Virginia, US

 

 
 
Well in advance of traveling internationally, you should verify that your passport and visa are valid for reentry to the United States, and you should also ascertain whether you will be required to obtain advance permission to reenter. You should check to determine whether you will need a visa or other permission to enter your country of destination or any foreign country through which you will travel to get to your final destination.  Where questions arise on these complex issues, please contact the Fragomen professional with whom you regularly work.
 
 
 
In general, your passport must be valid for at least six months beyond the expiration of your period of admission to the United States, to ensure that you will be able to depart the United States at the end of your stay and proceed to your home country or another country. There are some exceptions to this rule, though. Under international treaties, many countries have an agreement with the United States whereby a passport is deemed valid for an additional six months past its expiration date so that the passport holder can return to his or her country of citizenship.
 
If you are a citizen of Bermuda, Canada, Mexico or the United States, you must present a passport or other acceptable passport alternative, such as an eligible trusted traveler membership card or U.S. Coast Guard Merchant Mariner Document, when entering or re-entering the United States by air, land or sea, pursuant to the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI). More information on WHTI-compliant travel documents is available at http://www.getyouhome.gov.
 
 
 
The Visa Waiver Program (VWP) permits citizens of designated countries to apply for admission to the United States for short-term visits as nonimmigrant visitors for business or pleasure without the need to obtain a B-1 or B-2 nonimmigrant visa from a U.S. consulate.
 
The following countries are participants in the VWP: Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brunei, Chile, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, and the United Kingdom.
 
VWP travelers are subject to strict requirements, outlined below.
 
VWP travel restrictions. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the State Department began implementing newly enacted VWP travel restrictions in January 2016.  Foreign nationals in the following categories are restricted from traveling to the United States under the VWP, even if they have a valid Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) registration:
 
  • Nationals of Visa Waiver Program countries who, since March 1, 2011, have travelled to Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Yemen or any other country of concern designated by the Department of Homeland Security; and
  • Dual nationals of a VWP country and Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Syria or any other country of concern designated by the Department of Homeland Security.
 
Individuals subject to VWP travel restrictions must obtain a B-1/B-2 visa from a U.S. consulate to visit the United States for business or tourism, with very limited exceptions.

DHS is authorized to grant an exemption from the travel restrictions to those who have traveled to a country of concern in the course of diplomatic or military service on behalf of a VWP member country.  The agency is also authorized to grant waivers on a case-by-case basis to those who have traveled to a country of concern on official duty for an international or nongovernmental organization or as a journalist for reporting purposes, or who have traveled to Iran or Iraq for legitimate business purposes in limited circumstances.  Foreign nationals must submit a new ESTA registration in order to be considered for a waiver or exemption from the VWP restrictions.
 
Duration of stay. Entrants under the Visa Waiver Program are admitted for up to 90 days. They cannot extend their stays beyond ninety days, except in extremely rare and limited circumstances, and they cannot change their status to another nonimmigrant category. If you overstay your VWP admission, you will no longer be able to use the program and will be required to obtain a B-1 or B-2 visa for any future business or tourism visits of any duration to the United States.
 
VWP passport requirements. To enter under the VWP, you must make sure that you comply with special passport requirements. A foreign national whose passport is not in compliance with applicable VWP passport standards must obtain a visa to enter the United States.
 
As of April 1, 2016, all VWP travelers are required to present an “e-Passport." An e-Passport is similar to a traditional passport, except that it has a small integrated computer chip embedded in the back cover. The chip stores the information displayed on the data page of the passport, a biometric identifier in the form of a digital image of the passport photograph, a unique chip identification number and a digital signature to protect the stored data from tampering.
 
These passport requirements apply only to travelers entering the United States under the Visa Waiver Program. Nonimmigrant visa holders are not subject to these requirements.
 
Advance travel authorization. All foreign nationals planning to enter the United States under the Visa Waiver Program are required to register for online travel clearance through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA). Travelers should submit their applications well in advance of travel, and no later than 72 hours before departing for the United States. All foreign nationals seeking a new or renewal ESTA authorization must pay a $14 fee by credit or debit card at the time they submit their ESTA application.
 
To register in ESTA, you must submit an online application at the official CBP ESTA website. Applicants should be aware that there are numerous fraudulent websites purporting to register travelers for ESTA.  These should be avoided.  The CBP website is the only legitimate ESTA registration site.
 
The ESTA application asks for your biographic and passport information, as well as information about your basic eligibility to use the VWP, such as previous visa denials, prior arrests and convictions, and presence of certain diseases. The application also requests your U.S. destination, flight information and other travel details, but this information is not required.
 
Once you submit the ESTA application, it will be reviewed against appropriate national security and law enforcement databases. According to DHS, most applications are decided in a short period of time, but longer adjudication periods are possible.
 
If approved, your ESTA travel authorization will remain valid for up to two years or until your passport expires, whichever occurs first. The authorization may be used for multiple trips to the United States during the validity period. You do not need to re-register in ESTA until your initial authorization expires or until you obtain a new passport. ESTA registration does not guarantee that you will be admitted to the United States; Visa Waiver Program travelers remain subject to inspection upon arrival and may be denied entry at the discretion of U.S. border officials.
 
If the ESTA application is denied or you do not apply for ESTA clearance, a valid B-1/B-2 visa issued by a U.S. consulate is required for short-term business or tourism visits to the United States.
 
 
 
Upon your entry to the United States, the visa stamp in your passport must reflect your current nonimmigrant visa status, the visa must be unexpired, and, if the visa has a limited number of entries, it must have a remaining valid entry available on the intended date of reentry to the United States.
 
Under certain circumstances, if you are making only a short trip of 30 days or less to Canada or Mexico and have a valid Form I-94 arrival record, your visa is deemed automatically revalidated upon reentry. However, if you have applied for a new visa while in Canada or Mexico, or are a citizen or national of Iran, Sudan or Syria, you will not be accorded automatic revalidation and consequently will not be readmitted to the United States without obtaining a new visa abroad.
 
With the exception of E-1 and E-2 treaty traders and investors, Canadian citizens generally are not required to possess a valid visa to enter the United States. (Certain Canadian permanent residents must possess a valid visa for entry to the United States.)
 
Visa processing in countries other than your home country – known as "third country national" or "TCN" processing – is possible, but may be subject to restrictions at some consulates. It is not possible to revalidate your visa from within the United States, unless you hold a diplomatic visa in the A, G or NATO category.
 
Overstaying the authorized period of your admission to the United States may cause you to be deemed unlawfully present or trigger laws that may result in the cancellation of your visa. Foreign nationals who overstay the period of authorized admission entered on their Form I-94 Arrival-Departure Record or CBP admission stamp may be subject to bars to admission to the United States.  Overstaying for more than six months or more than one year may result in a bar of three or ten years, respectively. Overstays of as little as one day may trigger visa voidance provisions which would require you to return to your home country to apply for a new visa, except in very limited cases.
 
 
 
If you are an applicant for adjustment of status to permanent residence, you must in some cases obtain advance permission to travel – known as advance parole – in order to leave the U.S. while your adjustment application is pending. If you travel outside the United States without advance parole while your application for adjustment is pending, the application will be deemed abandoned, except in certain limited cases. If you already have a valid H-1B, H-4, L-1A, L-1B, or L-2 visa, you may reenter the United States on that visa, without the need for an advance parole. Note, though, that the policies concerning H and L nonimmigrant family members who have been granted and have used employment authorization as applicants for adjustment of status are unresolved; until future guidance is received, individuals in these statuses who have worked in the United States pursuant to an employment authorization document issued in connection with their adjustment application should proceed cautiously, and obtain and use an advance parole for reentry to the United States.
 
 
 
Depending on where you are traveling outside the United States, you may need to apply for and obtain a foreign visa or other permission in order to enter your country of destination or any foreign country through which you will be transiting on your way to your destination. Make sure to ascertain any foreign visa requirements well in advance of departing the United States. The visa application process can be lengthy and time-consuming; advance planning will minimize the possibility of any disruption of your travel plans. Please contact your designated Fragomen professional if you will need assistance in obtaining a foreign visa.
 
 
 
The Department of Homeland Security's policies concerning changes and extensions of status are complex and subject to change; where questions arise on these sensitive issues, please contact the Fragomen professional with whom you normally work.
 
In general, traveling during the pendency of an application to change status will cause the application to be deemed abandoned; though the underlying petition is still approvable if travel is undertaken, the applicant will in most situations need to travel abroad, obtain a new visa outside the United States, and then reenter.
 
In contrast, travel during the pendency of an application to extend status should not cause the extension application to be deemed abandoned, provided that the applicant meets all the requirements for entry. This policy has not been officially adopted by the DHS, however. Because your situation may vary, you should contact the Fragomen professional with whom you normally work to evaluate the facts and circumstances of your case.