Once you have received your immigrant visa, you must enter the United States within the visa validity period to obtain an alien registration receipt or “green” card (Form I-151 or I-551) that will allow you to live and work in the United States.
- You will receive your visa and a sealed packet from the courier service.
- Your visa will be affixed inside your passport. Please verify the information contained both on the visa and on the letter stapled of the package to ensure that the information is correct. If not, please contact us.
- Do not open the sealed visa packet, you must carry it unopened to an immigration officer at a port-of-entry.
- You will have to pay the USCIS fee (except for K visas and returning resident visas) before you enter the US. See below for information about this fee.
- Please note the expiration date on your visa. You must enter the United States before that date.
- At the port of entry DHS officials will take the immigrant visa packet and assign you an “alien number”. Officials will stamp your passport with this number and make a notation that you are registered for an alien registration card.
- It normally takes several months for DHS to process and send the alien registration card to you. In the interim, the passport stamp permits employment and travel until the card arrives. You may depart and return to the US before you receive the alien registration receipt card, as long as the DHS stamp in you passport has not expired. Should you wish to leave the US and your stamp has expired and you have not yet received your alien card, you should contact DHS in the US BEFORE departure to ensure permission to return to the US. Otherwise, you will not be allowed to board the plane to return to the US.
- If, in the future, you plan to live outside the US for more than 12 months, you must apply for a re-entry permit in the US BEFORE departure. The maximum validity of this document is two years. If the relocation is permanent, you should formally abandon your permanent resident status by returning your “green card” with completed I-407 form (PDF-653KB) to the local US Embassy or Consulate. Without a re-entry permit, any absence from the US of 12 months or longer, or any residence established outside the US, is considered grounds for loss of permanent resident status.
- Please review the rights and responsibilities of being a Legal Permanent Resident in the United States.
Important Notice for Newlyweds: If at the time of admission to the United States you will have not celebrated the second anniversary of your marriage, which is the basis of your immigrant status, you are subject to the provisions of section 216 of the Immigration and Nationality Act. Under these provisions, you will be granted conditional permanent residence by an officer of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) at the time of your admission to the United States. You and your spouse will be required to file a joint petition (form I-751) with USCIS to have the conditional basis of your status removed.
This petition must be filed within the 90-day period immediately preceding the second anniversary of the date you were granted conditional permanent resident status. If a petition to remove the conditional basis of your status is not filed within this period, your conditional permanent status will be terminated automatically, and you will be subject to deportation from the United States.
New USCIS Fee
Effective February 1, 2013, all individuals issued immigrant visas overseas must pay a $165.00 USCIS Immigrant Fee before traveling to the United States. Only prospective adoptive parents whose child(ren) is/are entering the United States under either the Orphan or Hague Process, Iraqi and Afghan special immigrants who were employed by the U.S. government, returning residents, and those issued K visas are exempt from the new fee. The below USCIS website has more details on the new fee, including contact information for USCIS, if there are further questions: www.USCIS.gov/immigrantfee
Questions and Answers About the USCIS Fee
When must I pay the USCIS Immigrant Fee?
You must pay the fee prior to departing for the United States. USCIS will not issue your green card until USCIS receives payment. However, even if you have not paid the fee, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers will admit you, as long as you are otherwise eligible to enter.
What if I was issued an immigrant visa before February 1, 2013? Do I have to pay the fee?
No. Only applicants issued visas on or after February 1, 2013 will pay the new fee. The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers at the airport or land border will review immigration records to determine when your immigrant visa was issued. If the visa was issued on or after February 1, 2013 but the fee was not paid, the Immigrant Visa package will be collected at the point of entry, but USCIS will not issue a green card until the $165.00 fee is paid.
Who has to pay the USCIS Immigrant Fee?
All applicants issued immigrant visas (including Diversity Visas), except children adopted under the Orphan (IR-3/IR-4) or Hague Processes (IH-3/IH-4), Iraqi and Afghan special immigrants who were employed by the U.S. Government, returning residents (SB-1s), and K visas, will pay the new fee.
How do I pay the new fee?
You will pay the fee by going to www.USCIS.gov/ImmigrantFee, clicking on the link to the USCIS intake page on Pay.gov, answering the questions on the USCIS intake page, and providing your checking account, debit, or credit card information. Because checking payments must be drawn on a U.S. bank, someone else may pay the USCIS Immigrant Fee on your behalf.