What is a U.S. Visa?
A citizen of a foreign country, wishing to enter the U.S., generally must first obtain a visa, either a nonimmigrant visa for temporary stay, or an immigrant visa for permanent residence. The type of visa you must have is defined by immigration law, and relates to the purpose of your travel.
Reading and Understanding a Visa
How Can I Use a Visa to Enter the United States?
Having a U.S. visa allows you to travel to a port of entry, airport or land border crossing, and request permission of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Customs and Border Protection (CBP) inspector to enter the United States. While having a visa does not guarantee entry to the United States, it does indicate a consular officer at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad has determined you are eligible to seek entry for that specific purpose. DHS/CBP inspectors, guardians of the nation’s borders, are responsible for admission of travelers to the United States, for a specified status and period of time. DHS also has responsibility for immigration matters while you are present in the United States.
What Types of Visas Are There?
Acceptance facilities include many Federal, state and probate courts, post offices, some public libraries and a number of county and municipal offices. There are also 13 (check for updates) regional passport agencies, which serve customers who are traveling within 2 weeks (14 days), or who need foreign visas for travel. Appointments are required in such cases.
A passport is an internationally recognized travel document that verifies the identity and nationality of the bearer. A valid U.S. passport is required to enter and leave most foreign countries. Only the U.S. Department of State has the authority to grant, issue or verify United States passports.
You’ll need to apply in person if you are applying for a U.S. passport for the first time; if your expired U.S. passport is not in your possession; if your previous U.S. passport has expired and was issued more than 15 years ago; or if your previous U.S. passport was issued when you are under 16 your currently valid U.S. passport has been lost of stolen.
Report your Passport Lost or Stolen
Report your passport lost or stolen to protect your identity. See Report your Passport Lost or Stolen for more information.
Report a Lost or Stolen Passport
New Application for a U.S. Passport
To obtain a passport for the first time, you need to go in person to one of 7,000 passport acceptance facilities located throughout the United States with two photographs of yourself, proof of U.S. citizenship, and a valid form of photo identification such as a driver’s license.
Visiting other countries can be a great experience. Whether you are traveling for work or pleasure, solo or in a group, staying for a few days or several years, planning ahead can help ensure your time abroad is both enjoyable and safe. The first step to an international trip is to read the Traveler’s Checklist to find out things to consider before you go. Pay special attention to our safety and security information and assess for yourself the risk of traveling to a particular country or region. Some U.S. citizens with special considerations such as students, women, and LGBTI travelers may face additional challenges when abroad. If you do decide to travel, make a plan for what to do if something goes wrong overseas.
United States lawful permanent residency, informally known as having a green card, is the immigration status of a person authorized to live and work in the United States of America permanently. Green cards are valid for 10 years for permanent residents, and 2 years for conditional permanent residents. After this period, the card must be renewed or replaced. The application process may take several years. An immigrant usually has to go through a three-step process to get permanent residency that includes petition and processing.
A United States Permanent Resident Card (USCIS Form I-551), formerly known as Alien Registration Card or Alien Registration Receipt Card (INS Form I-151), is an identification card attesting to the permanent resident status of an alien in the United States. Owing to its green design from 1946 until 1964, it is known informally as a "green card", a nickname it retained even after the color was changed. The card was restored to green in 2010. "Green card" also refers to an immigration process of becoming a permanent resident. The green card serves as proof that its holder, a lawful permanent resident (LPR), has been officially granted immigration benefits, including permission to reside and take employment in the United States. The holder must maintain permanent resident status, and can be removed from the United States if certain conditions of this status are not met.
Green cards were formerly issued by the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). The Homeland Security Act of 2002 (Pub. L. No. 107–296, 116 Stat. 2135) dismantled INS and separated the former agency into three components within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The first, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), handles applications for immigration benefits. Two other agencies were created to oversee the INS's former functions of immigration enforcement: U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), respectively.
Permanent residents of the United States eighteen years of age or older must carry their actual green card at all times. Failing to do so is a violation of the Immigration and Nationality Act, carrying the possibility of a fine up to $100 and imprisonment for up to 30 days for each offense. Only the federal government can impose these penalties. Cards issued between January 1977 and August 1989 do not have document numbers or expiration dates and are valid indefinitely.
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