Frequently Asked Questions
- What is a visa?
- What is the difference between an immigrant visa and Permanent Residence Card (green card)?
- What rights does a Permanent Residence Card (green card) grant?
- When does a green card expire?
- Can I apply for a Permanent Residence Card (green card) in the United States while having a nonimmigrant Visa?
- How I can become a lawful permanent resident or obtain a green card?
- What documents are required for the immigrant visa interview?
- What is the waiting period for an immigrant visa after the National Visa Center or the Foreign Service post has receivef the approved petition?
- What is the priority date?
- How I can get access to the Visa Bulletin?
- I have been waiting a long time for my family to obtain an immigrant visa. A family emergency has arisen and I need my relative to immigrate to the U.S. soon. Can NVC help?
- For how long is an immigrant visa valid? What happens if I delay my arrival in the U.S.?
- How can I become a citizen of the United States?
- Why should seek the help of an immigration lawyer?
What is a visa?
The visa is an identification document issued outside the United States which allows holders to enter the country permanently or temporarily. There are two main types of visas: the Immigrant Visa (Permanent Residence), which allows the visa holder to live and work indefinitely within the United States or any of its territories. The other type of visa is a nonimmigrant visa, which allows visa holders to live and/or work within the United States or any of its territories on a temporary basis.
What is the difference between an immigrant visa and Permanent Residence Card (green card)?
An immigrant visa allows you to live and work permanently in the United States. A nonimmigrant visa is issued to those with permanent residence outside the United States who want to reside in the United States on a temporary basis, either for tourism, medical treatment, business, temporary work, or to study.
What rights does a Permanent Residence Card (green card) grant?
A Permanent Residence Card ("Form I-151" or "Form I-551") grants cardholders the right to live and work legally in the United States. It also grants these individuals the right to travel freely abroad while retaining permanent residency in the United States. Individuals who have been issued a Permanent Residence card must retain a clean criminal record, and they are obliged to report all earnings to the United States government.
When does a green card expire?
A Permanent Residence Card (green card) expires ten years after it was issued, at which time it must be renewed. Cardholders whose green card is nearing expiration can also choose to apply for U.S. citizenship.
Can I apply for a Permanent Residence Card (green card) in the United States while having a nonimmigrant Visa?
Nonimmigrant visas are issued only for those persons who have no intention of remaining in the country any longer than their visa been approved for. If you apply for a Permanent Residence Card (green card) while having a nonimmigrant visa issued to you, your visa may be suspended, unless you can clearly demonstrate that you initially had no intentions of staying. An exception to this rule is if you hold a job via a nonimmigrant visa and your employer moves forward to request a Permanent Residence Card (green card) on your behalf.
How can I become a lawful permanent resident or obtain a green card?
To become a legal permanent resident or have a green card issued to you, you will want to proceed as an immigrant applicant for the United States.
What documents are required for the immigrant visa interview?
The basic documents required for the immigrant visa include:
- A passport, and three photographs as per the U.S. visa guidelines.
- Birth certificate and police certificate from county of origin/residence.
- Marriage, divorce, and death certificates.
- Proof of financial support.
- Medical exam.
What is the waiting period for an immigrant visa after the National Visa Center or the Foreign Service post has received the approved petition?
At this point, there are several factors which can determine how long the process will take for an individual. The quotas for immigrant visas are available for immediate relatives of U.S. citizens. However, preference visas are limited and the paperwork does not start until the date of priority that was defined on the petition. Note that there may be long waiting periods for visas due to factors such as preference categories, as there are more applications than are allotted for on an annual basis.
What is the priority date?
The priority date refers to the date when the USCIS receives the petition for the alien relative on behalf of a citizen or resident. In the case of a request sponsored by an employer, the priority date is the date on which the employer submitted the request.
The Visa Bulletin State Department published a monthly update that details changes in the availability of priority dates (see the following question for more information). Visa Services also has a 24-hour recording that offers the current monthly priority dates.
How I can get access to the Visa Bulletin?
You can access the newsletter online, by email, or by phone, fax, or mail. You can contact the department in charge of the Visa Bulletin by email, but the newsletter itself is not distributed through email.
For an automated recording that details monthly priority dates, you can call the following number: (202) 663-1541. The recording is updated on a monthly basis and details the upcoming month's priority date deadlines.
I have been waiting a long time for my family to obtain an immigrant visa. A family emergency has arisen and I need my relative to immigrate to the U.S. soon. Can the National Visa Center help?
Unfortunately, if the priority date of your relative is not current, the National Visa Center (NVC) can not do anything to expedite the process. The immigrant visa process is governed strictly by law, which defines the categories for visa priority dates and availability of visa numbers. The immigrant visa numbers are available only in order of priority dates. There is no provision in the law that would allow the NVC to waive these requirements in individual cases.
For how long is an immigrant visa valid? What happens if I delay my arrival to the United States?
The consulate can issue an immigrant visa that is valid for up to six months. If you need to be in the United States for longer than six months, you should contact the consulate of the United States and arranging an interview as close as possible to your date of departure. If an immigrant visa has been issued and there are circumstances that force you to delay you arrival, you should contact the U.S. consulate and apply for an extension of the validity of the visa. If the visa is expired, a new visa can be issued after you have paid the respective application and shipping fees.
How I can become a citizen of the United States?
A person can become U.S. citizens by birth or by naturalization. Naturalization is how immigrants become U.S. citizens. You must be an immigrant who has continuously resided in the United States for several years before applying for naturalization. If you were born in the United States (including in most cases, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Virgin Islands of the United States), you are a U.S. citizen by birth (unless you were born to a foreign diplomat). Your birth certificate is proof of citizenship. If you were born outside the United States and either parent is a U.S. citizen, you can quality for citizen based on birth.
Why should seek the help of an immigration lawyer?
Immigration law can be complex for those unfamiliar with the arena, and it can be difficult to know what type of visa and which procedures/guidelines you need to pursue, depending on your individual case. The immigration lawyers Gomez & Uzcategui can help you save time and money as they guide you to the proper processes and guidelines. Remember that an incomplete application will result in the rejection of the request, and the documents will be sent back to you.