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Immigrant Visas

Immigrant Visas FAQs

What is an immigrant visa?

An immigrant visa (“green card” or IV) is issued by a U.S. State Department consular officer at a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad to allow the bearer to seek entry to the U.S. for indefinite period.  It is valid for six months for a single entry.  An immigration inspector of U.S. Customs and Border Protection of the Department of Homeland Security makes the entry decision.  Once you are admitted with an IV in hand, you will receive an alien registration card (“green card” or I-551) to allow you to live, work, study or retire in the U.S. for as long as you choose.  U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services of the Department of Homeland Security will mail your I-551 to your new address in the U.S. about 3 months after your entry.

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What is the difference between an IV and a nonimmigrant visa (NIV)?

Entering the U.S. with an IV allows the bearer complete freedom of choice as what the bearer may do in the U.S. and for how long.  An NIV is for a specific purpose and time limit in the U.S., such as a short term visit, study or temporary work with a specific employer.  Please see our nonimmigrant visa page for more information.

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How do I get an immigrant visa?

All immigrants must FIRST be petitioned by a U.S. citizen relative, permanent resident (LPR) or employer.  Please see http://www.uscis.gov/portal/site/uscis for more information.  Form I-130 is used to petition immediate family members and siblings.  If the American petitioner resides long term in a foreign country he or she may file an I-130 at the U.S. embassy in that country.  Otherwise all petitions must be filed initially by mail with USCIS, status may be checked at the USCIS Case Status webpage.  If you plan to move to the U.S. in the future you should file an I-130 now, as it does not expire and will start you to the IV, which is the second step to immigrating, see http://travel.state.gov/visa/immigrants/immigrants_1340.html.

Please see these Instructions for the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program (visa lottery).

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My immigrant petition was approved by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) was approved.  Now what?

Once USCIS approves any immigrant petition, USCIS sends it to the Department of State’s National Visa Center (NVC), Portsmouth NH for initial IV processing.  Immigrant petitions may remain at NVC for several months or for many years, depending on the IV category and country of birth of the visa applicant.  When a beneficiary’s priority (filing) date is about to become current (ready, in turn), NVC contacts the petitioner, and if a relative, bills the petitioner for processing an Affidavit of Support (I-864) and sends the beneficiary a Choice of Address and Agent (DS-3032).  It is up to the petitioner and beneficiary to reply promptly to any NVC mailing, return any needed forms and pay any fees.  If any addresses have changed since the I-130 was first filed, notify NVC of the new address.  If the petitioner or beneficiary do not receive any NVC mailings or do not take timely action there will be no IV and the immigrant petition may be terminated.

NVC next sends the Instruction Package for Immigrant Visa Applicants to whoever is listed on the beneficiary’s DS-3032.  You or your listed agent must follow these instructions exactly.  Failure to do so will delay your IV and could even cause your immigrant petition to be terminated.  Once NVC processing is complete, NVC will send your file to U.S. Embassy Jakarta for your IV interview and NVC will notify you by mail.  You may contact NVC at 1-603-334-0700 24 hours a day, live operators are available from 730 am to 12 midnight or by email to NVCINQUIRY@state.gov.  Contact NVC only after you have visited its website at http://travel.state.gov/visa/immigrants/types/types_1309.html.

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What is a priority date and why does it matter?

The priority date is the date your immigrant petition was filed (not the date it was approved).  IVs consist of immediate relative (IR/CR), family preference (F) and employment (E) cases.  An IR/CR I-130 is filed by a U.S. citizen on behalf of a spouse, parent or child.  An F I-130 is filed by a U.S. citizen on behalf of an adult child or sibling; or by a LPR on behalf of a spouse or child.  An employer files an I-140.  See more details at http://travel.state.gov/visa/immigrants/immigrants_1340.html.

Because U.S. immigration law does not limit the number of IR/CRs their priority date is irrelevant.  The priority date in an F or E IV matters greatly.  US. Immigration law limits the number of F and E IVs, and these categories are generally “oversubscribed” (i.e., there are more people who want F and E IVs than available).  Your priority date, along with your visa category and nationality, determines how long you must wait before you can apply for an F or E IV after your immigrant petition is approved.  Once your priority date is earlier than the cut-off date listed in the most recent Visa Bulletin your IV can go forward, i.e., your case is “current”.  We cannot predict when a case will become current.  You can monitor the movement of the cut-off dates in the Visa Bulletin, or by calling (202) 663-1541 anytime.

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I received notification from NVC that my approved immigrant petition has been sent to Jakarta.  I have never had an interview with a consular officer.  How long will I have to wait?

As soon as we have received the approved petition, we will contact you for further processing.  We can schedule your IV interview after you tell us that you have gathered the necessary documents.  It is your responsibility the necessary documents and inform us.

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I received an Appointment Package for Immigrant Visa Applicants from U.S. Embassy Jakarta.  What do I do now?

Now begin gathering the listed documents necessary for your interview.  Please follow the instructions exactly. Failure to do so will delay your IV and could even cause your immigrant petition to be terminated.  Make no non-refundable travel plans before you have an IV in hand.  Inform us only after you have gathered the necessary documents.

How long should I expect to be at the Consular Section on the day of my IV interview?

It usually takes 2-3 hours, although the actual interview is short.  We try to interview the elderly and infirm and others with special needs quickly.  Please do not bring anyone who is not an IV applicant, e.g. if you have American children leave them at home with a babysitter.

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How long should I expect to be at the Consular Section on the day of my IV interview?

It usually takes 2-3 hours, although the actual interview is short.  We try to interview the elderly and infirm and others with special needs quickly.  Please do not bring anyone who is not an IV applicant, e.g. if you have American children leave them at home with a babysitter.

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What is the principal beneficiary of a petition and what is a derivative beneficiary?

In an F IV case, the principal beneficiary is the person on whose behalf the petition was filed, that is, the person listed on the right side of the front of Form I-130.  A derivative beneficiary is the spouse or child of the principal beneficiary.  An F IV case may have many derivative beneficiaries in addition to the principal beneficiary.  All of the beneficiaries (principal and derivatives) share the same immigrant petition and the same case number.  There are no derivative beneficiaries in IR/CR cases, which means that each I-130 applies to one beneficiary only and each IR/CR IV applicant must have his or her own I-130 and individual case number.

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Should I get a lawyer to help me?

The decision whether or not to hire a lawyer is yours alone.  We cannot tell you whether or not to obtain representation, nor can we recommend any specific lawyers.  If you do hire an attorney or other representative, that person may accompany you to your visa interview but may not/not answer questions on your behalf.  You, the applicant, must answer the consular officer’s questions.  If your case is complicated, or if you cannot devote the necessary care to properly prepare, then we encourage you to find a lawyer qualified in immigration law by visiting http://www.aila.org.

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I received a CR-1/2 immigrant visa. What does that mean?

You are a conditional immigrant, having entered the U.S. based on a marriage that is less than two years old.  Under the Marriage Fraud Act of 1986 the beneficiary and petitioner must file a Petition to Remove the Conditions on Residence (I-751) with USCIS within the 90-day period immediately preceding the expiry of your I-551.  If the I-751 is not properly filed, your conditional resident status will be terminated and you will be subject to deportation from the U.S.

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What does the Child Citizenship Act do?

The Child Citizenship Act of 2000 (CCA) confers automatic U.S. citizenship on certain natural and adopted, but not step-, children born abroad upon their admission to the U.S. with an IV.  Please see 9 FAM 40.41 N3.4-1 and http://www.uscis.gov/portal/site/uscis for more information concerning the CCA.

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The person who filed the immigrant petition on my behalf is not working. Does he or she still need to submit an Affidavit of Support?

Yes, all immigrants must show that they will not be a public charge in the U.S.  Although a petitioner need not have income or assets, if you are subject to the I-864 requirement, the petitioner must submit an I-864 along with other sponsors.  Please see 9 FAM 40.41 and http://travel.state.gov/visa/immigrants/info/info_3730.html for more information concerning the I-864.

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I married to a U.S. citizen in the U.S. and am waiting for my adjustment of status.  My child, who is my spouse's stepchild, is in Indonesia and is about to have an IV interview.  Must I become a legal permanent resident before my child can be issued an IV?

No, however, we must be convinced that your marriage is lawful and bona fide, and not solely to gain immigration benefits.  The most direct way for us to know that your marriage is bona fide is for USCIS to grant you LPR status.  If you are not yet an LPR we may require evidence (e.g., joint rental agreements, bank statements, phone bills, photographs, etc.) of a bona fide marriage.  You and your spouse may also be invited here for an interview.

Please see 9 FAM 40.1 N2.2  for more information concerning the legal definition of stepchild.

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What if I get married after I receive my IV but before I am admitted to the U.S.?

If your IV is reserved for an unmarried person and you marry before entering the U.S. you will be subject to exclusion.

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What happens if the petitioner dies before the principal beneficiary has immigrated to the United States?

If the petitioner dies before the principal beneficiary has immigrated to the United States, the petition is automatically revoked pursuant to 8 CFR 205.1(a)(3).  This means that the consular officer will not be able to issue a visa to any of the beneficiaries of the petition and will be required to return the petition to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

If there are compelling humanitarian circumstances, the consular officer may recommend that DHS reinstate the petition. Alternatively, the applicant may contact directly the DHS office that approved the petition to request that it be reinstated for humanitarian reasons. If DHS reinstates the petition, the consular officer will contact the applicant(s) soon thereafter.

Please see 9 FAM 42.42 PN2 for more information on humanitarian reinstatement.

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What happens if the petitioner dies after the principal beneficiary has immigrated to the U.S.?

Eligibility of derivative beneficiary seeking to follow to join a principal beneficiary who has already acquired LPR is dependent on the continuing status of the principal, not on the status of the petitioner.  Therefore, if the petitioner dies after the principal beneficiary has already become an LPR the derivatives retain eligibility to follow to join despite the death of the petitioner.  Please see 8 CFR 213a.2(f) for information concerning the Form I-864 requirement in such circumstances.

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What about military service once I arrive in the United States?

Males 18 to 26 years old in the U.S. must register with the U.S. Selective Service System.  If you are required to register, do so promptly.  You cannot register after you reach age 26.  Registration is for conscription into military service in an emergency mobilization of the armed forces.  There is no conscription at this time.  You may register online or at a U.S. Post Office.  During your IV interview you must sign Notice of Duty to Register with U.S. Selective Service System (DS-1810).

LPRs, male or female, may enlist in the U.S. armed forces, for more information please see:

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My visa was refused. Why did this happen and what do I do now?

U.S. consular officers are only allowed to issue IVs to applicants who qualify under the law.  An IV applicant may be found ineligible for a variety of reasons.  For example, if you lived in the U.S. without permission, or if you appear to be a likely public charge.  Please see 9 FAM 40.6 Exhibit I for an abridged list of ineligibilities (i.e., reasons your visa may be refused).  Remember that the burden of proof is on the applicant to qualify for any visa.

Some IV ineligibilities may be overcome with additional evidence, e.g. public charge, others require a waiver from the Department of Homeland Security, e.g. unlawful presence, and some ineligibilities are absolutely permanent, e.g. controlled substance trafficker.  Only on the day of your interview can we make this determination.

If the consular officer approves your IV, you will be told to return to receive after three work days.  If you are ineligible, the consular officer will give you a letter stating the law under which you are ineligible.  This letter will also inform you on what, if anything, you can do next.  It is very important that you follow these instructions exactly.  If you don’t your case will be delayed your case may be terminated.

Despite what some people might tell you, luck has nothing to do with your IV application.  We base our decisions solely on U.S. law, regulations and Department of State policy.  If you come to your interview fully prepared and informed, and follow our directions completely, you are more likely to be eligible.

A word of caution, the I-130 warns that the “Department of Homeland Security investigates claimed relationships and verifies the validity of documents.  The Department of Homeland Security seeks criminal prosecutions when family relationships are falsified to obtain visas.  Penalties:  You may, by law be imprisoned for not more than five years, or fined $250,000, or both, for entering into a marriage contract for the purpose of evading any provision of the immigration laws and you may be fined up to $10,000 or imprisoned up to five years or both, for knowingly and willfully falsifying or concealing a material fact or using any false document in submitting this petition.”

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I received an e-mail saying I won the Diversity Lottery. Is it real?

The U.S. Government does not advise Diversity Visa lottery applicants of their success by mail or e-mail.  In the past applicants were advised by letter.  Starting on May 1, 2011 through June 30, 2012, all applicants may check the status of their entry through the Entry Status Check at www.dvlottery.state.govEntry Status Check will be the ONLY means by which lottery applicants will be notified of their selection for DV-2012.  Additionally, Entry Status Check will describe how the successful applicant can proceed with the application visa application.  There is no true mail or email notification to Diversity Visa applicants.  Emails without .gov are scams.  The correct procedures are explained in the DV Lottery 2012 Instructions "Selection of Applicants."

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