It’s traditional for newlyweds to travel on a honeymoon after their wedding. As a K-1 fiancé visa holder, you are still subject to the travel restrictions of the K-1.
Your K-1 is only valid for one entry to the United States. If you leave the U.S. on your K-1 visa, you will not be able to reenter.
United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) views your departure from the United States as an abandonment of your K-1 status.
This means you forfeit your legal status, any applications in process, and any fees paid to the USCIS.
Can we Travel to Puerto Rico for our Honeymoon?
The question of whether a K-1 visa holder can travel to Puerto Rico or any other non-contiguous state or territory such as Alaska or the Virgin Islands is a little bit complicated.
Put simply, the K-1 visa allows for a single entry into the United States for the sole purpose of going to your wedding.
As such, you cannot re-enter the country on this visa a second time should you leave at any point after your first entry.
The core issue at work here, then, is whether or not your method of travel qualifies as a direct domestic flight or if it stops at any non-U.S. locations along the way.
For example, if you fly on a direct flight from a U.S. airport to Puerto Rico you shouldn’t experience any issues returning at the end of your honeymoon since you never technically left the U.S.
However, if you were to go on a cruise to Puerto Rico for your honeymoon, and that cruise stopped in the Dominican Republic along the way, there is a risk that a border control agent may deny your re-entry upon your return to the United States since you would have technically left the country.
To avoid the risk of losing your K-1 status, and your ability to receive Permanent Residency, it’s best to avoid traveling anywhere outside of the 48 contiguous United States at any point before you receive your green card in the mail.
This includes states such as Hawaii and Alaska, as well as all U.S.-held territories.
More importantly, if you choose to honeymoon outside of the 48 contiguous states you must speak with an immigration lawyer about your plans to help ensure your ability to re-enter the country upon your return.
When is it Okay to Travel Abroad?
After the initial 90 day period allowed by the K-1 visa, you are required to file for an official Green Card. To do so, you must file forms I-485 and I-864 (among others) and participate in a naturalization interview.
Leaving the country during this time may result in you forfeiting your entire application process.
Since the money is non-refundable, this would essentially leave you out several thousand dollars and barred from reentering the country. In order to reenter, you would need to start the entire immigration process again.
There is a single situation in which you may leave during this period and not be penalized. You must apply for, and receive, a status called “Advance Parole.”
Normally, the only way to qualify for Advance Parole is if you need to leave the U.S. for “urgent humanitarian reasons” (such as the death or serious illness of a family member), or for the furtherance of a “significant public benefit” (business reasons or certain emergency situations).
Further, once you apply for and receive your Green Card, you are able to travel outside of the U.S. without Advance Parole. Green Card holders do not have any of these travel restrictions.
Once you receive your Green Card you may travel outside the U.S. as a normal resident. However, if your trip will last more than one calendar year, the USCIS may ask for additional paperwork.
Advance Parole allows you to leave and reenter the United States one additional time on your K-1 visa. This is because Advance Parole grants you a single re-entry permit.
You must apply for Advance Parole by filing the form I-131 with the USCIS.
The current fee for K-1 visa holders who have applied for an adjustment of status is $575. However, there are some ways to avoid paying this fee, such as if you already paid the I-485 application fee.
The processing time is around three months. As mentioned above, Advance Parole is usually only available for things like the death or serious illness of a family member.
You may try to get Advance Parole in order to travel abroad for your honeymoon, but there is no guarantee it will be granted. These days, we recommend that you remain in the U.S. until you have your Green Card if at all possible.
Border patrol is more strict than in the past and we advise you to avoid taking any unnecessary risks.
If you decide that you have to leave the contiguous United States for your honeymoon while your Green Card application is pending, we definitely recommend that you speak to an immigration attorney first.
What if We Leave the United States Without Getting Advance Parole?
As a general rule, if you leave the U.S. while your application for adjustment of status is pending, USCIS considers your application abandoned. You will not be able to reenter the U.S.
Further, you will lose any of the fees you’ve already paid to the USCIS.
Example: Horacio and his alien fiancé Abril win a contest for a honeymoon cruise to the Bahamas. The free cruise is only available for one week, and it is before Abril is eligible for adjustment of status or Advance Parole. They decide to go on the cruise and leave the United States without getting Advanced Parole for Abril beforehand. Upon return to the United States, Abril is not admitted to reenter.
There is an exception to this rule, but it would not apply to honeymooners. If you have a K-1 visa and are forced to leave the country for circumstances outside your control, you can file for a new visa. An example of such a situation would be a sudden death in your family back home.
K-1 visas allow for a single entry into the United States for the sole purpose of getting married. If you leave the U.S. before you have your Green Card a border agent can deny you entry back in. During the K-1 process, it’s best to avoid leaving the U.S. until you actually have your Green Card.
If you have any questions about the K-1 process, or decide that you need to leave the U.S. and have a K-1 Visa, contact an experienced immigration attorney immediately. Failing to do so can set your naturalization process back months, if not stop it entirely.