1. Can I get a U.S. Visa in the United States?
Answer: No. U.S. Visas are only issued and stamped with a Visa Stamp at a U. S. Embassy or Consulate in your home country.
2. Once I have a U.S. Visa, how long can I stay in the United States?
Answer: The allowed length of stay in the United States varies with the purpose of your visit. For example, students who qualify and are issued F-1 Visas by the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in their home country may stay in the U.S. for one year or for the entire time he/she is enrolled as a full-time student. Visitor Visas may be issued in accord with U.S. laws, for maximum periods of up to five (5) or ten (10 years.
3. Does a U.S. Visa determine how long a person can legally stay in the U.S.?
Answer: No. The length of a Non-Immigrant’s right to legally stay in this country is determined by the expiration date on the I-94, a card given to a Non-Immigrant when he/she enters the U.S. The date on the I-94 is your “Departure Date”. That is, the last date you can legally remain in this country. With an appropriate and timely application, your stay in the U.S. can be extended. It important to remember that it is the I-94, not your Visa that determines how long you can lawfully stay in the U.S.
4. Can I switch from one Non-Immigrant status to another Non-Immigrant status without leaving the U.S.?
Answer: Yes. By filing the appropriate application in a timely manner, it is possible to have your Non-Immigrant status changed from one category to another.
Green Cards and Family Visas
1. What are the Visa categories for Lawful Permanent Residents and U.S. citizens, Native Born and/or Naturalized?
- Immediate Relatives Category
- Family Based Preference Category
- Employment Based Category
- Diversity Visa Category (“Green Card Lottery”)
- Refugees and Asylees Category
- Temporary Protected Status
- Special Immigrant Category
2. How many Immigrant Visas are issued each year?
- Immediate Family Category – Unlimited Number. No Annual Limit or Quota .
- Family Based Preference – Usually oversubscribed. Approximately 480,000 Visas are issued annually based on the applicant’s Priority Date (as set by the U.S. Department of State and published in the monthly Visa Bulletin).
- Employment Based Category – Approximately 140,000 Visas are issued annually based on the five (5) Preference Categories (EB-1, EB-2, EB-3, EB-4 and EB-5). VISAS are issued in accord with the applicant’s Priority Date (as set by the U.S. Department of State and published in the monthly Visa Bulletin).
- Diversity Visa Category (“Green Card Lottery”) – Approximately 50,000 Visas issued annually to regions of the world based on the number of people in each country in that region who immigrated to the U.S. in the past five (5) years. Diversity Lottery “Winners” must be admissible to the U.S.
- Refugees and Asyless
- For Refugees, the U.S. President sets a quota each year. There is no guarantee on the number of Refugees actually admitted.
- For Asylees, there is no annual number.
- Temporary Protected Status (“TPS”) – This category is always temporary. It does not automatically lead to a Green Card. A person granted TPS must apply for Adjustment of Status to qualify for a Green Card. The U.S. Congress decides to which citizens from a country get TPS based on conditions in that person’s home country.
- Special Immigrant Status – Limited to approximately 4,000 Visas annually. Special circumstances include “Cancellation of Removal” by an Immigration Judge.
3. What happens when my Green Card expires?
Answer: Your status as a Lawful Permanent Resident does not expire. But, your Green Card that indicates you have that status expires very ten (10) years. If you Green Card expires or gets lost, you must file a Form I-190 at your local U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services office. It can also be filed on-line at www.uscis.gov/i-90. You should renew your Green Card within six (6) months of its expiration date.
1. Is there a minimum age a person needs to be before applying for Naturalization?
Answer: Yes. You must be at least eighteen (18) years old.
2. Is a person before outside the United States to parents, at least one of whom was a U.S. Citizen, considered a citizen of the United States?
Answer: Depending on when you were born, a 1994 Act of Congress set the terms under which your birth automatically made you a U.S. citizen. Generally speaking, if at least one of your parents was a U.S. citizen and resided in the U.S. for a specific number of years after the age of fourteen (14) or sixteen (16), you automatically acquired U.S. citizenship at your birth without any other conditions required for keeping that citizenship.
3. How does a child born and raised outside the United States to U.S. citizen parents, or whose grand-parents were American citizens, but who is never informed his/her parents or grand-parents were American citizens acquire U.S. citizenship?
Answer: Under a 1978 Act of Congress, once that person realizes the circumstances of his/her birth, he/her need only to contact the U.S. Consulate, if living abroad, or the local office of United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”), if living in the U.S., and arrange to take the Oath of Allegiance to the United States. Nothing more is required.
4. How does a child of Naturalized parents gain U.S. citizenship?
Answer: Under a process termed “Derivation of Citizenship”, a child automatically becomes a United States citizen if (1) at least one of the parents is an American by birth or through Naturalization; (2) the child is under the age of eighteen (18) years when the parent(s) Naturalized; (3) the child is a Lawful Permanent Resident (holds a “Green Card”); (4) is living in the United States as a LPR; and (5) is in the legal and physical custody of his/her parent.
5. What is the difference between a “Certificate of Citizenship” and a “Certificate of Consular Registration of Birth”?
Answer: Certificates of Citizenship are issued, after application and appropriate investigation by USCIS, to anyone who makes a claim of U.S. citizenship. USCIS only issues Certificates to applicants inside the United States. Certificates of Consular Registration of Birth are issued to American parents overseas who register the child’s birth with the U.S. Consulate where they are, establish a right to U.S. citizenship and create an official birth record.
NOTE: A Certificate of Citizenship can also be issued to a child at the time his/her parent Naturalizes. The parent only needs to make a request. The Certificate of Citizenship for the child can be issued at the same time the parent gets his/her Naturalization Certificate. Also, Certificates of Citizenship take longer to be issued than U.S. Passports; so, if the Certificate is not requested along with the parent’s Naturalization Certificate, getting a Passport may be faster.