Visa: possibly the most commonly used word in the world of immigration. Unfortunately, it is also one of the most misunderstood legal concepts.
To better understand your options and the processes you may use to accomplish your goals, take a look at the answers to these frequently asked questions about visas. If you need more personalized information or guidance, please do not hesitate to get in touch with our team at Kanu & Associates, P.C.
1. What exactly is a visa?
A visa is the authorization that allows you to enter the U.S. either temporarily or permanently. Usually, it is signified by a stamp on your passport.
2. How do I get a visa?
Generally, you will need to file a visa petition and, later, an application. For most types of visas, a sponsor will need to file the petition on your behalf. Sponsors are usually family members or U.S. employers, depending on the visa category.
3. What happens when I obtain a visa?
You will have a certain amount of time to enter the United States before your visa becomes invalid. Keep in mind, however, that your visa is not a guarantee of entry. Customs and Border Patrol will ultimately decide whether to let you into the United States.
4. What are the different kinds of visas?
Visas are divided into two categories:
- Immigrant visas—allowing you to enter the United States as a lawful permanent resident. If Customs and Border Patrol allows you to pass through a U.S. port of entry, you will receive your green card in the mail. Your green card signifies your lawful permanent resident status.
- Nonimmigrant visas—allowing you to enter the U.S. for a temporary stay. There are dozens of nonimmigrant visas, all for different purposes and with different requirements. Most of these visas are for work, but others are for investment, study, tourism, business, and more. Once in the U.S., you must carefully follow the terms of your status, and you must leave at the end of your authorized stay.
5. What is the difference between a visa and a green card?
A green card is what you receive once you enter the U.S. with an immigrant visa OR when you adjust your status to permanent residence from within the United States. A visa, on the other hand, is simply what you use to enter the country.
6. When do visas expire?
The expiration date on a visa is commonly misunderstood. This date tells you how long you have to seek admission at a U.S. port of entry—it does not tell you how long you can stay in the United States (i.e. authorized length of stay). When you seek entry, the CBP officer will decide how long you can stay in the U.S., considering the standard for your visa and the specific activities you will be carrying out.
7. Can visas be renewed?
It depends. Each visa has different terms, including whether or not your stay may be extended. You might also be able to change your status to a different category or, in limited cases, adjust your status to lawful permanent residence.
8. Can I use a nonimmigrant visa to get a green card?
In most cases, no. However, some nonimmigrant visas allow for dual intent, meaning you can intend to enter the U.S. for a temporary stay AND intend to become a lawful permanent resident. Dual intent is a confusing concept because it refers to holding two opposite intentions at once. Essentially, you may obtain a dual intent nonimmigrant visa so long as you intend to leave the U.S. if your visa expires—but you may adjust your status to lawful permanent residence while in the U.S. if you meet all qualifications.
For all other nonimmigrant visas, the adjudicating official will deny your application if they believe you intend to live in the U.S. permanently. This would be considered fraud, which can have serious, long-lasting implications.
9. Is there any way to enter the U.S. without a visa?
Some countries are part of the Visa Waiver Program, which allows the countries’ citizens to enter the U.S. for up to 90 days without first obtaining a visa. Find the list of participating countries here.
Retain Professional Support for Your Visa Process
Are you hoping to travel to the U.S. or move here permanently? Our lawyers at Kanu & Associates, P.C. have years of experience assisting individuals, families, and businesses from all around the world with every step of the visa acquisition process. We are more than happy to answer all your questions, help you determine which visa is right for you, and provide guidance and legal advocacy from beginning to end.