Which Government Office Will Be Handling Your Immigration
Getting your green card or noninvmigrant visa may require dealing with more than one U.S. government agency, and maybe more than one office within that agency.
The possibilities include the following:
• The U.S. Department of State (DOS, at http://www.travel.state.gov1. through U.S. embassies and consulates located around the world. If you ‘re coming from outside of the U.S., you ’11 be dealing primarily with a U.S. consulate — and if you’re currently in the U.S., you, too, may have to travel to a consulate to complete your application. Not all U.S. consulates provide visa-processing services. To find more information about the U.S. consulate nearest to your home, either check the phone book of your country’s capital city, or go oriline at http://www.usembassy.gov. Note that you cannot normally apply for an immigrant visa (permanent residence) in a U.S. embassy or consulate outside your home country, unless the U.S. has no diplomatic relationship with the government of your homeland.
You can apply for norammigrant visas (such as tourist visas) in third countries, so long as you have never overstayed your permitted time in the United States, even by one day.
• The National Visa Center (NVC), a private company under contract to the DOS for the purpose of handling case files during certain intermediate parts of the green card application process. After USCIS approves a visa petition by a U.S.-based family member or company, the NVC is given the file and handles the case until it’s time to forward the file to the appropriate U.S. consulate or USCIS district office.
• U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS, formerly called INS, at http://www.uscis.gov1. an agency of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Even if you’re living outside the United States, you may have to deal with USCIS, particularly if you’re applying for a green card rather than a temporary visa. Most green card applications must be started by a U.S.- based family member or company filing a visa petition with USCIS. USCIS has various types of offices that handle immigration applications, including service centers and Lockboxes (large processing facilities that serve a wide
region, which you cannot visit in person), district offices (which interact with the public by pro\iding forms and information and holding interviews), suboffices (like district offices, but smaller and with more limited services), Application Support Centers (where you go to have fingerprints taken and, in some cases, pick up forms or turn in applications), and asylum offices (where interviews on applications for asylum are held).
• Customs and Border Protection (CBP at http://www.cbp.gov1. also under DHS, responsible for patrolling the U.S. borders. This includes meeting you at an airport or other U.S. entry point when you arrive with your visa and doing a last check to make sure that your visa paperwork is in order and that you didn’t obtain it through fraud or by pro\iding false information.
• The U.S. Department of Labor. (DOL at http://www.dol.gov1. through its
Employment and Training Administration, at www, doleta. gov. If your visa or green card application is based on a job with a U.S. employer, certain parts of the paperwork may have to be filed with and ruled on by the DOL.
The DOL’s role is to make sure that hiring immigrant workers doesn’t make
it harder for U.S. workers to get a job and that you ‘re being paid a fair wage (one that doesn’t act to bring down the wages of U.S. workers).
Although you needn’t learn a lot about these various agencies, it’s important to keep track of which one has your application as it makes its way through the pipeline.
This is especially true if you ever change your address, because you should advise the office that actually has control of your application. (These offices don’t communicate well with each other—if you tell one place about your change of address, it may not tell the one that actually has your file, and you may not hear about important requirements or interviews.)
Now that you have some idea whether there’s a visa or green card that you qualify for, please go on to read either Chapter 2 (if you have parents or grandparents who were U.S. citizens) or Chapter 3, concerning madmissibility.
Then proceed straight to the chapter concerning the visa or green card you ‘re interested in. If, after reading the detailed eligibility7 requirements, you confirm that you qualify, don’t forget to read Chapter 4. with crucial advice on handling the paperwork and dealing with bureaucrats, and Chapter 6 on when and how to find a good lawyer.
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