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Traveler Beware! Holiday Travel for Foreign National Nonimmigrants – Tips for Departing and Returning to the United States Safely

December 2, 2019

For foreign nationals working in the United States on temporary work visas, it is best to plan well in advance for international travel.

Assure that your passport is valid.
Passports must be valid for at least six months beyond the expiration of the requested period of admission to the United States. While there are some exceptions to this rule, this requirement assures that a traveler may leave the United States and return to his or her country of citizenship.

Assure that your U.S. visa is valid for purposes of re-entry to the United States.
If you have plans to apply for a visa at a U.S. consular post while abroad, plan for delays due to the holiday period and especially considering that U.S. consular posts might have reduced staffing with limited appointment availability. High volume posts might have a limited number of appointments available and travelers should anticipate visa issuance delays, so planning with very little flexibility is not advised during the holidays.

Additional security procedures are now in place.
Additional security checks have become de rigueur at most consular posts and may delay processing of a nonimmigrant visa application from several days to several months. In addition, there are delays that should be anticipated at U.S. ports of entry with biometric scans, additional security questions and photo requirements. Plan to spend more time at the airports.

Review your social media accounts prior to traveling.
Social media questions have emerged as a new and hot topic for all nonimmigrant and immigrant visa applicants. A request to disclose all social media identifiers for the past five years is now solicited on all U.S. visa applications. This information will be vetted by the consulates, so a review of your social media handles prior to preparing the applications is recommended. Consistency is key to assure that professional profiles have updated and accurate employment information to avoid inadvertent erroneous denials of visas at consular posts.

Assure a smooth re-entry to the United States after the holidays.
Be sure to double-check the validity of visa stamps in your passport to be certain it is valid and, if required, be certain to have with you a Notice of Action assuring that you are admissible as an H-1B or L-1 visa designate. If you are applying for adjustment of status, be certain that an advance parole document is valid and after arrival, download the I-94 (arrival/departure record) at www.cbp.gov to assure that you are admitted in the correct nonimmigrant status for the appropriate duration of stay.

In sum, verify all immigration documents are in order prior to your departure for that long-anticipated holiday visit to friends and family to assure that the return trip is not bumpy!

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