Our FAQ list is mean to guide individuals looking for simple answers to questions regarding US visas and immigration and is no way intended to suggest the type of services we offer, unless noted.

Non-Immigrant Visas FAQs

Do I require a visa to visit the United States?

If you are not eligible for the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), are not exempt from the visa requirement, or have been denied an ESTA, you will need a visa to visit the US. The VWP allows citizens of certain countries to visit the US for up to 90 days without a visa for tourism, business, transit, or medical purposes.

Those who are transiting through the US to another destination also require a visa if they are not eligible for visa-free travel. It's essential to check the specific requirements for your nationality before planning your travel to the United States.

What is a visa waiver?

A visa waiver, under the Visa Waiver Program, allows nationals from certain countries to travel to the United States without a visa for stays of 90 days or less. This can be used for tourism, business, transit, or medical purposes but does not permit employment in the US.

Currently, 41 countries are participants in the VWP. It's a convenient option for eligible travelers but requires obtaining an authorization through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) before departure.

Can I work in the USA on a B-1 Business Visa, B-2 Tourist Visa or Visa waiver?

The B-1 Business Visa and B-2 Tourist Visa, as well as the Visa Waiver Program, do not allow foreign nationals to engage in paid employment within the US. These visas and the visa waiver are designed for business, tourism, or medical visits and not for work purposes.

If your intention is to work in the US, you will need to obtain a specific work visa, such as the H-1B for specialty occupations. These types of visas are necessary for employment and have different requirements and conditions.

What type of visa will I need for working?

For working in the United States, the type of visa you'll need depends on the nature of your work and your professional background. Common work visas include the H-1B for specialty occupations, L visas for intra-company transfers, and O visas for individuals with extraordinary ability or achievement.

Each visa category has specific eligibility criteria and application processes. Prospective employees should work closely with their employers and possibly immigration lawyers to determine the best visa type for their situation. For a comprehensive list of the visa categories, please visit the Visa Requirements section for additional information.

Are return tickets required with a valid visa?

While having a valid visa allows you entry into the United States, it does not necessitate the possession of a round-trip or onward ticket. However, having a return ticket can be beneficial as it may be requested by immigration officials as proof of your intention to leave the US after your visit.

It is not mandatory to have a return ticket for entry into the US, but demonstrating your plan to leave the country, such as having a return or onward ticket, can facilitate the entry process at the border.

I have a US visa on an expired passport. Can I still use it?

You can use a valid US visa in an expired passport as long as you also carry a new valid passport of the same nationality when traveling to the US. The purpose of your visit must match the visa type, and both passports should be presented upon entry.

If the visa or the old passport is damaged, the visa may no longer be valid for travel. It's important to ensure that the visa is intact and the information is legible. 

How long can I stay on a US Visa?

The duration of your stay in the US depends on the visa type and the decision of the Customs and Border Protection officer upon entry. Non-immigrant visas can be valid for periods from 3 months to 10 years, but the actual length of stay for each entry is determined at the port of entry.

It's crucial to comply with the terms of your visa, as overstaying can lead to consequences for future travel to the United States.

What is the difference between a F-1 and J-1 visa?

The F-1 visa is intended for international students attending an accredited college, university, seminary, conservatory, academic high school, elementary school, or other academic institution or language training program in the US. Students must be enrolled in a program that culminates in a degree, diploma, or certificate.

The J-1 visa is for individuals approved to participate in work-and-study-based exchange visitor programs, including students, research scholars, professors, and exchange visitors participating in programs that promote cultural exchange, especially medical or business training within the U.S.

Can I work on a F-1 student visa?

F-1 visa holders are permitted to work on-campus up to 20 hours per week during the academic year and full-time during school breaks, provided they maintain their F-1 status. This work is intended to be part of the student's educational experience.

Off-campus employment is possible through programs like Optional Practical Training (OPT) and Curricular Practical Training (CPT) but requires prior authorization from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and the school's international student office.

How long can I remain in the United States at the end of the study program?

J-1 visa holders are allowed a grace period of up to 30 days after the completion of their program to depart from the US. This period is meant for travel within the United States and preparation for departure.

F-1 visa holders have a 60-day grace period following the completion of their study program or post-completion Optional Practical Training (OPT) to either prepare to leave the US, transfer to another school, or change visa status.

My visa application has been refused. Why can I not get my money back?

The fee paid for a US visa application covers the cost of processing the application and is non-refundable, regardless of the outcome. This is a standard practice across many types of applications to cover administrative costs.

If your application is refused, and you decide to reapply, you will need to pay the application fee again. The fee ensures that all applications are thoroughly reviewed and adjudicated according to US immigration laws.

Why was my ESTA refused? I was honest on the form about having a criminal record.

An ESTA refusal, particularly for applicants with a criminal record, is often due to the strict eligibility criteria of the Visa Waiver Program. Honesty on the application is crucial, but certain backgrounds may automatically disqualify an applicant from using the VWP.

If your ESTA application is refused, you are not barred from entering the US but will need to apply for a visa through the standard visa application process. This provides an opportunity to explain your situation in more detail during an interview at a US embassy or consulate.

Why is a police certificate required for an immigrant visa application?

A police certificate is required for immigrant visa applications to provide the consular officer with information regarding any criminal convictions in the applicant's name. This is part of the security and background checks to ensure the applicant does not pose a threat to public safety.

The requirement for a police certificate underscores the importance of thorough vetting in the immigration process, helping to maintain the integrity of the visa system and protect US citizens and residents.

Immigrant Visas FAQs

Can we apply for the fiancé(e) visa while my fiancé(e) is in the United States?

The fiancé(e) visa cannot be applied for while the fiancé(e) is inside the United States. This requirement ensures that the applicant enters the U.S. specifically on the fiancé(e) visa, adhering to its conditions from the outset. The process mandates that the application be made at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad.

Given this stipulation, couples must plan their engagements and visa applications with this rule in mind. This ensures the integrity of the visa process and the adherence to U.S. immigration laws. It's a critical step in ensuring that the couple's entry into the U.S. is under the correct visa category.

My fiancé(e) and I will not marry within 90 days of our arrival. Can he/she still apply for a fiancé(e) visa?

No, the fiancé(e) visa specifically requires the marriage to take place within 90 days of entering the United States. If the marriage is not planned within this timeframe, the visa application cannot proceed under the fiancé(e) category. This condition is crucial for the visa's approval and subsequent adjustment of status.

Couples who do not intend to marry within the 90-day period should explore other visa options. An immigrant visa might be more appropriate for situations where the marriage will occur later. Each visa category has its specific requirements and purposes, guiding applicants towards the correct pathway.

Can I extend my US citizenship to my spouse?

A U.S. citizen cannot directly extend citizenship to their spouse through marriage alone. The spouse of a U.S. citizen must first obtain an immigrant visa, live in the U.S. as a Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR), and then may apply for naturalization. This process typically requires the spouse to reside in the U.S. for at least three years as an LPR.

The pathway to citizenship for a spouse is structured to ensure they meet all necessary residency and eligibility criteria. The process underscores the importance of legal residency and adherence to U.S. laws prior to applying for citizenship. It's a deliberate process that ensures all candidates for citizenship are thoroughly vetted and meet the stringent requirements.

Can I expedite the processing of my fiancé(e) visa?

The processing time for a fiancé(e) visa can vary significantly and is largely dependent on the caseload and procedures of the U.S. embassy handling the application. While everyone wishes for a speedy process, there is no standard expedited service for fiancé(e) visa applications. Applicants can inquire with the specific U.S. Embassy or Consulate for any possible expedited processing under extraordinary circumstances.

However, it's generally acknowledged that fiancé(e) visas may be processed somewhat quicker than some other types of immigrant visas. This relative speediness is due to the nature of the application and its place in the immigration system. Still, patience is necessary, as the timeline can vary widely based on individual circumstances and the embassy's workload.

Can my partner or common-law spouse who is a US citizen sponsor me for immigration?

U.S. immigration law does not recognize common-law marriages for the purposes of sponsoring a partner for immigration. Therefore, a U.S. citizen cannot sponsor a partner for an immigrant visa based on a common-law marriage. This distinction emphasizes the need for a legally recognized marriage for immigration sponsorship.

Couples in a common-law relationship must look into other lawful means for the non-citizen partner to immigrate to the U.S. This might involve getting legally married or exploring other visa categories that might be applicable based on employment, family relations, or other qualifications. The requirement for a legal marriage ensures clarity and uniformity in the application of immigration laws.

Can the application for a fiancé(e) visa be submitted while the fiancé(e) is in the US?

The application for a fiancé(e) visa must be initiated outside the United States at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate. This requirement is in place to ensure that the visa process is started from abroad, aligning with the visa's purpose of allowing the fiancé(e) to enter the U.S. for marriage. Applicants found within the U.S. cannot switch to a fiancé(e) visa from within the country.

This rule necessitates careful planning and coordination for couples looking to marry under the fiancé(e) visa program. It is designed to maintain the integrity of the visa process and ensure that applicants meet all entry requirements before arrival. Adhering to this requirement is essential for the success of the visa application.

Do children need to attend a visa interview?

Children who are part of an immigration application as dependents of a U.S. citizen must attend a visa interview, typically if they are over the age of 14. This requirement ensures that all individuals seeking to immigrate are properly vetted and their applications assessed thoroughly. Interviews are a crucial part of the visa process, allowing consular officers to verify information and intentions.

However, there are exceptions for younger children, particularly those under 14 years old, who may not be required to attend the visa interview if they are applying with a parent. This exception is made to simplify the process for families and reduce stress on young children. The policy varies by embassy and specific circumstances, so applicants should verify the requirements with the relevant U.S. Embassy or Consulate.

How soon will I get my immigrant visa?

The processing time for an immigrant visa can vary, but it generally takes between 7 to 10 business days once all necessary documentation is submitted and an interview has been conducted. This timeframe can be affected by various factors including the volume of applications and specific requirements of the embassy or consulate. Applicants should prepare for potential delays and provide all requested information promptly to avoid further delays.

After approval, the delivery of documents and the visa itself typically follows the timeline provided by the consulate, including any return of passports with the visa affixed. It's important for applicants to select a reliable method for document return during the application process to ensure safe and timely receipt. Keeping track of the application status and maintaining communication with the embassy or consulate can help manage expectations regarding visa issuance.

What do I do if my application is refused?

If an immigrant visa application is refused, applicants are usually given 12 months from the date of refusal to provide the missing documents or address the reasons for refusal. This period allows the applicant to rectify any deficiencies in their application or gather additional evidence as requested by the consulate or embassy. Reapplying within this timeframe is crucial to maintaining the application's viability.

Should the applicant fail to provide the necessary documentation within the 12-month period, a new application, including payment of all associated fees, will be required. This emphasizes the importance of addressing any issues promptly and thoroughly to avoid the need to restart the application process. Applicants should seek to understand the reasons for refusal and take appropriate steps to address them comprehensively.

Citizenship FAQs

How is an individual eligible to be a US citizen?

An individual is eligible to be a US citizen primarily through birth or naturalization. If a person is born in the United States or born abroad to US citizen parents, they automatically acquire US citizenship.

For those not eligible by birth, the alternative route is through naturalization, a process for permanent residents (green card holders) who meet certain eligibility criteria, such as residency duration and good moral character. This process involves an application, an interview, and a citizenship test.

How does one become a naturalized US citizen?

Becoming a naturalized US citizen involves a series of steps starting with ensuring eligibility, such as having been a permanent resident for at least 5 years, or 3 years if married to a US citizen. Applicants must also have lived within the state or USCIS district with jurisdiction over their place of residence for at least 3 months prior to applying.

The next steps include completing and submitting Form N-400, passing an English language and US history and government test, and attending an interview. Successful applicants then take the Oath of Allegiance at a naturalization ceremony, officially becoming US citizens.

When do I start my permanent residency?

Permanent residency begins on the date the individual is granted permanent resident status by the US government. This date is crucial as it marks the start of the residency requirement period for those seeking to apply for naturalization later.

The specific date of when permanent residency starts is printed on the Permanent Resident Card, commonly referred to as the Green Card. This date is used to calculate eligibility for various benefits and applications, including the naturalization process.

How can I submit my naturalization application?

To submit a naturalization application, one must complete Form N-400, Application for Naturalization, and send it to the designated USCIS Lockbox facility. This facility varies depending on the applicant's geographic location and specific instructions are provided by USCIS.

Along with the completed form, applicants must include all required documents and the correct filing fee. This step is critical for initiating the naturalization process, and careful adherence to instructions helps avoid delays.

How much is the application fee, and how do I pay?

The application fee for the naturalization process is specified on Form N-400, and it can change, so applicants should verify the current cost before submitting their application. This fee covers processing and must be included with the application submission.

Payment must be made via check or money order payable to the Department of Homeland Security. Cash payments are not accepted, and correct payment ensures the application is processed without unnecessary delays.

What is the processing time to become naturalized?

The processing time for naturalization applications can vary widely based on several factors, including the USCIS office handling the case. On average, applicants might expect the process to take between 4 to 6 months, although times can be longer in some cases.

This timeframe includes all steps from application submission to the final decision, including the biometrics appointment, interview, and ceremony. Applicants are advised to check current processing times on the USCIS website for the most accurate information.