Foreignborn.com - US Visas & Immigration
US Immigration and US Visa Help for Foreign-Born for More Than a Decade
Search
Ask a Visa & Immigration Lawyer
US Visa and Immigration Lawyer
Online Now
 letters left
Answers to US visa and immigration questions
A Service of  A Service of The National Association of Foreign-Born     The National Association of Foreign-Born
Related Articles
Share This Article:
Click for Overview | See Related Articles box for more topics »

Green Card Immigration Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Green Cards

Green Card Immigration Immigrant Visa

International Money Transfer - International Money Order
THIS ARTICLE

These questions refer to Green Card immigrant visas (and foreign births). For US Visas (nonimmigrant visas), see US Visa FAQs.

  1. What is the difference between an immigrant and a nonimmigrant visa (between a Green Card and a US Visa)?

  2. How do I get US immigration forms?

  3. In the U.S., whom can I call for information on Green Card (immigrant visa) cases and what can they do about specific immigration cases?

  4. What about Green Card denials (immigrant visa denials)?

  5. I'm traveling to another country. Where do I get my visa?

  6. I need to find a foreign embassy or consulate in the U.S. Where can I find the number?

  7. How can I enter the Green Card Lottery?

  8. How can I become a legal permanent resident or Green Card holder?

  9. How do I become a U.S. citizen?

  10. What is the process for obtaining a Green Card (immigrant visa)?

  11. What documents are required for the immigrant visa interview?

  12. What is the waiting time for an immigrant visa after the National Visa Center or the Foreign Service post receives the approved petition?

  13. What is a priority date?

  14. How can I get the Visa Bulletin?

  15. When I filed a petition for my relative I was a Green Card holder (legal permanent resident). I recently became a U.S. citizen. How can I upgrade the petition?

  16. I moved. How do I give the National Visa Center my new address?

  17. I have been waiting for a very long time for my relative to get an immigrant visa. Now there is a family emergency and I need my relative to immigrate soon to the U.S. Can the National Visa Center help me?

  18. Can a U.S. citizen or Green Card holder (legal permanent resident) file a petition at any Foreign Service post for the immigration of a relative?

  19. What Foreign Service post handles approved immigrant visa petitions for persons who last resided in a country where there is no American consular representation?

  20. How do I obtain a police certificate?

  21. What fees are involved in obtaining an immigrant visa?

  22. How long is an immigrant visa valid before I travel to the US? What if I must delay my arrival in the U.S.?

  23. I lost my Green card. What should I do?

  24. If I become a dual citizen will it affect my U.S. citizenship?

  25. Do I Need a Work Permit to Work in the U.S.?

  26. How Long Can I Remain Outside the U.S. without Losing My Green Card (Immigrant Status)?

  27. What should I do if my baby is born abroad?

  28. What documentation is required of a child born outside the U.S. to Green Card holding parents (legal permanent residents)?

  29. Green Card holding parents (legal permanent residents) 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?

  30. I was born abroad to U.S. parent(s). How do I get proof of my birth and citizenship?

  31. What if my U.S. parent(s) did not register my foreign birth at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate?

  32. What is necessary for me to enter the U.S. to marry a U.S. citizen?

  33. Will My fiancee visa automatically change to a Green Card (permanent resident card)?

 



1. What is the difference between an immigrant and a nonimmigrant visa (between a Green Card and a US Visa)?
An immigrant visa (Green Card) grants the privilege of living and working permanently in the United States. A nonimmigrant visa (US Visa) is 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. For more information, see US Visas (Nonimmigrant Visas), Green Card Issues (US Immigrant Visas, US Immigration), or US Visa FAQs (Nonimmigrant Visas).


2. How do I get US immigration forms?
Most US immigration forms are available online at USCIS Forms / INS Forms and Other US Immigration Forms, Fees & Filing Locations. If you have questions about a Packet 3 or Packet 4, you need to call the National Visa Center at 603-334-0700.


3. In the U.S., whom can I call for information on Green Card (immigrant visa) cases and what can they do about specific immigration cases?
You may check the status of your application or case online, by phone, or by contacting an appropriate USCIS office. For details see USCIS Case Status: Check USCIS Case Status for Visas and Immigration. You may also want to review US Visa Wait Times and USCIS Immigration Processing Times.


4. What about Green Card denials (immigrant visa denials)?
If the visa petition you filed is denied, the denial letter will tell you how to appeal. For more information, see How to Appeal if USCIS Denied My Petition or Application (US Immigration, Green Card Denial).


5. I'm traveling to another country. Where do I get my visa?
From the embassy or consulate of the country you are planning to visit. See Foreign Embassies & Consulates in the USA


6. I need to find a foreign embassy or consulate in the U.S. Where can I find the numbers?"
See Foreign Embassies & Consulates in the USA


7. How can I enter the Green Card Lottery?

See Green Card Lottery - Diversity Visa Lottery Program


8. How can I become a legal permanent resident or Green Card holder?
To become a legal permanent resident and obtain a Green Card, you must first be admitted as an immigrant. The most common methods for obtaining an immigrant visa are: 1) through family relationship with a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident, or 2) through employment. For more details, see Obtaining a Green Card: The US Immigration Process and Green Cards.


9. How do I become a U.S. citizen?
A person may become a U.S. citizen (1) by birth or (2) through naturalization. Naturalization is the way immigrants become citizens of the United States. In most cases, you must be a Green Card holder (immigrant, permanent resident) with continuous residence in the U.S. for a number of years before you may apply for naturalization. For more information, see Naturalization or Obtaining a Green Card: The US Immigration Process. If you were born in the United States (including, in most cases, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands), you are a U.S. citizen at birth (unless you were born to a foreign diplomat). Your birth certificate is proof of your citizenship. If you were born abroad to a U.S. citizen parent, you may also be a citizen at birth. For more details, see: Birth Abroad: Child Born Abroad to a US Citizen or Permanent Resident.


10. What is the process for obtaining a Green Card (immigrant visa)?
See Obtaining a Green Card: The US Immigration Process.


11. What documents are required for the immigrant visa interview?
Basic requirements include: a passport, three photographs, birth and police certificates, marriage, divorce, or death certificates, proof of financial support, and medical examination. You may also bring supporting information. For details on your specific situation, see your nearest U.S. Consulate or Embassy.


12. What is the waiting time for an immigrant visa after the National Visa Center or the Foreign Service post receives the approved petition?
Several factors influence how long the process may take. Immigrant visa numbers are made immediately available for immediate relatives of U.S. citizens, so processing will begin upon receipt. However, preference visas (see The Preference System: US Immigration Visa Preference Categories for Green Card) are limited in number, and processing will not begin until the priority date on the petition is available. Long waits may occur for preference visas because each year more people apply for them than can be satisfied under the annual limit. Certain categories, such as the family fourth preference, are heavily oversubscribed. For more information, see Immigrant Visa Numbers: National Visa Center and the US Visa Bulletin.


13. What is a priority date?
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. The State Department Visa Bulletin is a monthly publication that gives the changes in availability of priority dates. (See question below for more information.) Visa Services also has a twenty-four hour recording that gives the monthly priority dates. Dial (202) 663-1541.


14. How can I get the Visa Bulletin?
Access the Visa Bulletin online, by email, by telephone, by fax, or by mail:

Online: http://travel.state.gov/visa/bulletin/bulletin_1360.html

Email: VISABULLET@SA1WPOA.US-STATE.GOV (you may contact the Bulletin by email, but it is not distributed by email)

Telephone: (202) 663-1541, for a 24-hour recording that gives the monthly priority dates that are currently being processed. The recording is updated in the middle of each month with information on cut-off dates for the following month.

Fax: From your fax, dial (202) 647-3000. Follow the prompts and enter code 1038 to have the Visa Bulletin faxed to you.

Mail: To be placed on the Visa Bulletin mailing list (or to change an address), write to:

Visa Bulletin
Visa Office
Department of State
Washington, D.C. 20522-0106

Only addresses within the U.S. postal system may be placed on the mailing list. When reporting changes or corrections of address, include a recent mailing label. The Postal Service does NOT automatically notify the Visa Office of address changes. (Obtaining the Visa Bulletin by mail is a much slower option than any of the alternatives mentioned above.)


15. When I filed a petition for my relative I was a Green Card holder (legal permanent resident). I recently became a U.S. citizen. How can I upgrade the petition?
Make a copy of your Naturalization Certificate. Send the copy - NOT the original - to the National Visa Center, 32 Rochester Avenue, Portsmouth NH 03801-2909, with a letter containing the beneficiary name and case number of the petition you want to upgrade. The National Visa Center will send the beneficiary any additional immigration forms and information that may be required.


16. I moved. How do I give the National Visa Center my new address?
Write to The National Visa Center, 32 Rochester Avenue, Portsmouth NH 03801-2909, or fax your new address to 603-334-0759. Be sure to include your case number or your USCIS receipt number.


17. I have been waiting for a very long time for my relative to get an immigrant visa. Now there is a family emergency and I need my relative to immigrate soon to the U.S. Can the National Visa Center help me?
Unfortunately, if your relative's case is not current, there is nothing that the National Visa Center can do to expedite visa processing. Immigrant visa processing is governed strictly by law, which controls visa categories, priority dates and the availability of visa numbers. Immigrant visa numbers are made available only in the order of priority dates. There is no provision within the law that would allow the National Visa Center to waive these requirements in any individual case.


18. Can a U.S. citizen or Green Card holder (legal permanent resident) file a petition at any Foreign Service post for the immigration of a relative?
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 USCIS office; if the petitioner resides abroad, the petitioner must file at the U.S. embassy or consulate that has jurisdiction.


19. What Foreign Service post handles approved immigrant visa petitions for persons who last resided in a country where there is no American consular representation?
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. You may contact the National Visa Center by writing to: The National Visa Center; 32 Rochester Avenue; Portsmouth, New Hampshire 03801-2909. For additional assistance, contact the State Department's Visa Office at 202-663-1225.


20. How do I obtain a police certificate?
Each country has its own requirements for obtaining police certificates or clearances. Specific information is available from the U.S. consulate processing your case.


21. What fees are involved in obtaining a Green Card (immigrant visa)?
Costs vary from country to country and case to case. There are fees for individual petitions, the immigrant visa application, medical exam, and fingerprinting. Other costs may include translation and photocopying charges, fees for getting the documents you need for the immigrant visa application (such as passport, police certificates, birth certificates, etc.) and travel expenses to go to the US embassy or consulate for the interview. You will be informed of the government 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.


22. How long is an immigrant visa valid before I travel to the US? What if I must delay my arrival in the U.S.?
The consul may issue an immigrant visa with a maximum validity of six months. If you must delay travel to the U.S. beyond six months, you should contact the U.S. consulate and arrange to have the interview scheduled closer to your possible departure. If an immigrant visa has already been issued and circumstances force you to remain abroad longer, you should contact the U.S. consulate and request an extension of your immigrant visa's validity. If the validity of your immigrant visa expires, a new one may be issued upon payment of the application and issuance fees.


23. I lost my Green Card. What should I do?
If you are inside the U.S., file USCIS Form I-90 with your local USCIS office. Detailed instructions are on the form. If you are outside the U.S., contact your nearest U.S. Consulate, USCIS office, or port of entry.


24. If I become a dual citizen will it affect my U.S.citizenship?
A person who is automatically granted another citizenship does not risk losing U.S. citizenship. However, a person who acquires a foreign citizenship by applying for it may lose U.S. citizenship. In order to lose U.S. citizenship, the law requires that the person must apply for the foreign citizenship voluntarily, by free choice, and with the intention to give up U.S. citizenship. The U.S. Government does not encourage dual nationality because of the problems it may cause. Claims of other countries upon dual-national U.S. citizens can place them in situations where their obligations to one country are in conflict with the laws of the other. In addition, their dual nationality may hamper U.S. efforts to provide protection to its citizens when they are abroad, especially in the country of their other nationality. For more information, see Dual Citizenship - Dual Nationality. For advice on your specific situation, call the Office of Overseas Citizens Services at 202-647-5226.


25. Do I Need a Work Permit to Work in the U.S.?
U.S. employers must check to make sure all employees, regardless of citizenship or national origin, are allowed to work in the United States. If you are not a citizen or Green Card holder (lawful permanent resident, immigrant), you may need to apply for a work permit, formally called an "Employment Authorization Document" (EAD), to prove you may work in the United States. For more information, see Obtain a US Work Permit (Employment Authorization Document).


26. How Long Can I Remain Outside the U.S. without Losing My Green Card (Immigrant Status)?
If you are a Green Card holder (lawful permanent resident or conditional permanent resident) and will be outside of the U.S. for more than a year, you will need to make special preparations for your re-entry, before you leave the U.S. See Green Card & Travel Outside the US: Documents and Issues for US Reentry. If you have applied to adjust to permanent resident status, you should be careful of any trip outside the U.S. - see Advance Parole: Foreign Travel with a Pending Green Card Immigration Application.


27. What should I do if my baby is born abroad?

A baby born abroad to U.S. citizen parent(s) should be reported as soon as possible to the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. For details, see Birth Abroad: Child Born Abroad to a US Citizen or Permanent Resident.


28. What documentation is required of a child born outside the U.S. to Green Card holding parents (legal permanent residents)?
A child born abroad to Green Card holding parents (legal permanent residents) 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. For more information, see Birth Abroad: Child Born Abroad to a US Citizen or Permanent Resident.


29. Green Card holding parents (legal permanent residents) 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?
The child must have an immigrant visa to enter the U.S. See Green Card to Bring Child or Children to USA for Immigration on Immigrant Visa


30. I was born abroad to U.S. parent(s).  How do I get proof of my birth and citizenship?
If you were born in a foreign country to a U.S. citizen parent or parents, and your parent registered your birth at a U.S. embassy or consulate, you should request a copy of the Consular Report of Birth. See Birth Abroad: Child Born Abroad to a US Citizen or Permanent Resident for instructions and mailing information.


31. What if my U.S. parent(s) did not register my foreign birth at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate?
If you were born in a foreign country to a U.S. citizen parent or parents and your parent did not register your birth in the form of a Consular Report of Birth FS-240, you may apply to a U.S. passport agency for a U.S. passport (proof of citizenship), or, alternatively, to USCIS for a Certificate of Citizenship to document your U.S. citizenship. See Birth Abroad: Child Born Abroad to a US Citizen or Permanent Resident for more details.


32. What is necessary for me to enter the U.S. to marry a U.S. citizen?
The U.S. citizen must file a fiancee petition, USCIS Form I-129F, with the local U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The USCIS will forward the approved petition to a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad. The post will then contact you with information and eventually schedule an interview for a fiancee visa. You have 90 days from entry into the U.S. in which to marry the U.S. citizen, and you must leave within this time if you do not apply to become a permanent resident. See Fiance Visa - US Fiancee Visa USA (K-1 Visa) for important details.


33. Will my fiancee visa automatically change to a Green Card (permanent resident card)?
No. After the marriage takes place, your U.S. citizen husband or wife must contact U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to change your status to legal permanent resident. This information is given to you when you enter the U.S. For more information, see Fiance Visa - US Fiancee Visa USA (K-1 Visa).

Back to: Green Card Issues (US Immigrant Visas, US Immigration)

Guides from Our Sponsors
Mortgage GuidesLearn to Study Guide
Health Insurance Plans
Your use of this website indicates your agreement to be bound by our Terms of Use. The information provided in this site is not legal advice, is intended to provide basic understanding in summary form, may not be comprehensive, is subject to change, and may not apply to you. Your individual circumstances should be confirmed with the appropriate government agencies or an attorney.
A Service of  A Service of The National Association of Foreign-Born
The National Association of Foreign-Born