Can I travel outside of the U.S. if my U visa application is approved?
It is extremely important that you talk to an immigration lawyer with experience in U visa status before traveling because there are many risks:
First, if you were granted U visa status in the U.S., you will have to go to a consulate to get an actual U visa to re-enter the U.S. You are not automatically granted this visa, which is a sticker in your passport needed for traveling, when you are approved for U visa status. It is very hard to get the visa from the consulate without an attorney who knows about U visas.
If you leave the U.S., you may need to wait outside of the U.S. for a long time before your U visa is approved. Once you have U visa status, you should never enter the U.S. illegally. If you come back into the U.S. without permission, you could be detained, deported, and/or criminally charged and you would risk not being able to get back your U visa status.
Before you leave, or if you are abroad, your attorney should consult with a national organization with expertise in U visas, such as ASISTA, on this process, since many consulates are still unfamiliar with the U visa and may give inaccurate information to those processing abroad. Other national organizations can be found on our National Organizations - Immigration page.
Second, you need to be aware of the “continuous physical presence” requirement in order to get lawful permanent residence. Being outside of the U.S. for more than 90 days at one time or more than 180 days in combined trips may prevent you from getting lawful permanent residence.1
Third, if you leave the U.S., you may trigger new grounds of inadmissibility. If so, you’d have to file for a new waiver before you can get a U visa to get back into the U.S.
Fourth, if you already have U visa status and have already filed an application for lawful permanent residence, you must ask USCIS for “advance parole” before leaving the U.S.2 “Advance parole” is permission from the government to travel while you are waiting to get your green card and you will need your attorney’s help to request it. If you don’t get advance parole before leaving the U.S., USCIS will deny your application for lawful permanent residence.
Finally, if you come into the U.S. with a visitor’s visa or another kind of visa after you are granted U visa status, you may not be able to get back your U visa status. This is true whether you are in the U.S. when your U visa is granted and you leave and re-enter without an official visa from the consulate or if you are outside the U.S. when USCIS grants your U visa but you enter the U.S. without an official visa from the consulate. Once USCIS has approved your U visa application, you may only enter the U.S. with an official visa from the consulate or with advance parole if you have filed your application for lawful permanent residence. If you try to come into the U.S. without permission, you may be detained, deported, charged with a federal crime, and you could lose your U visa status.
For all of these reasons, it is extremely important that you talk to an immigration lawyer with experience in U visas before traveling to determine if you can safely travel outside of the U.S. The attorney should be able to determine if any of these risks apply to you by working with one of the national organizations with expertise in U visas such as ASISTA. To find the contact information of other organizations working in the area of immigration law, please see the national organizations listed on our National Organizations - Immigration page.
1 8 CFR § 245.24(a)(1)
2 8 CFR § 245.24(j)