Travelling while waiting on an immigrant visa

Wednesday, December 04, 2013    

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Q: My aunt is filing immigrant visa paperwork so that my mother (her sister) can move to the United States. My grandfather, who lives in Canada, is currently very sick, and my mother wants to visit him. Can my mother travel to Canada to spend time with my grandfather while she is still on the waiting list for the immigrant visa?

A: Yes, your mother is allowed to travel abroad while she is awaiting her US immigrant visa. Due to high demand for immigrant visas and limits on the number of immigrant visas that may be issued each year, most immigrant visa applications take months or even years to be processed.

Your mother should keep the following information in mind, however, if she chooses to travel. If your mother spends one year or longer in Canada caring for her father, she will have to obtain a Canadian police certificate to submit as part of her US immigrant visa application. Additionally, when your mother's immigrant petition becomes "current" — which means it is ready for processing — she must take action at the US Embassy in Kingston within one year in order to keep the application from expiring. Your mother can learn more about when her visa might be ready for processing at the US Embassy Kingston by monitoring the Visa Bulletin information available through the Travel.State.Gov website.

If your mother wishes to transit through the United States on her way to Canada, she must schedule an appointment to apply for a US nonimmigrant visa. There is no guarantee that this visa will be issued, as each nonimmigrant visa applicant must demonstrate that he or she plans to use the visa lawfully. It can be challenging — but not impossible — for individuals with pending immigrant visa applications to show a consular officer that he or she does not plan to use the non-immigrant visa to "skip the line" and migrate quickly to the United States.

For more information on both immigrant and non-immigrant visas, please visit our website at

The Embassy staff in Kingston will answer questions you may have regarding the US Mission, including consular law, regulations and/or practice. In order to respect privacy, staff will not answer questions about specific visa applications. The embassy employs a visa appointment system, so it is only necessary for visa applicants to arrive 15 minutes before their scheduled appointment.

Send your questions to: and we will send them to the embassy.





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