Frequently Asked Questions: Department of State
- Who can I call for information on visa cases and what can they do about specific visa cases?
- When should I call the Immigration and Naturalization Service?
- What is an advisory opinion?
- What is the difference between an immigrant and a nonimmigrant visa?
- How can an alien become a legal permanent resident or green card holder?
- What is the difference between an immediate relative petition and a preference petition?
- What is the process for obtaining an immigrant visa?
- What documents are required for the immigrant visa interview?
- What foreign service post handles approved immigrant visa petitions for persons who last resided in a country where there is no American consular representation?
- What is the waiting time for an immigrant visa after the National Visa Center or the foreign service post receives the approved petition?
- What is a priority date?
- How does an applicant obtain police certificates?
- What fees are involved in obtaining an immigrant visa?
- How long is an immigrant visa valid? What if the applicant must delay arrival in the U.S.?
- What documentation is required of a child born outside the U.S. of legal permanent residents?
- The legal permanent resident parents left the child abroad with family members and returned to the U.S. They now wish to bring the child to the U.S. What must they do?
- Can a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident file a petition at any foreign service post for the immigration of a relative?
- What must be done to invite someone for a visit to the United States?
- What does an applicant need for a visitor visa?
- How does an alien obtain a student visa?
- How does an alien in the U.S. change visa status?
- How does an alien extend the period of time allowed to remain in the U.S.?
- Can the holder of an expired nonimmigrant visa, such as an "I" journalist visa, in the U.S. be issued another nonimmigrant visa before leaving the U.S. for a temporary absence?
- What is necessary for an alien to enter the U.S. to marry a U.S. citizen?
- Does the fiance(e) visa automatically change to an alien registration card (green card)?
- How can an applicant learn why he/she was denied a visa at a post overseas?
- What can an applicant do if he/she has been denied? Can he/she appeal?
You can call the Visa Services' Public Inquiries Branch at 202-663-1225. This number has recorded information with an option to speak with during most business hours. If you wish to inquire about an immigrant visa petition that has already been approved by the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), you may wish to contact the National Visa Center (NVC) at 603-334-0700.
Once an individual is in the United States, they come under the jurisdiction of the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), U.S. Department of Justice.
It is an opinion rendered by Visa Services when a post has a question about the interpretation of immigration law and needs the State Department to make a determination on a point of that law.
An immigrant visa is the visa issued to persons wishing to live permanently in the United States. A nonimmigrant visa is the visa issued to persons with permanent residence outside the U.S. but who wish to be in the U.S. on a temporary basis, for example, tourism, medical treatment, business, temporary work, or study.
To become a legal permanent resident, an alien must first be admitted as an immigrant. There are two basic methods for obtaining an immigrant visa: 1) through family relationship with a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident, or 2) through employment.
An immediate relative petition can be filed by a U.S. citizen on behalf of a spouse, parent, or child. A preference petition is filed by a U.S. citizen on behalf of a son or daughter, by a legal permanent resident on behalf of a spouse, son or daughter, or child, or by an employer on behalf of an employee.
An alien must be sponsored by a relative or employer who files the appropriate petition with the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). INS approves the petition, it is forwarded to the National Visa Center in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. The National Visa Center then informs the beneficiary that an approved petition has been received and provides instructions on next steps. As soon as a visa number is available on a preference petition or as soon as INS approves an immediate relative petition, the National Visa Center sends the beneficiary instructions on the next steps to take.
Requirements may differ slightly from post to post, but the basic requirements include: a passport, three photographs, birth and police certificates, marriage, divorce, or death certificates, proof of financial support, and medical examination. More detailed information would have to come from the National Visa Center or the processing post.
Persons from countries that do not have an American embassy or consulate are considered "homeless" because they cannot return to their home country to be interviewed for the immigrant visa. When the National Visa Center receives an immigrant visa approved petition on a "homeless" case, it assigns the case to an embassy or consulate that has been determined is capable of handling the additional workload. The petitioner or beneficiary will be informed by the National Visa Center of the post that was chosen.
Several factors influence how long the process may take. Immediate relative visas are not numerically limited by statute so, workload permitting, the post may begin processing the approved petition upon receipt. Preference visas are numerically limited; therefore, the post must wait until the priority date on the petition is available before starting to process the case. The major reason for lengthy waits, i.e. priority dates that are months or several years earlier than your inquiry, is the fact that each year many more people apply for immigrant visas than can be satisfied under the annual numerical limit set by law for preference cases. Certain categories, such as the family fourth preference, are heavily oversubscribed.
The priority date, in the case of a relative immigrant visa petition, is the date the petition was filed. In the case of an employer-sponsored petition, the priority date is the date the labor certification was filed with the Department of Labor.
Each country has its own requirements for obtaining police certificates or clearances. Specific information is available from the U.S. consulate processing the case.
The cost of an immigrant visa is $260 (U.S.) for application and $65 (U.S.) for issuance per person, regardless of age. There may also be fees to obtain required documents, for certifying or notarizing documents, and for the medical examination. The cost of the immigrant visa itself remains constant, but other fees vary from post to post. The applicant will be informed of fees by the processing post. The fees are payable in U.S. and equivalent local currency. Cash is acceptable at all posts; other methods of payment must be determined by the processing post.
The consul may issue an immigrant visa with a maximum validity of six months. If an applicant must delay travel to the U.S. beyond six months, he/she should contact the U.S. consulate and arrange to have the interview scheduled closer to his/her possible departure. If an immigrant visa has already been issued and circumstances force the alien to remain abroad longer, the applicant should contact the U.S. consulate and request an extension of the immigrant visa's validity. If the validity of an immigrant visa expires, a new one may be issued upon payment of the statutory application and issuance fees (U.S. $325).
A child born abroad of legal permanent resident parents may enter the U.S. without a visa provided the child is accompanied by a parent upon that parent's initial return to the U.S. within two years of the child's birth with documentation showing the parent-child relationship.
The child must have an immigrant visa to enter the U.S. The legal permanent resident parent(s) must file a preference petition with the Immigration and Naturalization Service.
Authority to accept a petition rests solely with the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). INS has determined that petitions must be filed in the petitioner's place of residence. Therefore, if the petitioner resides in the U S., the petitioner must file at his/ her local INS office; if the petitioner resides abroad, the petitioner must file at the U.S. embassy or consulate that has jurisdiction.
A guest of a U.S. host can be helped by sending him/her a letter of invitation. The letter should include the invitee's name, reason for visit, period of stay in the U.S., and method of payment of expenses. If the guest is paying his/her own expenses, he/she must be prepared to show the consular officer that sufficient funds are available for the trip. If the American host is paying the expenses, an affidavit of support may be included.
An applicant must have a passport, valid for six months beyond duration of the proposed visit, one passport-size photograph, and proof of social, economic, professional or other compelling ties to a residence outside the United States to which he/she will be expected to return after the visit.
The requirements are generally the same as for a visitor visa. However, in addition to the passport, photo, and proof of ties abroad, the applicant must also have an I-20 form issued by the school he/she wishes too attend. The I-20 form is proof that the applicant has been accepted for a program of study at an accredited institution.
Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) authorizes changes of status when an alien is in the U.S. The local INS office should be contacted.
He/she should apply at the local Immigration and Naturalization Service office.
In certain circumstances, yes. Visa Services does reissue A, E, G, H, L, and I visas, so long as there is the same type visa stamp already in the passport, and the date of expiration is not more than one year earlier.
The U.S. citizen must file a fiance(e) petition, Form I-129F, with the local Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). The INS will forward the approved petition to a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad. The post will then contact the alien with information and eventually schedule an interview for a fiance(e) visa. The alien has 90 days from entry into the U.S. in which to marry the U.S. citizen.
No. After the marriage takes place, the U.S. citizen must contact Immigration and Naturalization Service to change the alien spouse's status to legal permanent resident. This information is given to the alien fiance(e) upon his/her entry to the U.S.
An applicant is always told the reason for denial, orally or in writing. If an applicant does not understand the reason for denial, or wishes to offer further evidence to overcome the denial, he/she should contact the post where the application was made to determine that post's reapplication policy.
You should know that all denials are reviewed by a senior consular officer. There is no "appeal" process per se on visa denials, but an applicant can reapply for a nonimmigrant visa if he/she can present new evidence to overcome the previous grounds for refusal. Some high-volume posts require that a significant period of time (six months to one year) elapse before reapplication with new qualifying evidence.
Q: I have a question that has not been answered here. What should I do?
A: Our office will be happy to respond to your questions/concerns.
Please give us a call at 248-865-3331, or submit the form on the right menu for more information. Or, you can email our head attorney, Joseph Kallabat here.