The Immigration Visa Process: What’s Involved?

If your loved ones who live abroad are seeking to land on U.S. soil, there are a few processes you and they will need to know, and follow.

In order to be considered a Lawful Permanent Resident, or LPR, they’ll first need to obtain an Immigration Visa, or an IV. Basically, this is a document that gives them permission to reside in the U.S. There’s a step-by-step process which must be followed through the proper U.S. channels in order for this to take place.

Is the Immigration Visa Process a Lengthy Process?

Keep in mind that persons who live in other countries and seek to live in the U.S. will find that the time frame to obtain the Visa fluctuates. There are many categories, and each one has different procedures and different time frames. Too, cases are usually examined individually, and dealt with as such.

My Family’s Case is Complicated. Before I Even Start the Process, I Know I Need Guidance. Is There Help?

For complicated cases, an immigration attorney might prove helpful. Too, if you Google “free immigration help”, you’ll pull up several resources. A few organizations are set up to point enquirers in the direction of useful workshops and classes, as well. Two such links are:

Steps – The “Green Card” Immigration Process

Let’s examine the basics of what is required for a non-resident to gain resident status. We’ll also explain why you need to follow the steps described.

1. First, the would-be LPR needs to prepare a Petition. This will be filed on their behalf with the Department of Homeland Security U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Why is this first stage crucial? The governing body will determine whether or not your petitioner qualifies as a potential legal immigrant to the U.S.

2. Has your family member been told that they qualify as a Diversity Visa (DV) applicant? This category of applicants are entered into a lottery, in which a person who is granted permanent resident status is issued a green card – which is not the same thing as a Visa (see below). If a person is entering the DV lottery, there is no need to file a petition.

3. A green card has no expiry date and allows someone to enter the U.S. and remain in the country for as long as they would like to. A Visa has a date of expiration, after which they either must leave or attempt to renew their temporary Visa. It is considered more of a visitor’s pass. Usually, a temporary Visa must be renewed 30 days before it expires. However—most important — if you obtain an Immigrant Visa, you are well on your way to obtaining a green card. It is the first step to doing so. Green cards may be obtained directly via a sponsorship (usually a promise of employment of some sort), or via the petition of a relative who is a U.S. citizen or legal resident.

4. The Diversity Visa program is opened by the U.S. government once every (fiscal) year—and it usually takes place during the month of October. It is a chance for 55,000 applicants (out of the roughly 1.3 million persons who seek to enter into the U.S.) to be selected as those awarded Visa’s. Note: The Department of Homeland Security tries to balance the numbers of would-be immigrants who seek to enter the U.S. For instance, in recent years, many Chinese mainlanders sought to enter into the DV, but were denied because the government had already allowed around 50,000 Chinese mainlanders to land on U.S. soil during previous and recent years.

5. There will be an Immigration Visa Interview. Once your relative’s petition has been approved, they need to get their papers in order and to have them ready to present at the time of their interview. The case will be sent to the State department, and they will be assigned an ID. At that time, they will also be advised as to how to prepare for the interview. If they have not received instructions, keep in mind that sometimes immigrants have other restrictions applied to them. There are cases, for instance, of annual numerical limits which might prolong an application.

6. If the case is assigned to the numerical limit category, the loved one may have a wait of from two to twelve years, depending on the situation. Your attorney will be able to provide more information. The petitioner will be given a priority number by the State Department, and they will be updated regularly via a Visa Bulletin, in most cases.

7. During the official interview, if the petitioner has not brought all of the required documents, they will be given a form to fill out to bring back for a second interview. It is the purpose of the first interview to affirm that the petitioner indeed has the legal basis for an IV, and to ascertain that there are no reasons for a legal ineligibility (such as criminal convictions; a medical indelibility, etc.) At the end of the interview, the petitioner will learn if they have qualified for an IV. If all goes well, their Passport will be secured, and a Visa will be inserted. At some point, the authorities will inform them as to when they must pick up a sealed packet to take with them to the U.S. Important: the packet must remain sealed. This qualifies the holder as an LPR for lawful entry into the U.S.

The Statue of Liberty still beckons to those from other countries. If your family member wants to join the legions of people who yearn to make America their home, now you can guide them to follow the legal process, step by step.

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