Now is a good time for foreign nationals who will be departing the United States for travel abroad over the holidays to review their travel documents to ensure that their reentry into the U.S. is as seamless as possible. Depending on an individual’s current status and whether he or she is “in process” for another status, different documentation may be required upon return to the United States. For example, certain foreign nationals who are currently in status but whose visa has expired will be required to apply for a new visa at a U.S. consulate in their home country. (Wait times for visa appointments at U.S. consulates vary and tend to swell during the holiday season, as do processing times.) For other foreign nationals, an advance parole travel document may be required to preserve a pending green card application. And, yet for others, changed circumstances (such as change in work, change in relationship, arrests, and criminal matters) may have immigration consequences. Travelers on the Visa Waiver Program should ensure that their ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization) authorization is still valid; if reauthorization is required and the individual is denied and a visa becomes required for reentry, sufficient time will be necessary for that individual to make an application. Foreign nationals planning to travel outside the United States within the next couple of weeks and who have questions about their documents are encouraged to contact our office.

On a related note, international travelers using ESTA for travel to the United States are reminded to apply as soon as possible but not less than 72 hours before their international flight is scheduled to depart. Travelers who participate in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) traveling to the U.S. are strongly encouraged to apply for ESTA authorization at the time of booking their trip.