Since the introduction of New I-539 form, Biometrics Process by USCIS, earlier this year, it has been a long wait for many of the H4 visa holders, who are waiting for their H4 extensions and H4 EAD approvals. Previously, when H4 extensions and H4 EAD were filed along with H1B petition in premium processing, as a courtesy USCIS was giving approvals of H4 and H4 EAD along with H1B within 15 days, but this has changed with the new biometric process. Many of our users shared their experiences of H4 Extensions, with EAD and Biometrics Processing, where they are waiting for over a month since their biometrics for the approvals. Some of them have planned travels and not sure, how the whole thing would pan out. In this article, we will review various scenarios and options tied to travel with H4 Extension, H4 Change of Status (COS) or H4 EAD pending.
Travel is something that can be inevitable at times and first thing we need to understand is, can you travel out of US, if so, what are the consequences. Sometimes you may have travel after applying H4 Extensions or COS, sometimes you may have to travel after applying for H4 EAD only. Let’s look at all of the combinations.
Can you Travel out of US, when your H4 Change of Status (COS) is pending?
Yes, you can travel out of US, when your H4 Change of Status is pending. But, the most important thing to understand is that your H4 COS application filed with USCIS using Form I-539 would be considered abandoned and subsequently denied, if you leave US when it is pending.
Can you Travel out of US, when your H4 Extension is pending? I-94 Mismatch.
Yes, you can travel out of US, when your H4 Extension is pending. There is no official reference given by USCIS on how they will handle extension petitions with travel, but based on experiences shared by users, H4 Extension have not been abandoned and continued to be processed. The key thing is, when you re-enter US and go through Port of Entry Procedures the CBP officer will give you new I-94 and that number would be different from the H4 extension that you received with USCIS. You may have issues with the I-94 mismatch at DMV when trying to renew license or other things as it uses SAVE Database. You will be considered in status and everything will be fine, but the only issue is with I-94 mismatch. You may need to travel again and re-enter to fix this issue. We had few users report that their H4 was processed even though they left the country and it was adjudicated, but the I-94 number was different.
I am on H4 Status in US and filed H4 EAD only. Can I travel out of US, when my H4 EAD filed with form I-765 is pending?
Yes, you can travel out of US with your H4 EAD in pending status, provided you meet all the H4 visa requirements to re-enter US. But, traveling outside of US may delay your H4 EAD processing…Let’s say, if USCIS requests for more information regarding your EAD application and issues an RFE or a Notice of Intent to Deny(NOID) and if you do not respond on time for RFE or NOID with the required information requested by USCIS, they may deny your H4 EAD by considering that it is abandoned. Check below screenshot from USCIS website regarding the same.
Can I travel outside of US when H4 Change of Status (COS) filed along with H4 EAD is pending with USCIS? ( H4 COS + H4 EAD )
Yes, you can still travel out of US, but your H4 Change of Status will be considered abandoned and subsequently denied. As your H4 COS is denied, your H4 EAD application will also be denied. Check below exact official text from USCIS website.
Can I travel outside of US when H4 Extension filed along with H4 EAD is pending with USCIS? ( H4 Extension + H4 EAD )
Yes, you can travel out of US, but the only issue is with the I-94 number mismatch. There is no official reference to this, but based on users’ experiences, we had few users report that their H4 extension was continued with processing and also their H4 EAD was also processed and it was delivered to them, when they were back in US. But, the issue was with the I-94 number mismatch. As mentioned above, when you re-enter US and go through Port of Entry Procedures the CBP officer will give you new I-94 and that number would be different from the H4 extension that you received with USCIS. You may have issues with the I-94 mismatch at DMV when trying to renew license or other things as it uses SAVE Database. You will be considered in status and everything will be fine, but the only issue is with I-94 mismatch and you may need to do another trip to fix the issue
Travel with H4 COS + H4 EAD pending with USCIS, but re-entered US on H4, will my EAD application be approved ?
Also, let’s say you file for H4 COS + H4 EAD together, but you exited before the approval from USCIS and re-entered US on H4. In such cases, even you are on H4 status after you entered US, USCIS will deny your H4 EAD application that was filed before as it was filed by you with a different I-94 and in different status ( see below screenshot). You need to re-file form I-765 for your H4 EAD with USCIS. Also, you should withdraw your previously filed H4 EAD application with USCIS, if that is pending when you file your New H4 EAD application
USCIS Recommendation when you Travel out of US with H4 Extension or COS pending with them
If you travel out of US with your H4 Extension/ COS, which is filed using Form I-539, pending with USCIS, they recommend that you keep a copy the extension or COS application and the copy of receipt notice to be showed to the immigration inspector, when you go arrive in US and go through Port of Entry Procedures to ensure that you did not overstay. Also, I suggest you check, and print copy of the I-94 online , US Travel History during your exit and have it handy a additional proof. Below is screenshot from USCIS website on the same.
What is the general guidance for filing H4 or H4 EAD with Travel plans ?
- Planned Travel : If you know ahead of time that you plan to travel outside of US within a short period of time, then do not file any H4 Extension/ COS application with US, including H4 EAD application. Just get done with your travel, re-enter US and then file for H4 COS along with H4 EAD.
- Unknown Emergency Travel : If you have an emergency and have to leave US with H4 COS or Extension and H4 EAD Pending, don’t worry too much about all of these, just leave, get your H4 Stamping done, if needed and then re-enter on H4, file a new H4 EAD application ias needed.
- Planned Non-Emergency Travel : If you have planned travel and have filed H4 COS/ Extension + H4 EAD together, if you can delay your planned travel, wait for the H4 COS / Extension to be approved and then you may travel with H4 EAD Pending. In such cases, make sure you have someone to receive your H4 EAD related mail from USCIS for you to know if there is any RFE or NOID and you need to respond to the same.
- Emergency Travel with H4 EAD pending : If you on H4 in US and filed for H4 EAD only, and have to leave US on emergency, then make arrangements so that someone can collect mails from USCIS, so that you do not miss out any RFE or NOID kind of letters from USCIS. Once you receive any such RFE, make sure you come back to US and take care of them and send relevant information to US on-time. If you do not respond on time, then they will consider your application as abandoned and deny the same.
Yes, if you are eligible for general Visa Dropbox requirements, then you can go for H4 stamping using Dropbox. Having pending H4 extension does not matter. All you need is H1B approval for it.
Did you travel with H4 or H4 EAD Pending ? Share your thoughts
Reference : USCIS H4 EAD FAQs