Using Your Immigrant Visa
Entering the United States
After receiving your immigrant visa, you must enter the United States within a certain period of time. This period of time is known as your visa’s validity period, and is noted on your visa under the headings “IV issue date” and “IV expires on” date. Your visa type is also noted on your immigrant visa, under the heading “IV Category”.
Receiving your Green Card
As soon as you enter the United States on your immigrant visa, you will become a Legal Permanent Resident. Your I-551 Alien Registration Card (commonly referred to as a green card) will be sent via the mail to the address you listed on your immigrant visa application a few weeks after you enter the United States. However, for a period of one year your endorsed immigrant visa may serve as temporary proof of permanent residence. If necessary, you may leave the United States before you have received your green card, using your endorsed immigrant visa as evidence of your permanent legal status. After one year, Legal Permanent Residents must travel in and out of the United States with their foreign country passport and green card.
Social Security Information
As part of your immigrant visa application, you also apply for a social security number. Social Security numbers are issued by the Social Security Administration in the United States and are required for almost all official government- or work-related process in the United States. Your social security number is a unique identifier that should be protected and only given out when required. For more information on receiving your social security number and social security card, please see the Social Security Administration’s website at http://www.ssa.gov.
Leaving the United States
Persons entering the United States on immigrant visas are expected to live in the United States permanently, but you may enter and leave the United States as often as you wish with your green card. To remain in compliance with immigration rules and regulations, however, immigrants are advised to spend at least six months of every year in the United States. Remaining outside the United States for periods longer than six months in any given year may jeopardize your immigration status and negatively impact your naturalization process, through which you receive U.S. citizenship. Remaining outside the United States for over one year can result in an immigrant losing their legal permanent resident status even though their actual green card may still be valid.
If you know that you will need to be outside the United States for a long period of time, you may complete form I-131 “Application for Travel Document” and apply for a reentry permit or advance parole, which is permission from the USCIS to remain outside the U.S. without jeopardizing your lawful permanent residence status. You must apply to USCIS for this reentry permit into the United States prior to your foreign travel. Please see the USCIS website http://www.uscis.gov for form I-131 and fling instructions (Home > Immigration Forms > Form I-131). Please note, remaining outside of the United States for a long period of time will affect how quickly you qualify for naturalization and U.S. citizenship.
If you are entering the United States in conditional status, with a visa type CR1 or CR2, you will need to adjust your immigration status with USCIS after a period of time. You should contact your local USCIS field office or visit http://www.uscis.gov for further information on how to remove your conditional residence status in the United States. Failure to apply for removal of conditional status may result in losing your lawful permanent residence status and accruing illegal overstay in the United States, and may lead to deportation.
The United States Citizenship and Immigration Service is the organization in the United States responsible for immigration. Please see their website http://www.uscis.gov for additional information and the nearest USCIS office to your new home in the United States. The USCIS website also offers a comprehensive guide containing practical information to help immigrants settle into everyday life in the United States, as well as basic civics information that introduces new immigrants to the U.S. system of government. For this and other information, please see the USCIS website http://www.uscis.gov (Home > Education & Resources > Resources for New Immigrants).
Welcome to the United States!