You might have heard that someone in the United States on a nonimmigrant or immigrant visa must leave the country when they want to change their status. Actually, this is not true in many cases. In fact, leaving the country could force you to start over on your adjustment of status application.
When you must let USCIS know about your travel plans
Specifically, if you are applying for permanent resident status (known as a “green card”) and wish to leave the U.S. for vacation, to visit family in your country of origin or any other reason, you need to let the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services know first. USCIS generally requires you to fill out a form applying for an advance parole document. Without that document, leaving the U.S. while your green card application is pending means you have abandoned your efforts as far as USCIS is concerned. When you get back, you would have to start the process over from the beginning. You should wait until you receive the advance parole document before taking a trip abroad.
Ask before you go
Even if you are not seeking an adjustment to permanent resident status, leaving the country is not necessary in most cases. If you are unsure, you should consult your immigration attorney. They can give more specific advice if you need permission to leave the U.S. or if it would affect your adjustment of status application.
Adjusting your visa or obtaining a green card can take time and require some temporary inconveniences, such as needing permission to travel abroad. But the benefits of changing your status to what you need to continue living in this country usually is worth the effort.