The US Visa Process and How to Check Status

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A US visa  is the primary requirement for any foreign national desiring to gain entry into the United States. A visa is basically a travel document that permits a foreign national to travel to a specific country and reside there for a particular period of time. The embassy or consulate of the country which the traveler wants to visit will either issue a travel document or will place the visa in the passport.  You can apply for a US Visa here.

Acquiring a US visa, does not ensure entry to the United States. It only determines the individual’s eligibility to gain entry to the United States. The entry of an individual to the US is decided by the Officers of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

The US visa is of two types – non-immigrant visas and immigrant visas. Those who wish to travel to United States temporarily for pleasure or business purposes require non-immigrant visas. On the other hand, those who wish to travel to United States to live permanently require immigrant visas.

About Immigrant US Visa

The immigrant petition for the applicant must be filed with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) by the sponsor residing in the United States. After the approval of the petition by the USCIS, it is forwarded to the National Visa Center (NVC). The applicant is then informed of the approved petition received by the NVC. After receiving a visa number or after the approval of the immigrant’s petition by the USCIS, instructions are sent to the applicant by NVC on the steps to be taken.

Those applicants who are already staying in the US are eligible to apply for adjustment of status. They can file for the adjustment of status once the immigrant petition by their relative has been approved.

About Non-immigrant US Visa

The petition for the non-immigrant visas must be filed by the applicants at their country’s US Consulate or Embassy. Interviews of the applicants will be conducted and their fingerprints taken by the US Consulate or Embassy. After the approval of the visa petition, the visa needs to be stamped in the passport of the applicant.

The stamping of the visa in the passport of the applicant is done at the local US Consulate or Embassy and the process generally takes 1 to 3 weeks from the date of the visa interview.

Checking the Status of the US Visa Petition

Once an application has been accepted by the USCIS, the applicant/petitioner will be sent an application receipt notice with a 13-character application receipt number. This number can be used to track the visa status online. In case of non-immigrant visas, the consulates will have their own methods of tracking case status.

There are different ways in which an applicant can check a visa status:

  1. Check online: The applicant can check the status online at the USCIS website using the 13-character application receipt number.
  2. Through email: An applicant can email the USCIS by setting up an account to receive automatic updates.
  3. Through phone: The applicant can call the USCIS at their toll free number to get a status update.
  4. Through mail: The applicant can write to the USCIS requesting a case update.

Whichever method the applicant chooses, one has to remember to include all the details pertaining to the case – Alien Registration Number, date of application, place where application was filed, etc.

The applicant can also choose to go in person to the USCIS office and get an update, in which case he/she will need to schedule an Infopass appointment through the USCIS website.

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