stamp or I-797 approval notice however can be cut short due to passport or visa expiration dates. If the “Admit Until Date” does not match these documents, contact your Zulkie Partners team.
As many U.S. airports are no longer issuing entry stamps in passports upon arrival to the U.S., it even more critical that you obtain your I-94 admissions record immediately after arriving to the U.S. The I-94 admissions record in the CBP database will be the only documentation of your arrival.
As always, please feel free to reach out to your ZP attorney with any questions or concerns.