Can I travel outside of the U.S. if my U visa status application is approved?
It depends. It is extremely important that you talk to an immigration lawyer with experience in U visa status before traveling to determine if you can travel outside of the U.S. Here we discuss some major concerns with traveling:
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 (needed for traveling) when you are approved for U visa status. (Remember, U visa status is technically called U nonimmigrant status and do you do not automatically get an actual visa when you are granted this status.) See I have U visa status, but never received an actual visa. How do I get one? for more information.
Second, be aware that 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. This is the “continuous physical presence” requirement for U lawful permanent residence.*
Third, if you leave the U.S. and then return, you may trigger new grounds of inadmissibility that you did not get waived when you applied for U visa status (most likely, it would be the "unlawful presence" ground which is only triggered when you leave the U.S.).** Immigration will, however, quickly consider and grant a new waiver for you, so you should ensure your lawyer has set this up before you leave the U.S. If your attorney does not know about this protocol, s/he should contact a national organization that works on U visas such as ASISTA for help working with Immigration to get the new waivers quickly.
Fourth, if you already have U visa status, and you submitted an application to obtain lawful permanent residence that is still pending, then you will need to request “advance parole” before leaving the U.S.*** Advance parole will allow you to preserve your application for lawful permanent residence when you leave the country.**** If you do not request advance parole before leaving the U.S., your application for lawful permanent residence will be considered abandoned and it will be denied.***
Finally, if you come into the U.S. with a different kind of visa after being granted U visa status or if you come in without permission, your U visa status may be revoked. This may happen because the consulates are not sufficiently trained on U visas and may delay giving you a U visa or may give you bad advice and information.
For all these reasons, it is extremely important that you talk to an immigration lawyer with experience in U visa status before traveling to determine if you can safely travel outside of the U.S. An immigration attorney with experience in U visa status should be able to determine if any of these risks apply to you by working with the national organizations with expertise in U visas such as ASISTA. To find the contact information of organizations working in the area of immigration law, please see the national organizations listed on our Immigration page.
* 8 CFR § 245.24(a)(1)
** INA § 212(a)(9)(B) & (C)
*** 8 CFR § 245.24(j)
**** See generally USCIS website – Glossary