Immigrant Visa FAQs

What is an immigrant visa?

An immigrant visa is a document issued by a U.S. consular officer abroad that allows you to travel to the United States and apply for admission as a legal permanent resident (LPR).  An immigration inspector of U.S. Customs and Border Protection of the Department of Homeland Security makes the final decision as to whether or not to admit you as an LPR. Once you are admitted as an LPR, you generally have the right to live and work in the United States permanently.  U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services of the Department of Homeland Security will mail your permanent resident card (often called a “green card”) to your new address in the United States, usually within three months of your entry into the United States.  Please see 9 FAM 502.1-3 for a list of classification symbols and a brief description of each.

What is the difference between an immigrant visa and a nonimmigrant visa?

Getting an immigrant visa usually means that you will be able to live and work in the United States for as long as you want.  A nonimmigrant visa, on the other hand, is generally for short-term visitors to the United States.  You cannot stay in the United States permanently on a nonimmigrant visa, and you generally cannot work.  A nonimmigrant visa is sometimes informally called a “tourist visa” but can be issued for reasons other than tourism, such as medical treatment, business or study.  Please see our nonimmigrant visa page for more information.

Here are some additional Non-Immigrant Visa FAQs:

There are three basic methods for obtaining an immigrant visa:   

1.through a family relationship with a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident

2.through employment

3.through the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program (the visa lottery)

Most applicants in Mexico obtain their immigrant visas via family relationships.

The first step in obtaining a family-based immigrant visa is for your relative (the petitioner) to file a Form I-130 (Petition for Alien Relative) by mail with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) of the Department of Homeland Security.  Once your relative has filed a petition for you, you may check its status by accessing the USCIS Case Status Search Page.

You may obtain an immigrant visa through employment rather than through a family member.  More information on obtaining an immigrant visa through employment rather than through a family member is available on USCIS’s Green Card through a Job page.

Please see the Fiscal Year 2016 Diversity Visa Entry Instructions.  Note that the registration period for 2015 has closed.  You may check this page for the Fiscal Year 2016 Diversity Visa Entry instructions in approximately September 2014.

Once U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) of the Department of Homeland Security approves an immigrant visa petition, USCIS sends the approved petition to the Department of State’s National Visa Center in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

The Department of State’s National Visa Center (NVC) retains the approved petition until the case is ready for adjudication by a consular officer abroad.  Petitions may remain at NVC for several months or for many years depending on the visa category and country of birth of the visa applicant.  When a beneficiary’s (the beneficiary is the person on whose behalf the petition was filed) priority date appears about to become current, NVC sends the petitioner a bill for processing Form I-864 (Affidavit of Support Under Section 213A of the Act) and sends the beneficiary a Form DS-261 (Choice of Address and Agent).  Once the Form I-864 processing fee is paid, NVC sends the Form I-864 and related instructions to the petitioner.  Once NVC receives the completed Form DS-261 from the applicant, NVC mails a bill for the immigrant visa fee to the agent designated on the Form DS-261.  Once the immigrant visa fee is paid, NVC sends the Instruction Package for Immigrant Visa Applicants to the agent.

You or your agent must follow the directions in the Instruction Package for Immigrant Visa Applicants exactly.  Failure to do so could result in a delay in your case and could even cause you to lose your chance to live and work in the United States.  Once NVC completes its administrative processing of your case, the case file is sent to the Immigrant Visa Unit of the U.S. Consulate General, Ciudad Juarez.  NVC will notify you by mail when this occurs.

The priority date, in the case of a family-based immigrant visa petition, is the date your petition was filed (not the date it was approved).  Family-based immigrant visas are divided into two broad groups, immediate relative cases and preference cases.  An immediate relative family-based petition is filed by a U.S. citizen on behalf of a spouse, parent, or child.  A preference family-based petition is filed by a U.S. citizen on behalf of a son, daughter, or sibling; or by a legal permanent resident on behalf of a spouse, son or daughter, or child.

Because the law does not limit the number of immediate relative visas, the priority date is normally irrelevant in such cases (please see the 9 FAM 502.1-1(d)(1) for the notable exception, related to the Child Status Protection Act).  Workload permitting, the Immigrant Visa Unit may begin processing the approved petition upon receipt from the Department of State’s National Visa Center or the Department of Homeland Security.

The priority date in a preference case, however, matters greatly.  The law limits the number of preference visas available.  All categories of family-based preference visas are currently “oversubscribed” (i.e., there are more people who want visas than there are visa numbers available).  Your priority date, along with your visa category and nationality, determines whether a visa number is available or whether you must wait. Once your priority date is earlier than the cut-off date listed in the most recent Visa Bulletin you can be allotted a visa number and have your case processed (i.e., your case is “current”).  We cannot predict when a case will become current.

You can monitor the movement of the cut-off dates as announced in the Visa Bulletin to learn when your priority date is reached.  To hear the cut-off dates over the telephone, you can call the Department of State visa information line at (202) 663-1541.

It is not possible for us to predict exactly how long you will be at the Consular Section.  We interview applicants as efficiently as possible consistent with reasoned, legally supportable decisions; however, you should be patient as some applicants may be at our office into the afternoon.  We make every attempt to interview elderly applicants, applicants with infants, disabled applicants and other applicants with special needs early in the day.  If you have a disability or a special need that is not apparent, please mention it to one of the consular employees who wear dark blue shirts and who display a U.S. Embassy ID badge.  These employees circulate throughout the consular area.

For your convenience, we have restrooms on site.

In a family-based immigrant visa case, the principal beneficiary of a petition is the person on whose behalf the petition was filed, that is, the person listed on the right side of the front of Form I-130 (Petition for Alien Relative). A derivative beneficiary is the spouse or child of the principal beneficiary. A preference family-based case may have many derivative beneficiaries in addition to the principal beneficiary, and all of the beneficiaries (principal and derivatives) share the same petition and the same case number. There are no derivative beneficiaries in immediate relative family-based cases, which means that each applicant must have his or her own petition and individual case number.

No.  You should eat normally before your medical examination.  In addition, if you are taking any medication, you should continue to take it normally.  Please see our Information Concerning the Medical Examination and Vaccines for more information concerning medical issues.

Should I get a lawyer to help me with my case?
The decision as to whether or not to hire a lawyer or other representative is yours alone.  We cannot tell you whether or not to obtain representation, nor can we recommend any specific lawyers.  If you do hire an attorney or other representative, that person may not accompany you to your visa interview. In all cases YOU are responsible for the information that you provide to the Immigrant Visa Unit.

Can my attorney accompany me to the immigrant visa interview?
Due to security regulations and space restrictions, attorneys are not permitted to accompany their clients into the Consulate.

You and the petitioner must file a Form I-751 (Petition to Remove the Conditions on Residence) by mail with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services within the 90-day period immediately preceding the second anniversary of the date you were first admitted to the United States as a conditional permanent resident.  If the I-751 is not filed within this period, your conditional permanent resident status will be terminated automatically and you will be subject to deportation from the United States.  Please read our Notice of Conditional Status below:

Notice of Conditional Status

If, at the time of admission to the United States you will not have 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 the provision, you will be granted conditional permanent residence by an officer of U.S. Customs and Border Protection of the Department of Homeland Security at the time of your admission to the United States. As a result, you and your spouse must file a joint petition with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services of the Department of Homeland Security to have the conditional status removed. The 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 residence status will be terminated automatically and you will be subject to deportation from the United States.

The Child Citizenship Act of 2000 is a law that amended Section 320 of the Immigration and Nationality Act to confer automatic U.S. citizenship upon certain categories of children born abroad upon their admission to the United States as a legal permanent resident.

Please click here for more information concerning the Child Citizenship Act.

Yes.  If you are subject to the I-864 (Affidavit of Support Under Section 213A of the Act) requirement, as almost all immigrant visa applicants in Venezuela are, the petitioner must submit an I-864 for you.  Otherwise, the consular officer will not be able to issue you a visa.  This requirement applies even if the petitioner is not working or is working but does not earn enough money to support you.  In these circumstances, your petitioner may find a joint sponsor who is willing to file an I-864 for you, or he or she may have a household member who is willing to file a Form I-864A (Contract Between Sponsor and Household Member).

Remember that every I-864 and I-864A must be accompanied by proof that the filer is a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident, and the most recent U.S. tax form as of when the I-864 or I-864A was signed.  If the petitioner is not working, he or she must state this on the I-864.

If the person has not filed a U.S. tax return, regardless of the reason, he or she must explain in writing why not.  The petitioner may find it convenient to use our No Taxes Statement for this purpose.

Please see 9 FAM 302.8 for more information concerning the I-864 and the public charge ineligibility.

There is no requirement that you ever become a legal permanent resident.  However, in order for your child to qualify as your spouse’s stepchild, the consular officer must be convinced that your marriage is legitimate for immigration purposes.  The most direct way for the consular officer to know that the marriage is bona fide is for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services of the Department of Homeland Security to have adjusted your status to that of legal permanent resident.  If you are not yet a legal permanent resident, the consular officer may require alternative evidence (e.g., joint rental agreements, bank statements, phone bills, photographs, etc.).  You and your spouse may even be invited to the Consular Section for an interview with the consular officer.

Please see 9 FAM 102.3 for more information concerning the legal definition of stepchild.

If you are issued an immigrant visa under a category that requires you to be unmarried, and you marry after receiving the visa but before being admitted to the United States, you will be subject to exclusion from the United States.

Please read Form DS-237 (Statement of Marriageable Age Applicant) (PDF – 217kb).

What happens if the petitioner dies before the principal beneficiary has immigrated to the United States?
If the petitioner dies before the principal beneficiary has immigrated to the United States, the petition is automatically revoked pursuant to 8 CFR 205.1(a)(3).  This means that the consular officer will not be able to issue a visa to any of the beneficiaries of the petition and will be required to return the petition to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

There is an allowance for a widow(er).  The widow(er) of a U.S. citizen may self-petition for immediate relative status on Form I-360.  The Form I-360 must be filed within two years of the citizen spouse’s death.  The widow(er) may file such a petition only if the marriage to the U.S. citizen was still in effect at the time of the death.  A child of the widow(er) may be included in the petition as a derivative beneficiary.  Please see 9 FAM 502.1-2(C).

For non-widow(er) cases, if there are compelling humanitarian circumstances, the consular officer may recommend that DHS reinstate the petition.  Alternatively, the applicant may contact directly the DHS office that approved the petition to request that it be reinstated for humanitarian reasons.  If DHS reinstates the petition, the consular officer will contact the applicant(s) soon thereafter.

Please see 9 FAM 504.2-8(C)(4) for more information on humanitarian reinstatement.

What happens if the petitioner dies after the principal beneficiary has immigrated to the United States?
Eligibility of derivative applicants seeking to follow to join a principal beneficiary who has already acquired legal permanent resident status is dependent on the continuing legal permanent resident status of the principal, not on the status of the petitioner.  Therefore, if the petitioner dies after the principal applicant has already become a legal permanent resident and one or more derivative applicants seek to follow to join the principal applicant, the derivatives retain eligibility to follow to join despite the death of the petitioner.  Please see 8 CFR 213a.2(f) for information concerning the Form I-864 (Affidavit of Support Under Section 213A of the Act) requirement in such circumstances.

What happens to the derivative beneficiary’s case if the principal beneficiary dies?
If the principal beneficiary dies at any time before the derivative beneficiary immigrates to the United States, the consular officer will not be able to issue a visa to the derivative beneficiary.  Humanitarian reinstatement does not apply in such a case, though humanitarian parole may be an option.  Please see 9 FAM 202.3-3(B)(1) for more information on humanitarian parole.

A good resource for adoption information is our Adoption Page for Mexico.  There you will find general information related to the visa aspects of adoption as well as information tailored specifically to adoption in Mexico.  For specific information regarding the visa process for adopted children, please click on Information on Adoption.

If you are a man and are between 18 and 26 years old when you enter the United States, you must register with the U.S. Selective Service System within 30 days after you enter the United States.  If you are required to register, do so promptly.  You cannot register after you reach age 26.  Registration is for conscription into military service in an emergency mobilization of the armed forces.  There is no conscription at this time.

To register, go to the nearest United States Post Office, obtain a registration form, fill in the information requested and hand the completed form to the postal clerk.  Within 90 days, you should receive a Registration Acknowledgement postcard from Selective Service.  If you do not hear from Selective Service within this period, it is important that you contact Selective Service to verify your registration status. Alternatively, you may register online.  You may also verify your registration status online.

On the day of your immigrant visa appointment, you will be required to sign Form DS-1810 (Notice of Duty to Register with U.S. Selective Service System) acknowledging that you understand your obligation to register with Selective Service.

Legal permanent residents, male or female, may join the U.S. military as enlisted personnel. For more information please contact:

A waiver is a special authorization granted by the Department of Homeland Security to put aside an ineligibility.  As explained in the answer to “My visa was refused.  Why did this happen and what do I do now?“, some refusals require a waiver before a visa can be issued. Some frequently seen refusals at the Immigrant Visa Unit in Ciudad Juarez that require waivers are 212(a)(6)(C)(i) (misrepresentation) and 212(a)(9)(B) (unlawful presence).

The consular officer will let you know if you are eligible for a waiver and, if so, will give you instructions on how to apply.

If you visa is approved, you will receive your visa package at the DHL office you previously selected. If you have not yet selected an office, please go to http://mexico.usvisa-info.com to select the DHL office where you would like to receive your visa package. If you have any questions about the courier service, you may send an email to this email address.

Please read our Genetic Testing Information Sheet.

Please see 9 FAM 601.11-1 for more information concerning genetic testing.

Why do you have to take my fingerprints, and how much does it cost?

We are required to fingerprint visa applicants to protect your identity. As part of this check, we routinely take electronic fingerprints of all ten fingers of our applicants age 14 and older on the day of the visa interview.  There is no additional charge for this service.

I was arrested in the past. What should I do?

If you have ever been arrested for any reason, at any time and in any country, you must tell the consular officer during your immigrant visa interview.  You must answer the questions in the DS-260 online form form truthfully, and you must explain the details of your situation.

Bring to your visa interview all documentation concerning any and all arrests, even if the charges were dropped or you were acquitted, pardoned or given amnesty.  In addition, you must provide a copy of the statute under which you were arrested and a translation of the statute into English.  The consular officer will review the evidence and make a decision as to whether you are eligible for a visa.



If you are a U.S. legal permanent resident who has been out of the United States for more than a year, it is possible that you may qualify for returning resident status.  Returning resident status is for an alien who meets the following requirements:

  • was a lawfully admitted permanent resident of the United States at the time of departure;
  • at the time of departure, had the intention of returning to the United States;
  • while residing abroad, did not abandon the intention of returning to the United States; and
  • is returning from a temporary residence abroad; or if the stay was protracted, this was caused by reasons beyond his or her control.

To apply for returning resident status, you must make an appointment with the Immigrant Visa Unit to file a Form DS-117 (Application to Determine Returning Resident Status (PDF,239K)) and explain your situation to a consular officer.  The fee to file a DS-117 is US$180.  Note that the fee is non-refundable, even if the DS-117 is denied.

 

The choice is yours.  The Consular Section cashier accepts either U.S. dollars or Mexican pesos.  However, the payment must be in only one currency (i.e., you must pay the total entirely in U.S. dollars or entirely in Mexican pesos).  We accept cash.  We do not accept checks, credit cards or debit cards.  Please be advised that you should pay money only to the Consular Section cashier.  The Consular Section cashier will issue you a receipt showing how much you paid and what services you paid for.  Make sure you receive and keep your receipt.

Below are the application fees for the different kinds of immigrant visas:

  • Immediate relative and family preference visas:  US$325
  • Employment-based visas:  US$345
  • Diversity Visa:  US$330
  • All other immigrant visas  US$205

Note that most applicants, once their visa applications are approved, must pay the USCIS Immigrant Visa Fee.

The Immigrant Visa Unit welcomes your comments, complaints, compliments and suggestions concerning any and all aspects of the immigrant visa process, including the treatment you receive from our employees.  You can contact the Immigrant Visa Unit by clicking on Contact Us.

Please see Welcome to the United States:  A Guide for New Immigrants. (PDF – 3.7MB). This booklet, produced by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, contains a wealth of information on topics such as registering your child for school, maintaining your immigrant status, finding a job and becoming a U.S. citizen.

If you were told after your initial interview at the Consulate that your case required additional administrative processing, please click on the link below to check the status of your case.

Please keep in mind that most administrative processing takes 6-8 weeks to complete, but in some cases requires additional time. The Consulate cannot expedite this process.

Check Your Status:

Immigrant Visa (Resident)

Non-Immigrant Visa (Visitor/Laser)