Immigration Visas

Written by Patricia Tunstall
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Immigration visas are issued both by the Department of State (DOS) and the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services (BCIS), but each agency has its own area of responsibility within this field. Ultimately, the DOS National Visa Center (NVC) in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, receives all applications for permanent visas from BCIS and holds them until the cases are ready for judgment by a consular representative in the petitioner's country of birth. When an applicant's case is almost ready for judgment, it is forwarded to the relevant U.S. embassy or consulate.

If an applicant is adjusting status in the United States, the case is forwarded to the appropriate BCIS office when requested. When an applicant completes a petition--for example, I-130, I-140--for an immigrant visa, it is sent to the BCIS for approval. The Notice of Approval--I-797--is sent to the applicant; the petition is sent to the NVC. The NVC creates a case file with an assigned number. At this point, the speed with which the petition is handled depends on whether it is, for example, for an immediate relative category, or merely one of family preference, in which there are legal limits to the number of visas granted each year.

Nonimmigration and Immigration Visas

Nonimmigration visas are those for temporary stays in the United States for tourists, students, and business people. This classification also applies to those who are coming to this country for medical treatment. The time limit is six months, although an extension can be applied for. Applicants must prove they have sufficient financial resources to support themselves for the entire stay, as employment is not permitted under this type of visa. Citizens of certain countries are eligible for the Visa Waiver program, under which the citizens can stay in the United States for up to 90 days without a visa.

Immigration visas are for applicants who want to live permanently in this country. They may either apply at a U.S. consulate in their native country, or through the BCIS in this country. In either case, applicants, upon approval, receive Green Cards, formally known as Alien Registration Receipt Cards.

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