Immigration & Naturalization Law

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Immigration Visa and Non-Immigration Visa FAQs

Below you will find the answers to the most frequently asked questions about immigrant visas for the United States. Learn more details about U.S. immigration laws and how to find legal help during the process.

  • What is an immigrant visa?
  • What is the difference between an immigrant visa and a nonimmigrant visa?
  • What documents do I need to apply for an immigrant visa?
  • What is a green card?
  • What do I need to enter the United States and be able to marry a United States citizen?
  • How long can I be outside the United States without losing my permanent residence?
  • Why is my country not eligible to participate in the diversity lottery?
  • When do I need to hire an immigration attorney?
  • Do I need a lawyer to get a visa?

What Is an Immigrant Visa?

An immigrant visa is a permit to enter the United States for an indefinite period.

People who want to move to the United States permanently seek this type of visa. An immigrant visa can be granted for family ties, permanent job offers, business investments, diversity programs, or asylum seekers.

What Is the Difference Between an Immigrant Visa and a Nonimmigrant Visa?

People who receive an immigrant visa are authorized by the U.S. government to stay in the U.S. as long as they want. This applies in situations like:

  • Family reunification
  • Investors
  • Permanent jobs
  • Diversity program (visa lottery winners)

People who receive a nonimmigrant visa are authorized by the United States to visit the country temporarily. Examples are visiting for tourism, seeking medical attention, conducting business, or studying.

People in the United States on a nonimmigrant visa are not allowed to work in the country, except on strict occasions. For example, when a student undergoes an internship, they are granted special employment authorization to work during that period.

What Documents Do I Need To Apply For an Immigrant Visa?

The documents you must submit will depend on the reason you are applying to be an immigrant. Among the most common documents are:

  • A passport
  • Recent photographs
  • Birth certificate
  • Marriage or divorce certificates
  • Death certificate
  • Financial evidence that shows that you can support yourself financially

You will also need to obtain and pass a medical exam. An immigration attorney can help you process all of this documentation.

What Is a Green Card?

Permanent residence, also known as a green card, allows the holder to live and work in the U.S. for an indefinite period.

Permanent residents can work with any employer and have the same rights as citizens during the job application process.

People who intend to immigrate to the U.S. permanently are often sponsored by an employer or family member. But there are also other ways to obtain permanent residence, such as through the diversity lottery or asylum process.

What Do I Need To Enter the United States and Be Able To Marry a United States Citizen?

A United States citizen must file a fiancé petition at a local office of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Then, USCIS must approve the petition and send it to the U.S. embassy or consulate closest to you.

You will have an appointment for an interview at the embassy or consulate. If the result is satisfactory, you will receive a K-1 visa. Then you can enter the United States with your visa to get married. The deadline for the trip and the wedding is 90 days.

Once married, your spouse must notify USCIS to change their status to permanent resident. The new status is conditional on the duration of the marriage and evidence of its legitimacy.

How Long Can I Be Outside the United States Without Losing My Permanent Residence?

If you need to be out of the country for more than six months and are a lawful permanent resident, you must make arrangements to reenter the United States. You must do this before leaving the U.S.

Why Is My Country Not Eligible To Participate in the Diversity Lottery?

Some countries don't qualify for the program. This usually applies to countries that have experienced a high flow of immigrants to the United States in the last five years.

The diversity visa program offers opportunities to citizens from countries where there is a low volume of immigrants to the United States. The idea is to promote diversity and provide equal opportunities.

The list that includes or eliminates countries from the diversity program is updated every five years. The updates are based on the statistics of the origin of immigrants.

When Do I Need To Hire an Immigration Attorney?

Suppose you are not comfortable interpreting the immigration rules and processing the documents that are required of you. In that case, it is much better if you seek the advice of an immigration attorney.

In the United States, you are allowed to carry out your immigration process yourself. But each case is different. An attorney will help you choose the most appropriate way to handle your petition and avoid mistakes. You can even ask a lawyer for only partial help.

There are situations where the help of a lawyer is crucial, for example, when it comes to employers sponsoring foreigners to emigrate based on employment. Companies generally have their own attorneys to carry out these procedures, but you can also seek advice on your own.

Another excellent time to seek legal help is when you:

  • Apply for permanent residence
  • Have a deportation order
  • Have a criminal record that is holding up the progress of your case

Do I Need a Lawyer To Get a Visa?

The United States immigration system allows you to apply for your visa and prepare your forms yourself. But your success depends on the type of petition you need to make. There are more complicated cases than others. For example:

  • Suppose you are applying to live in the United States through kinship. In that case, a lawyer can explain to you if your family condition allows you to apply for a visa.
  • If you have a criminal record, an attorney can guide you to get your visa.
  • You might have a K-1 visa and have also applied for permanent residence by marriage, but are now getting divorced. An attorney can tell you if it is possible to prevent you from losing your application.

Additionally, an immigration attorney knows how to interpret immigration laws and is knowledgeable about changes in the rules. An attorney can: