Timothy, a client whom I had helped get his wife's fiance visa, and also prepared her Adjustment of Status petition, called to advise that his wife had returned to the Philippines and to ask "how that would affect her Green card application?"
There had been a family emergency, her 12 year old daughter had narrowly escaped a kidnap attempt. Mom was on the plane the following day. Unfortunately, in all the excitement, they acted first, and only called me for advice a week after her departure.
Leaving the USA while the Green Card is pending, without permission from USCIS, called "Advance Parole", may result in her application for permanent residency being considered "abandoned" and automatically denied.
For Mom to return to the USA, might require, the couple to repeat the whole immigration process again, this time applying for a spouse visa (as they are now married).
After the fiance visa, after the wedding, there is another immigration step to go through. This is applying for Permanent Residency to the USA, called Adjustment of Status. It means the foreign born spouse is now applying to "adjust" her status as ak1 fiance visa traveler, from that of a temporary visitor allowed to stay for only a short 90 days, to a lawful resident of the United States, allowed to remain indefinitely. The result at the end of the process is to receive a drivers licence sized card, called the "Green Card" which identifies the holder as a permanent resident.
Once permanent residency is granted, the "Green Card" holder can live in the USA, work, and freely enter and exit America's borders.
While the Green Card is pending, and it may take a very long time, the applicant may not work, nor cross the US borders, UNLESS has been approved to work or travel. The way to obtain such approval is to make two separate additional applications, for Employment Authorization, to be allowed to work, and for Advance Parole to be allowed to enter/exit.
When I help a couple put together their Adjustment of Status petition, I offer to also prepare for them at the same time. and free of charge, the applications for work and/or advance parole.
Typically, in about 2 months, both Advance Parole and Employment Authorization are granted.
But not all couples need this. The foreign spouse may not have any plans to work, nor travel within the time expected for the Green Card to be issued.
That was Timothy's case. Newly wed and newly arrived to the USA his spouse had no intention to leave so soon. So when the call about her daughter came in, her Green Card was in process, but not yet granted, and she did not have Advance Parole.
They should have called me.
While it normally takes a few months to obtain Advance Parole, USCIS is well aware that Emergencies happen. Death, illness, even an unimaginable kidnapping attempt could take place. What I would have advised the couple, was that they should immediately visit their nearest USCIS office, explain the emergency and apply, right there in the offices, for Advance Parole. With a fortunate combination of proof of the emergency, and a sympathetic officer, the Advance Parole could have been issued within hours, while they waited.
The way I (the VisaCoach) craft all petitions, fiancee, spouse and adjustment of status is to anticipate what questions the reviewing officer would have, and then front load evidences and proofs that answer the potential questions, into the presentations we submit.
In the case of fiancee and spouse visas, where interviews are mandatory, this generally results in short and sweet, 3 to 5 minute interviews ending in approval. In the case of Adjustment of Status, interviews are not always mandatory. Most couples are required to attend an interview, but USCIS has the option to waive the interview, if in the opinion of the USCIS reviewers, the evidences presented are so complete, that an interview is unnecessary. The beauty of my front loaded presentations, is that most of my clients, enjoy having their adjustment of status interview waived. Their Green card is often approved at long distance, then comes in the mail with no interview held.
I hope that this is the case for Timothy, that his interview is waived. If my front loaded presentation wins the day, on its own, as it has for so many couples, then the Green Card will arrive in the mail. He can send it to his wife in the Philippines. Once she has it in hand, she can return to the USA without fuss.
If an interview is required, (even perfect cases can be randomly selected) then they will have to reapply all over again, this time to submit a spouse visa, and be separated for the long year that that might take.
Applying for Advance Parole, even if you have no immediate plans to travel, is a good idea. Advance Parole can be issued quickly in case of Emergency Call VisaCoach with Immigration concerns before taking action
By Fred Wahl