U.S. Citizens: If you don't have your US passport, be sure to apply at least 6 weeks before you plan to travel. If you need it faster, you can ask for expedited processing if you have urgent international travel plans. Visit the Department of State passport site for more information.
Green Card Holders: You will need to present your green card when you return. Be sure to make a copy of your green card as this will make it easier to get a letter of transportation from the U.S. embassy. Also, you may need to file a Form I-131A, Application for Travel Document (Carrier Documentation), which allows an airline or other transportation carrier to board a lawful permanent resident bound for the United States without the carrier being penalized. Interestingly, if you lose or don't have your passport but not your green card, the CBP will allow re-entry as long as you present your green card.
Nonimmigrant Visa Workers: Unless you are a Canadian citizen, you must have an unexpired visa stamp to return to the U.S. If you don't have an unexpired visa, schedule your visa appointment at the U.S. embassy for the early part of your trip. Visa applications can take longer than usual because of extended background checks (“administrative processing”) so you should make sure getting your visa is one of the first things you do when you arrive. If you are visiting Canada or Mexico or adjacent islands (for F-1 and J-1 visas) for fewer than 30 days, you might not need a visa due to the visa revalidation rule. Once you return, immediately check your electronic I-94 for accuracy at https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov/I94/.
Pending Adjustment of Status (I-485): If you have applied for adjustment of status to permanent residence (I-485 form), you must have an approved advanced parole (AP) document (or combo EAD/AP) to return to the U.S. unless you have an H-1B, H-4, L-1, or L-2 visa stamp. It's a good idea to have a copy of your I-485 receipt notice to present to the CBP. If you are approved for the green card while abroad and do not have your green card, you should present your AP and inform the CBP officer of the approval. The officer may admit you as a permanent resident or allow you to re-enter but require you to return to the airport later with proof of your green card.
This information is provided as an educational service. For immigration advice and assistance with your immigration matters, contact us to meet with Ann Massey Badmus or one of our qualified attorneys.