Planning Ahead For Holiday Travel: Immigration Checklist
The holiday season is here and travel is reaching pre-pandemic levels. International travelers should expect busy consulates and U.S. Ports of Entry. Although U.S. Consulates have committed additional resources to address backlogs, foreign nationals may still encounter long wait times when applying for a visa. We encourage all travelers to plan ahead to minimize delays when traveling abroad and entering the U.S.
Our holiday travel checklist is designed to help foreign national employees and employers schedule appointments and gather required documentation in advance.
REQUIRMENTS FOR INTERNATIONAL TRAVELERS
Generally, vaccination requirements have replaced COVID-19 testing and travel bans. Noncitizens seeking to enter the U.S. in a temporary status (nonimmigrants) who travel by airline are required to show proof of full vaccination against COVID-19 before boarding a flight to the U.S. from a foreign country. Check the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website for detailed information and exceptions.
U.S. ENTRY: STATUS AND DOCUMENTATION CHECKLIST
- Confirm the validity of passports for all travelers. Valid passports are required for all international travelers and accompanying family members, including U.S. and Canadian citizens. Renew passports in advance to ensure at least six months’ validity at the time of any visa application or entry to the U.S. Many countries allow renewal of passports by mail through their consulates or embassies in the U.S.
- Carry all documents required for admission to the U.S. Upon entry to the U.S., some entrants may need to show additional evidence of work authorization or government approval in addition to a passport and valid visa stamp. Documents vary by visa classification but may include an original I-797, Approval Notice; endorsed Form I-129S; Advance Parole Document; Employment Authorization Document (EAD); Form DS-2019 with travel authorization; and/or endorsed Form I-20.
- Verify the U.S. admission classification/expiration date. Upon entry to the U.S., foreign nationals should expect a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer to create an electronic I-94 record. At many Ports of Entry, CBP has stopped issuing a passport stamp. If a stamp is issued, ensure that the classification is correct and immediately alert CBP to any errors.
- Review your I-94 record.After each entry to the U.S., foreign nationals should access and review the electronic I-94 record available on the CBP website. This is more important than ever, as CBP moves away from stamping passports at entry. Expiration dates for the I-94, underlying petition, or work permit may be different from the expiration date on the visa in the passport or on the passport stamp, if issued. Send Immigration Counsel a copy of your I-94.
CHECKLIST FOR FOREIGN NATIONAL EMPLOYEES (AND EMPLOYERS) WHO DO NOT HAVE A VALID VISA IN THEIR CURRENT PASSPORT
- Consult with Immigration Counsel in advance. Immigration counsel can help to prepare for enhanced vetting and for the consular interview before you apply for a visa. Schedule consultations 60-90 days in advance whenever possible. Keep in mind that appointment wait times at U.S. consulates can range from a few days to a few months.
- Check the Consulate’s website prior to travel. If you require visa issuance at a consulate abroad, review information on specific procedures regarding booking visa appointments and documentation required for visa interviews. Consular procedures vary widely and are subject to change with little notice.
- Complete Form DS-160.This form is required for all visa applicants including dependent spouses and children of principal visa holders. Retain a copy of the final form at the time of submission. Many consulates require that the visa application be completed prior to scheduling a visa appointment.
- Review your visa application/petition. Review the petition prepared by Immigration Counsel on your behalf prior to traveling, to ensure the accuracy of the information reported and consistency with visa applications.
- Review your online profiles. This includes information in online employee profiles and company pages as well as social media profiles. Government officials at USCIS, consulates, and U.S. Ports of Entry review online profiles of visitors and foreign workers applying for benefits or seeking entry to the U.S.
- Update company information. Employers should update company pages and sites such as Dunn & Bradstreet that may be referenced by immigration officers to verify employment or business information.
- Gather employment verification. If you are applying for a temporary work visa, most consulates require current employment verification letters from employers. Request these letters in advance of travel to allow adequate time for Human Resources to prepare them. Maintain copies of recent paystubs as evidence of current employment.
- Disclose any arrests/detainment to Immigration Counsel. Consult with Immigration Counsel if you have been arrested or detained by law enforcement, even if not charged/convicted. Consult with counsel before departing the U.S. or applying for a visa or any other immigration benefit. Citations, arrests or detentions may require disclosure on applications and may impact immigration status and/or eligibility for immigration benefits.
- Check consulate wait times. Review the consulate website for visa appointments and processing times and alert Immigration Counsel immediately if visa issuance is delayed due to security or background clearance issues.
- Confirm consulate holiday hours. Consulates abroad observe both U.S. and local country holidays and some offices may be short-staffed due to vacations.
*TIP for visa appointments: If the consulate has long wait times, book an appointment at the earliest date possible and check the website regularly for newly released appointment times that are more desirable.
TRAVEL DOCUMENTS IF YOU DON’T NEED A VISA FROM THE CONSULATE
- Visa Waiver Program travelers must have a valid ESTA approval.The Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) is a mandatory, online pre-screening system for Visa Waiver Program (VWP) travelers. ESTA is only available for travelers who are citizens of recognized VWP countries who wish to enter the U.S. for B-1 business/B-2 tourism purposes. VWP travelers must obtain a valid ESTA approval prior to travel, which may be valid for up to two years. Note that a new ESTA approval is needed when a VWP traveler obtains a new passport and/or changes his/her name or country of citizenship, and when answers to any of the VWP eligibility questions (e.g., regarding an arrest or visa denial) change.
- Adjustment of Status applicants and Advance Parole travel documents. With the exception of some H and L visa holders, individuals with pending I-485, Adjustment of Status applications must have a valid original Advance Parole travel document issued prior to departing the U.S. Departing the U.S. without an Advance Parole may result in denial of the I-485 application. Note that the Advance Parole document must be valid when you depart the U.S. and valid when you return.
- To find the nearest foreign consulate in the U.S. visit Foreign Embassies and Consulates in the U.S.
- Check U.S. consulate wait times at U.S. Consulate Visa Wait Times
- Find links to U.S. consular posts around the world at U.S. Consular Posts
- For information on the Visa Waiver Program and current VWP countries visit Visa Waiver Program
- Obtain and review your electronic I-94 record at CBP I-94s
- Complete the DS-160 Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application at DS-160
For specific travel-related questions, please contact your Gibney representative or email email@example.com.