Travel Outside USA while i485 Green Card is pending?
Can you travel while I-485 is pending is a common question and the simple answer is NO unless you have any other visa like H1B that can help you re-enter USA.
Apply for Advance Parole using USCIS I-131 form to re-enter USA if you do not have any other visa.
I-131 Denied Reason = International Travel
USCIS denies pending advance parole applications (I-131) if you travel overseas. If you do not have a visa to re-enter USA without AP, USCIS may also deny your pending i-485 AOS (Adjustment of status) application if you leave USA.
You can find many forums filled with I-131 denial discussions.
Normally, you are allowed to travel while your other visa like L-1, L-2, H1B, H-4, K-3, K-4 or V is still valid and can be used to re-enter USA. But, USCIS can deny your pending i-131 advance parole application irrespective of your visa on your exit from USA.
Advance Parole Denial at Port of Entry
If your Advance Parole is approved, you will receive an I-512 which can be used to re-enter USA. Your can still be denied entry at US airport after inspection by immigration officer.
H1-B holders traveling with Pending AOS
H1B holder should NOT travel outside USA while i485 AOS is pending without getting an approved AP (I-131) if you intend to re-enter using AP.
If you plan to return to USA using your valid H1B, then you can safely travel without AP as well.
These days, USCIS issues a combo card for both i485 EAD and AP. So, you need to wait for this card to be approved and receive it before travel.
H 1B holder Re-Enter USA with AP status
If you use AP to re-enter USA, your status on i94 will show as “Parolee” and i94 will be valid on for 1 year. You can ONLY work for the same H1B employer with which you had an H1B approval prior to leaving USA.
You can change your i94 status again to H1B by filing H1B extension, Amendment or Transfer after entering on AP. Once H1B is approved, you will get a new i94 with status =”H1B Admitted“.
If you plan to re-enter USA using AP and directly want to work for NEW employer (which does not hold your H1B currently) on Day 1, then you need to use your i485 EAD. Note that if you decide to use EAD, you CANNOT return to H1B status again. You cannot file H1B extension, amendment or transfer once you have switched to i485 EAD.
Status after AP i94 Expired
If you do not change your status from “Parolee” to “H1B” explicitly by filing H1B extension, your status will automatically be changed to ‘period of authorized stay’ with i485 pending once i94 expires.
You will have to use your EAD to keep working if you want.
H1B entered US on AP, i485 AOS denied
If you returned to US using AP and have not filed H1B yet i.e. your status is still parolee and your i485 is denied, you will be immediately “Out of Status“.
To add salt to injury, your time from the day you entered on AP to the date of i485 denial will also be counted as “Unlawful Presence“!!
If you changed to H1B after entering on AP, your time will NOT be counted as unlawful presence though on I-485 green card denial.
F1 Visa, AP pending, Travel and re-enter using F1 visa?
If you are on F1 visa where dual intent (immigrant intent + non-immigrant intent) is not allowed, we suggest to NOT travel unless your AP is approved.
You may be denied re-entry to US at port of entry based on your valid F1 visa since you showed an immigrant intent by filing i485 application. This is highly dependent on the immigration officer you see but is a high risk proposition.