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I-751 horrible experience while (attempting) to travel abroad

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I use this site often, and it's been very useful for tips and pointers as my marriage-based green card processes.

After carefully checking the entry requirements on the embassy website, I decided to take a trip to Costa Rica. I'm an Indian citizen, and according to the CR embassy website, as long as I am a permanent resident, I can enter without a visa. My GC expired in June, but I have a letter from May with my 1-year extension.

Well, apparently this letter is nothing to Costa Rica. The immigration officer looked me square in the eye when he said, "This might be valid in the U.S., but not here. You'll need to head back, now." He gets me back (apparently I needed a cop to escort me) back to the same flight I just got there from. There I was, tail between my legs, ordered to go home with my piece of paper that meant nothing. The trip back was another story, because I had to head back to Panama, which was my layover. At Panama, one agent said my docs looked great, while the other said that she didn't have te authorization to let me leave because my GC is expired and the letter was just that -- a letter and nothing else. 10 unnecessary hours spent wandering aimlessly in Panama Internatinal Airport, 2 plane changes and 1 lost baggage later, here I am.

This is real-time--I literally just got back to the U.S. I'm upset, frustrated, and fuming. I just want everyone here to know when traveling with this letter, you can never be too sure. In hindsight I wonder if the stamp would've helped, but the CR website clearly states that it doesn't accept permanent resident stamps, nothing about not accepting the letter, though. Upon re-entry, the U.S. Graciously accepted the letter and allowed me back in. Abroad, you never know. Always double and triple check, and if you can get a visa to avoid the hassle, do so.

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Yep..Costa Rica doesn't play games. When my husband got his visa and was flying for the first time , he didn't have any issues in the US. The issue was in Costa Rica before he got on the plane. They pulled him in a room and verified EVERYTHING. it was 4am over there and they were making phone calls to the US to make sure his visa was valid. So much hoopla in Costa Rica and then it only took 10 minutes when he got to the US. I didn't even have to park..he was waiting on the curb when I got to the airport.


Married March 9, 2013
NOA1 I-130 April 12, 2013

Transferred to TSC Nov 27, 2013
APPROVED March 18, 2014 FINALLY ! ! ! !! 11 MONTHS & 6 LONG DAYS FOR MY NOA2
Case shipped from TSC to NVC March 21, 2014
Rec'd NOA2 hard copy March 22, 2014
Case rec'd & Case Number assigned April 1, 2014
AMAZING !!!
PAID IV and AOS fees online April 5, 2014
Fees show paid/DS 260 avail. /DS260 submitted/AOS&IV pkg sent April 9, 2014
FEDEX delivered @ NVC April 11, 2014
Revised AOS pkg delivered April 15, 2014
AOS & IV rec'd& scanned in @ NVC April 15, 2014
Revised AOS scanned April 18, 2014
AOS checklist for income and IV pkg April 30, 2014 (checklist expected due to Lawyers mistakes)
DS260 accepted April 30, 2014
Checklist for Birth cert/police cert May 1, 2014
AOS accepted May 5, 2014

Birth cert scanned MAY 8, 2014

CASE COMPLETE JUNE 4, 2014 CC letter received via email June 11, 2014

INTERVIEW JULY 15, 2014

Waiver finally FedEx'd to Phoenix Lockbox August 21, 2014

WAIVER APPROVED December 17, 2014

Received Instruction Letter via email December 23, 2014

Final Embassy Appointment January 5, 2015 YAY !

Visa ISSUED January 12, 2015

event.png

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If they required a valid GC then I would have assumed that was what I would need to have.


“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”

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That letter is to return to the States, it means nothing to other countries.

There are many posts on here that state international travel is allowed with the combination of the card and the letter. Even the U.S. Immigration officer couldn't believe that they didn't accept it.

If they required a valid GC then I would have assumed that was what I would need to have.

But the card and letter make for a valid GC. I am still a permanent resident, although conditional, because of the letter.

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Sorry for your troubles, but thanks for posting the story.


*** Thread moved from Removing Conditions forum to the Working & Traveling forum -- topic involves travel. ***


06-04-2007 = TSC stamps postal return-receipt for I-129f.

06-11-2007 = NOA1 date (unknown to me).

07-20-2007 = Phoned Immigration Officer; got WAC#; where's NOA1?

09-25-2007 = Touch (first-ever).

09-28-2007 = NOA1, 23 days after their 45-day promise to send it (grrrr).

10-20 & 11-14-2007 = Phoned ImmOffs; "still pending."

12-11-2007 = 180 days; file is "between workstations, may be early Jan."; touches 12/11 & 12/12.

12-18-2007 = Call; file is with Division 9 ofcr. (bckgrnd check); e-prompt to shake it; touch.

12-19-2007 = NOA2 by e-mail & web, dated 12-18-07 (187 days; 201 per VJ); in mail 12/24/07.

01-09-2008 = File from USCIS to NVC, 1-4-08; NVC creates file, 1/15/08; to consulate 1/16/08.

01-23-2008 = Consulate gets file; outdated Packet 4 mailed to fiancee 1/27/08; rec'd 3/3/08.

04-29-2008 = Fiancee's 4-min. consular interview, 8:30 a.m.; much evidence brought but not allowed to be presented (consul: "More proof! Second interview! Bring your fiance!").

05-05-2008 = Infuriating $12 call to non-English-speaking consulate appointment-setter.

05-06-2008 = Better $12 call to English-speaker; "joint" interview date 6/30/08 (my selection).

06-30-2008 = Stokes Interrogations w/Ecuadorian (not USC); "wait 2 weeks; we'll mail her."

07-2008 = Daily calls to DOS: "currently processing"; 8/05 = Phoned consulate, got Section Chief; wrote him.

08-07-08 = E-mail from consulate, promising to issue visa "as soon as we get her passport" (on 8/12, per DHL).

08-27-08 = Phoned consulate (they "couldn't find" our file); visa DHL'd 8/28; in hand 9/1; through POE on 10/9 with NO hassles(!).

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There are many posts on here that state international travel is allowed with the combination of the card and the letter. Even the U.S. Immigration officer couldn't believe that they didn't accept it.

But the card and letter make for a valid GC. I am still a permanent resident, although conditional, because of the letter.

And that's why you were able to return to the US.

(Piece of paper valid in the US for a particular purpose may not mean the same in another country; does not replace a passport and physical GC requirement at many airports)


USCIS

January 16, 2015 I-130 Mailed, Chi lockbox January 20, 2015 Priority Date, January 21, 2015 NOA1 notice date, Assigned VSC, January 23, 2015 Check Cashed, electronically March 5, 2015 NOA2

NVC

March 27, 2015 NVC received April 6, 2015 Case#, IIN# assigned April 8, 2015 Paid AOS + IV fee Invoices May 5, 2015 AOS + IV package submitted May 11, 2015 Scan Date

June 11, 2015 DS-260 submitted June 25, 2015 False checklist (for ds260).. hello? June 30, 2015 Answered checklist Aug 5, 2015 Escalated to Supervisor review Aug 13, 2015 Case Complete

Consular

Sept 10, 2015 Interview Scheduled Sept 11, 2015 P4 Letter received Sept 21, 2015 file In transit from NVC Sept 23, 2015 file at Embassy

Sept 28, 2015 Medical Oct 14, 2015 Biometrics Oct 15, 2015 Interview (Approved) Oct 19, 2015 IV visa Issued Oct 23, 2015 Passport Pickup

POE

Nov 2, 2015 Entered the US Nov 16, 2015 Applied for SSN, walk-in Nov 20, 2015 Social Security Card recd Jan 15, 2016 GC received

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That's crazy! Especially with the 8 months processing time in Vermont Service Center to remove condition. Did you have to pay for your return ticket? So sorry to hear about that experience. Thanks for sharing, because Costa Rica was one of our chosen vacation destinations, and we are also currently in the process of removing condition.

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No one who came from this website believed my experienced too I had that same exact happened. 1 year extension letter isn't green card. I had to get transportation letter from embassy so I could come back to u.s. and u.s. officer told me why did u need this letter? Your 1 year extension letter could let u get in to the u.s. and I said yeah... I believed that too but they never let me get into the airplane because my gc was expired. Even tho I hav 1 yr extension letTer.

Don't travel while your gc is pending case. No one cant guarantee your visa issue.


U.S.ARMY Swear in 03/20/2015

We are dual military couple.


Removing conditions on Residency


I-751 Filed 06/09/2014

NOA 1 NEVER RECEIVED (EDIT - MY HUSBAND PUT THAT LETTER IN THE CAR...GRRRR I JUST NOTICED THAT AFTER I RECEIVED MY GREENCARD)

Biometrics 07/14/2014

(Case transfer from VSC to CSC Oct/29/2014)

RFE Received 12/18/2014

2nd Bio 01/23/2015

3rd Bio 02/03/2015 + Infopass for I-551 stamp

RFE Responded 02/04/2015 (Mailed RFE Jan 30)

Approved!!!!! 02/10/2015

Card Mailed 02/17/2015 Card was picked up by the usps 02/18/2015

Card in hand 02/21/2015 !!!!!



Adjust to permanent resident status

Filed 05/03/2012

NOA 1 05/07/2012(notice date)

Biometrics 06/08/2012

(Case transfer from VSC to CSC June/01/2012)

Approved 09/05/2012

(welcome notice with card)


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From personal experience, I know Costa Rica is difficult. As a US Citizen, it was easy for me to travel to CR but I was also hoping to have my wife join me while I worked there for 1 month last year. This was immediately after our marriage in Colombia and as we were applying for our US marriage visa (I-130). We planned in advance and applied for a visa for her to travel to Costa Rica, but we were denied. We talked to numerous agents and supervisors, appealed the decision, and were still denied. Luckily we made no travel arrangements so at least we dodged that expense and embarassment.

As you learned, it's important to not make any assumptions. Make sure you have all required documents, in hand, especially in a country like Costa Rica which goes strictly by the book and the wording of their immigration/visa laws.


Marriage: 2014-02-23
CR1 started : 2014-06-06
CR1 completed : 2015-07-13 (POE)
ROC started : 2017-04-14 - CSC

N400 started: 2018-04-24

N400 interview: 2018-08-16 - Albuquerque - Approved N400 & ROC

Oath ceremony: 2018-09-24 - Albuquerque

 

April 2017 I-751 Filers Spreadsheet

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1t335PrkwxPk7sRryv02NH3vrWHy0vlkBxjmPy5VYJO8/edit#gid=0

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That's crazy! Especially with the 8 months processing time in Vermont Service Center to remove condition. Did you have to pay for your return ticket?

That was the only thing, I only lost about $200 total because of transportation and some hotel policies. The airline didn't charge me anything, as I had booked using my miles--which I plan to get back because they shouldn't have let me board in the first place. The amount of embarrassment, frustration and shame involved in the whole ordeal made me feel like a lost a lot more though!

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From personal experience, I know Costa Rica is difficult. As a US Citizen, it was easy for me to travel to CR but I was also hoping to have my wife join me while I worked there for 1 month last year. This was immediately after our marriage in Colombia and as we were applying for our US marriage visa (I-130). We planned in advance and applied for a visa for her to travel to Costa Rica, but we were denied. We talked to numerous agents and supervisors, appealed the decision, and were still denied. Luckily we made no travel arrangements so at least we dodged that expense and embarassment.

As you learned, it's important to not make any assumptions.

Thanks for sharing. I think the more we let the community know about the difficulty of traveling to certain countries, the more likely we can save someone else from the same experience.

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No one who came from this website believed my experienced too I had that same exact happened. 1 year extension letter isn't green card. I had to get transportation letter from embassy so I could come back to u.s. and u.s. officer told me why did u need this letter? Your 1 year extension letter could let u get in to the u.s. and I said yeah... I believed that too but they never let me get into the airplane because my gc was expired. Even tho I hav 1 yr extension letTer.

Don't travel while your gc is pending case. No one cant guarantee your visa issue.

I'm glad they turned you away and I hope you didn't lose too much from it! I wish the airline would've turned me away. It would've been a lot less lost in time and energy.

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