Monday, February 25, 2008

Family Based Visas

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Family-based immigrants

In general, both immigrant and non-immigrant visas allow the spouse and minor children of the minor applicant to obtain a derivative visa in order to be with the main applicant. On this page we discuss family based immigrant visas that available to aliens that are related to US citizens. Other immigrant visas like the Diversity Visa lottery, Refugee or Asylum based visas are discuss somewhere else on this website.

1. Spouse of US Citizen

A spouse is a legally wedded husband or wife. Cohabiting partners do not qualify as spouses for immigration purposes. Common-law spouses may qualify as spouses for immigration purposes depending on the laws of the country where the common-law marriage occurs. In cases of polygamy only the first spouse qualifies as a spouse for immigration. U.S. law does not allow polygamy. If you were married before, you and your spouse must show that you ended (terminated) all previous marriages before your current marriage. The death and divorce documents that show termination of marriages must be legal and verifiable in the country that issued them. Divorces must be final. In cases of legal marriage to two or more spouses at the same time, or marriages overlapping for a period of time, you may file only for the first spouse. If you are an American citizen you have two ways to bring your foreign spouse (husband or wife) to the United States to live.

a. Immigrant visa for a Spouse of a U.S. Citizen (IR1 or CR1) - An immigrant Petition for Alien Relative, Form I-130 is required.
b. Nonimmigrant visa for spouse (K-3) - It is important to note that application for the nonimmigrant visa for spouse (K-3) who married a U.S. citizen must be filed and the visa must be issued in the country where the marriage took place. After the visa process has been completed, and the visa is issued, the spouse can travel to the United States to wait for the processing of the immigrant visa case. Petition for Alien Fiancé(e), Form I-129F, is required to get a K-3 visa.

2. Fiancé of US Citizen

A fiancé(e) is a person who is engaged or contracted to be married. The marriage must be legally possible according to laws of the state in the United States where the marriage will take place. In general, the two people must have met in person within the past two years. The Department of Homeland Security's U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) grants some exceptions to this requirement. For example, it may be contrary in some traditions for a man and woman to meet before marriage.

Filing the Petition

You must file the Petition for Alien Fiancé(e), Form I-129F, with the Department of Homeland Security's U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) office that serves the area where you live. See the Department of Homeland Security's USCIS Field Offices for information on where you can file the petition. After the USCIS approves the petition, it sends the petition to National Visa Center for processing, prior to sending it to the embassy or consulate where your fiancé(e) will apply for a K-1 nonimmigrant visa for a fiancé(e).

Applying for a Visa

The consular section at the embassy or consulate where you, the fiancé(e) of an American citizen, will apply for a visa, will tell you about any additional specific requirements that you need to fulfill to complete your visa application, such as where you need to go for the required medical examination. During the interview process, an ink-free, digital fingerprint scan will be taken. Some of the information required for visa interview is as follows:

a. Passport valid for travel to the United States and with a validity date at least six months beyond the applicant's intended period of stay in the United States

b. Birth certificate

c. Divorce or death certificate of any previous spouse for both the applicant and the petitioner

d. Evidence of financial support (Form I-134, Affidavit of Support may be requested.)

e. Two nonimmigrant visa photos (each two inches 50 X 50 mm square, showing full face, against a light background)

f. Evidence of a fiancé relationship

After getting the visa, your fiancé(e) can travel to the United States and you must get married within 90 days of your fiancé(e)’s entry into the United States.

Travelling

The K-1 visa allows a fiancé(e) to enter the United States one time only. If you leave the United States after entering on a K-1 visa, you may not re-enter on the same visa. If you want to leave and re-enter the United States, you should apply with Form I-131 Application for Travel Document to the USCIS office that serves the area where you live for advance parole to return to the United States.

Employment Authorization

As a K-1 visa holder you may file Form I-765 Application for Employment Authorization with the USCIS office that serves the area where you live for a work permit (employment authorization document).

Registering Permanent Residence

After marriage, your spouse must file Form I-485 Application to Register Permanent Residence or to Adjust Status with the USCIS office that serves the area where you live in the United States. You must fill out the Affidavit of Support, Form I-864, with the USCIS for your spouse's application to become a lawful permanent resident (LPR).

Conditional Residence

If you have been married for less than two years when your spouse enters the United States on an immigrant visa, the permanent resident status is considered “conditional.” The immigrant visa is a CR (conditional resident) visa, not an IR (immediate relative) visa.

You and your spouse must apply together to the Department of Homeland Security's U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to remove the “condition” within the ninety days before the two year anniversary of your spouse’s entry into the United States on an immigrant visa. The two-year anniversary date of entry is the date of expiration on the alien registration card (green card)

3. Minor children of spouse or fiancé

Spouses of U.S. citizens, and the spouse's children, can come to the United States on nonimmigrant visas (K-3 and K-4) and wait in the United States to complete the immigration process. Before a K-4 visa can be issued to a child, the parent must have a K-3 visa or be in K-3 status.

Children Have Derivative Status (K-4)

Children do not need separate Petition for Alien Relative, I-130 petitions, but you, the petitioner, must take care to name all your children on the Petition for Alien Fiancée, I-129F petition. If you do not name the children on the petition, they may find it difficult to prove their identity as children of a K-3 applicant or person in K-3 status.

However, you must file separate I-130 immigrant visa petitions for your children before they qualify for permanent residence. This is important because when you fiancée adjusts his or her status from K-3 to permanent residence the children will no longer be K-4, if you don’t file I-130, they would begin to accrue unlawful presence. This When they adjust status in the United States, they must file Form I-485 Application to Register Permanent Residence or to Adjust Status with the USCIS Office that serves the area where you live. Remember that in immigration law children must be unmarried and under 21 years of age.

What If the Applicant Is Ineligible for a Visa?

Certain conditions and activities may make an applicant ineligible for a visa. Examples of these ineligibilities are:

· Drug trafficking

· Having HIV/AIDS

· Overstaying a previous visa

· Practicing polygamy

· Advocating the overthrow of the government

· Submitting fraudulent documents

The consular officer will inform you, the visa applicant, if you are ineligible for a visa, whether there is a waiver of the ineligibility and what the waiver process is.


Asylees and Refugees

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If you are currently in the United States and you have a risk of persecution for your political opinion, or for belonging to a particular social group in your home country, you may be eligible to apply for asylum. If you currently outside the United States and face a similar danger of persecution you may be eligible to apply for protection by the United States as a refugee. In each case, we highlight the information that you will need to provide to prove your case for you to be given the protection you deserve.

Refugee

You may qualify for refugee status if you are outside the country of your nationality, and are unable or unwilling to return to that country because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.

Any alien who believes he or she is a refugee as provided for in 8 CFR PART 207 may apply for admission to the United States by filing an application with the United States immigration Service office having jurisdiction over the area where the applicant is located. In those areas too distant from a Service office, the application may be filed at a designated United States consular office.

(a) Forms.

Each applicant who seeks admission as a refugee shall submit an individual Form I - 590 (Registration for Classification as Refugee)

(b) Hearing .

Each applicant 14 years old or older shall appear in person before an immigration officer for inquiry under oath to determine his/her eligibility for admission as a refugee.

(c) Medical examination .

Each applicant shall submit to a medical examination.

(d) Sponsorship .

Each applicant must be sponsored by a responsible person or organization. Transportation for the applicant from his/her present abode to the place of resettlement in the United States must be guaranteed by the sponsor.

Asylum

Basis of Eligibility

In order to qualify for asylum, you must establish that you are a refugee who is unable or unwilling to return to his or her country of nationality, or last habitual residence in the case of a person having no nationality, because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion. This means that you must establish that race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion was or will be at least one central reason for your persecution or why you fear persecution. The US law that provides for the asylum benefit for persecuted aliens is 8 CFR PART 208. If you are granted asylum, you and any eligible spouse or child included in your application will be permitted to remain and work in the United States and may eventually adjust to lawful permanent resident status.

Evidence That You Should Submit

You should submit reasonably available corroborative evidence showing

(a) the general conditions in the country from which you are seeking asylum and

(b) the specific facts on which you are relying to support your claim.

Supporting evidence may include, but is not limited to, newspaper articles, affidavits of witnesses or experts, medical and/or psychological records, doctors' statements, periodicals, journals, books, photographs, official documents or personal statements or live testimony from witnesses or experts.

Warning on Frivolous Applications

You are again reminded that, if is determined that you have knowingly made a frivolous application for asylum, you can be permanently ineligible for any benefits under the Immigration and Nationality Act.

Affirmative asylum process

The affirmative asylum process is generally a ‘friendly’ process, for individuals that are not in removal proceedings, and have applied for asylum within a year of arriving in the United States. They do not apply to those asylum-seekers who are in removal proceedings before an Immigration Judge. The following points summarize the affirmative asylum process, for details refer to the Asylum Procedure manual from the US Citizenship and Immigration Services website. http://www.uscis.gov/files/nativedocuments/AffrmAsyManFNL.pdf

Step One: Asylum-Seeker Arrives in the United States

An asylum-seeker may apply for asylum while physically present in the United States or at a port of entry, regardless of the individual’s immigration status.

Step Two: Asylum-Seeker Applies for Asylum

Asylum applications must be filed within one year after the individual’s arrival in the United States, unless the individual can demonstrate “changed circumstances” that materially affect eligibility for asylum or “extraordinary circumstances” relating to the delay in failing to apply for asylum within one year. The asylum-seeker must apply for asylum within a reasonable time given those circumstances.

An asylum-seeker may be ineligible to apply for asylum if he or she previously applied for asylum and was denied asylum by the Immigration Judge or Board of Immigration Appeals unless he or she can demonstrate the existence of changed circumstances which materially affect his or her eligibility for asylum.

To apply, an asylum-seeker will need to complete Form I-589, Application for Asylum and for Withholding of Removal, and must mail a completed application package to the Service Center that has jurisdiction over the individual’s place of residence. Once the Service Center has received the completed application, the Service Center will send the applicant a notice acknowledging receipt of the application.

An asylum-seeker may ask for derivative asylum status for his or her spouse and children who are physically present in the United States. The child must be under 21 years of age at the time the asylum-seeker files the application and unmarried.

Step Three: Applicant is Fingerprinted and Background Security Checks Conducted

USCIS will send a notice to any applicant between 14 and 79 years of age to go to an Application Support Center or authorized Designated Law Enforcement Agency to have his or her fingerprints taken. The fingerprints will be sent to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) for a background/security check. The FBI will send those results to USCIS.

A copy of the application will be sent to the U.S. Department of State for a background/security check. The asylum-seeker’s biographical information will also be sent to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) for a background check, and Immigration will check other law enforcement databases with the asylum-seeker’s biographical information.

Step Four: Applicant Receives Interview Notice

The applicant will then be scheduled for an interview with an Asylum Officer, either at one of the eight asylum offices, or at a district office, depending on the applicant’s residence, as specified on instructions to completing form I-589.

Step Five: Applicant is interviewed by an Asylum Officer

An applicant has the right to bring an attorney or accredited representative to the interview. An applicant must bring any spouse and/or children who are included as dependents in the asylum decision. An applicant who does not speak English fluently must bring an interpreter to the interview. The interpreter must be at least 18 years old and cannot be the applicant’s representative or attorney of record, a witness testifying on the applicant’s behalf, or an employee or representative of the applicant’s home country.

The applicant will be asked to take an oath promising to tell the truth during the interview. The Asylum Officer will verify the applicant’s identity and ask the applicant basic biographical questions. The Asylum Officer will ask the applicant about the reasons he or she is applying for asylum. The Asylum Officer will also ask the applicant questions to determine if he or she meets the definition of a refugee and whether any bars apply to being granted asylum. Regulations protect the confidentiality of the information the applicant provides to the Asylum Officer. The applicant and his or her attorney or representative will have time at the end of the interview to make a statement or add any additional information. A decision will not be made at the asylum interview.

Step Six: Asylum Officer Makes Determination on Eligibility and Supervisory Asylum Officer Reviews the Decision

An applicant must be a refugee in order to be eligible for asylum. The applicant must be:

· unable or unwilling to return to or avail himself or herself of the protection of the country of his or her nationality or, if stateless, the country where he or she last habitually resided

· because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution.

· on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.

An applicant who establishes past persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of resistance to a coercive population control (CPC) program is considered to have established persecution on account of political opinion. These include, but are not limited to, applicants who were forced to abort a pregnancy or undergo involuntary sterilization, or those who failed or refused to undergo these procedures.

A Supervisory Asylum Officer will review the decision. Certain cases, such as those involving possible persecutors, are referred to the Asylum Division Headquarters for review.

Step Seven: Applicant Receives Decision

In most cases, the applicant will be required to return to the asylum office two weeks after the interview to receive a decision on the application. If USCIS has decided that the applicant is eligible for asylum, the applicant will either be given a final approval letter.

If USCIS has decided that the applicant is not eligible for asylum, the applicant will either be referred to Immigration Court or will receive a Notice of Intent to Deny asylum. This depends on whether the applicant appears to be in the United States illegally. If the applicant is not in lawful status in the United States, the asylum office will issue the applicant charging documents that place him or her in removal proceedings in Immigration CourtThe asylum office will also refer the asylum application to the Immigration Courtfor an Immigration Judge to decide during the removal proceedings. The applicant will be given the date, time, and place of the hearing when the applicant returns to the asylum office to receive the asylum decision.
The asylum office will also refer the asylum application to the Immigration Courtfor an Immigration Judge to decide during the removal proceedings. The applicant will be given the date, time, and place of the hearing when the applicant returns to the asylum office to receive the asylum decision.

If the applicant is in lawful status, the asylum office will not refer the asylum application to the Immigration Court Instead, the asylum office will send the applicant a Notice of Intent to Deny explaining the reasons the applicant has been found ineligible for asylum. The applicant will be given 16 days to provide a response before the final decision is made. After reviewing the applicant’s response, if one is sent, the asylum office will either approve the asylum application (based on the response) or deny it (if the response does not overcome the reasons the applicant was found ineligible for asylum).

Defensive Asylum process

Asylum-seeker has been placed in removal proceedings in Immigration Court

Asylum-seeker:

· Is referred by an Asylum Officer

· Is placed in removal proceedings for immigration violations, or

· Tried to enter the U.S. at a port-of-entry without proper documents and was found to have a credible fear of persecution or torture

Immigration Judges with the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) hear asylum applications only in the context of “defensive” asylum proceedings. That is, applicants request asylum as a defense against removal from the United States. Immigration Judges (IJs) hear such cases in adversarial (court-room-like) proceedings: the IJ is the judge that hears the applicant’s claim and also hears any concerns about the validity of the claim raised by the Government, which is represented by an attorney. The IJ then makes a determination of eligibility. If the applicant is not found eligible for asylum, the IJ determines whether the applicant is eligible for any other forms of relief from removal and, if not, will order the individual removed from the United States.

Asylum-Seekers and Expedited Removal

Most undocumented migrants stopped by immigration officials at a U.S. port-of-entry (POE) may be subject to expedited removal. This means that, for persons other than genuine asylum seekers, refusal of admission and/or removal from the United States can be effected quickly. However, some of the individuals arriving at an Immigration POE without proper documentation are genuine asylum-seekers fleeing persecution in their home country. Because of the circumstances of their flight from their homes and departure from their countries, they may arrive in the U.S. with no documents or with fraudulent documents obtained as the only way out of their country.

Any person subject to expedited removal who raises a claim for asylum – or expresses fear of removal – will be given the opportunity to explain his or her fears to an Asylum Officer. Recognizing that some refugees may be hesitant to come forward with a request for protection at the time of arrival, immigration policy and procedures require Inspectors to ask each individual who may be subject to expedited removal the following series of “protection questions” to identify anyone who is afraid of return:

· Why did you leave your home country or country of last residence?

· Do you have any fear or concern about being returned to your home country or being removed from the United States?

· Would you be harmed if you were returned to your home country or country of last residence?

· Do you have any questions or is there anything else you would like to add?

If the individual expresses a fear of return, the individual is detained and given an interview by an Asylum Officer. The role of the Asylum Officer is as an Asylum Pre-Screening Officer (APSO) who interviews the person to determine if he or she has a credible fear of persecution or torture. This is a standard that is broader -- and the burden of proof easier to meet -- than the well-founded fear of persecution standard needed to obtain asylum. Those found to have a “credible fear” are referred to an Immigration Judge to hear and then judge their asylum claims. This places the asylum seeker on the “defensive” path to asylum.

Complete form I-589

This form is used to apply for asylum in the United States and for withholding of removal (formerly called "withholding of deportation"). You can download the form from http://www.uscis.gov . The form has instructions on how it should be completed and submitted. Below are some of the most important points not to be overlooked.

Passport-style photograph

Include one photograph of yourself and one of each family member who is included in your application. The photos must have been taken no more than 30days before you file your application. Using a pencil, print the person's complete name and A Number (if any) on the back of this or her photo.

Passport and other Identification Copies

Include three copies of all passports or other travel documents in your possession and three copies of any U.S. Immigration documents, such as a Form I-94, Arrival-Departure Record, for you and each family member included in your application, if you have such documents.

If you have other identification documents (for example, birth certificate, military or national identification card, driver's license, etc.), it is recommended that you submit three copies with your application and bring the original(s) with you to the interview.

Evidence to support your asylum claim

You should submit reasonably available corroborative evidence showing the general conditions in the country from which you are seeking asylum and the specific facts on which you are relying to support your claim. If evidence supporting your claim is not reasonably available or you are not providing such corroboration at this time, you must explain why, using the Supplement B Form or additional sheets of paper. Supporting evidence may include, but is not limited to, newspaper articles, affidavits of witnesses or experts, medical and/or psychological records, doctors' statements, periodicals, journals, books, photographs, official documents or personal statements or live testimony from witnesses or experts.

Incomplete Asylum Applications

An asylum application that is incomplete will be returned to you by mail within 30 days of receipt of the application by USCIS. An application that has not been returned to you within 30 days of having been received by USCIS will be considered complete, and you will receive written acknowledgement of receipt from USCIS. The filing of a complete application starts the 150-day period you must wait before you may apply for employment authorization. If your application is not complete and is returned to you, the 150-dayperiod will not begin until you resubmit a complete application.

Employment Authorization.

You will be granted permission to work if your asylum application is granted. Simply filing an application for asylum does not entitle you to employment authorization. You may request permission to work if your asylum application is pending and 150 days have lapsed since your application was accepted by USCIS or the Immigration CourtAny delay in the processing of your asylum application that you request or cause shall not be counted as part of the 150-day period. If your asylum application has not been denied within 180 days from the date of filing a complete asylum application, you may be granted permission to work by filing Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, with USCIS.
Any delay in the processing of your asylum application that you request or cause shall not be counted as part of the 150-day period. If your asylum application has not been denied within 180 days from the date of filing a complete asylum application, you may be granted permission to work by filing Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, with USCIS.

International Travel

While your case is pending, you will be permitted to remain in the United States. After your asylum application has been granted, if you need to travel outside the United States, you need to apply for a travel document by filing form I-131. If you leave the United States without first obtaining advance parole from USCIS it will be presumed that you have abandoned your application. If you obtain advance parole and return to the country of claimed persecution, it will be presumed that you abandoned your application, unless you can show that there were compelling reasons for your return.

Registering permanent residence

After 1 year from the date you were granted refugee status or asylum you can file I-485 to adjust your status to permanent residence per 8 CFR PART 209.





Work Visas

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Getting a visa to work in the USA

Every year, the United States grants work visas to foreign nationals to come and further their careers. There are non-immigrant visas for temporary workers and immigrant work visas that lead to Permanet Residence. In both situations the prospective foreign worker must find a prospective employer to file the petition on his or her behalf.

I-129 Non-immigrant Petition for Temporary Workers

Employers who wish to hire foreign workers to temporarily perform services or labor or to receive training may file an I-129 petition. The I-129 is mainly used for non-immigrant categories; thus, in most cases, workers who enter the United States under this petition must depart the U.S. when their maximum period of stay has been reached. Form I-129 may also be used to petition for an extension of stay or change of status for certain non-immigrants.

There are many categories of workers who are temporary visitors and who may be petitioned for on the I-129. The most common visa for temporary workers is the H-B, which is normally valid for 3 years and is renewable for a maximum of 6 years.

Applying for the Visa

Prospective workers (beneficiaries) outside of the country generally must apply for a visa upon approval of the petition. Prospective workers in the U.S. who are not in a valid nonimmigrant status or who have not continuously maintained their status must also apply for a visa upon approval of the petition. After the USCIS has approved the I-129 and sent notice to the consulate in the beneficiary’s country, the beneficiary must file a visa application with the consulate.

I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker

Form I-140 is used for an immigrant visa petition, meaning the petitioner intends to relocate to the United States for the long term. This is in contrast to Form I-129 which is used for temporary workers. However, the petitioner has to meet a very high standard of excellence in their field of endeavor.

A U.S. employer may file this petition for:

a) An outstanding professor or researcher, with at least three years of experience in teaching or research in the academic area, who is recognized internationally as outstanding:

b) Is a member of the profession holding an advanced degree or is claiming exceptional ability in the sciences, arts, or business, and is seeking an exemption of the requirement of a job offer in the national interest.

c) In a tenured or tenure-track position at a university or institution of higher education to teach in the academic area.

A U.S. employer filing for a skilled worker must file the petition with proof of the following:

a) The prospective United States employer has been doing business for at least one year; and

b) The alien is to be employed in the United States in a managerial or executive capacity. A description of the duties to be performed should be included.

c) Letters from current or former employers showing that the alien has at least ten years of full-time experience in the occupation for which he or she is being sought;

d) Petitions for certain classifications must be filed with a certification from the U.S. Department of Labor or with documentation to establish that the alien qualifies for one of the shortage occupations in the Department of Labor's Labor Market Information Pilot Program.

e) A license to practice the profession or certification for a particular profession or occupation;

f) Evidence that the alien has commanded a salary, or other remuneration for services, which demonstrates exceptional ability;

g) Evidence of membership in professional associations; or

h) Evidence of recognition for achievements and significant contributions to the industry or field by peers, governmental entities, or professional or business organizations.

Study Visas

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Every year, hundreds of thousands of people come to study in the United States from all over the world. This provides diversity to the US classroom, and makes a US education so vital in broadening each student’s world view. The Immigration and Nationality Act provides two nonimmigrant visa categories for persons wishing to study in the United States. The "F" visa is reserved for non-immigrants wishing to pursue academic studies and/or language training programs, and the "M" visa is reserved for non-immigrants wishing to pursue nonacademic or vocational studies.

Student Visas

The Immigration and Nationality Act provides two nonimmigrant visa categories for persons wishing to study in the United States. The "F" visa is reserved for non-immigrants wishing to pursue academic studies and/or language training programs, and the "M" visa is reserved for non-immigrants wishing to pursue nonacademic or vocational studies.

F and M Visa Requirements

a. Foreign students seeking to study in the U.S. may enter in the F-1 or M-1 category provided they meet the following criteria:

b. The student must be enrolled in an "academic" educational program, a language-training program, or a vocational program;

c. The school must be approved by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS);

d. The student must be enrolled as a full-time student at the institution;

e. The student must be proficient in English or be enrolled in courses leading to English proficiency;

f. The student must have sufficient funds available for self-support during the entire proposed course of study; and

g. The student must maintain a residence abroad which he/she has no intention of giving up.

F and M Visa Process

Apply for Admission

You first must apply to study at a USCIS-approved school in the United States. When you contact a school that you are interested in attending, you should be told immediately if the school accepts foreign national students. If you are accepted, the school should give you USCIS Form I-20 A-B/ID (Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (F-1) Student Status - for Academic and Language Students) or Form I-20 M-N/ID (Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (M-1) Student Status - For Vocational Students).

Visa application and traveling

If you require a visa, then you should take the USCIS Form I-20 to the nearest U.S. consulate to obtain a student visa. Only bring the USCIS Form I-20 from the school you plan on attending for visa processing at the U.S. consulate. You must also prove to the consulate that you have the financial resources required for your education and stay in the United States. When you arrive in the United States; you should receive a Form I-94 (Arrival-Departure Record) that will include your admission number to the United States. An Immigration inspector will write this admission number on your USCIS Form I-20 A-B/ ID. The Immigration Inspector will then send pages one and two of this form, known as I-20 A-B, or I-20 M-N to your school as a record of your legal admission to the United States. You are expected to keep pages three and four, known as the I-20 ID. This document is your proof that you are allowed to study in the United States as an F-1 student or M-1 Student. You should also keep safe your Form I-94, because it proves that you legally entered the United States.

School Transfers

You must be a full time student in good academic standing. You must notify your current school of your intent to transfer. You must ask the school that you plan on attending to give you a new USCIS Form I-20. You must complete your portion of the USCIS Form I-20 and give it to your new designated school official (DSO) within 15 days of transferring. The designated school official (DSO) should give you the last two pages, known as Form I-20 ID, and forward a copy of the first two pages, known as Form I-20 A-B or I-20 M-N to the USCIS and your prior school.

Student’s Spouse and Children

Your spouse and children may come with you to the United States in F-2 or M-2 status. They should go with you to the U.S. embassy or consulate when you apply for your student visa. They should be prepared to prove their relationship to you. If your spouse or children are following to join you at a later date, they should provide the U.S. embassy staff with a copy of your USCIS Form I-20 ID and proof of their relationship to you. The F-2 or M-2 status of your family will be dependent upon your status as the F-1 or M-1 student. This means that if you change your status, your family must change their status. If you lose your status, your family will also lose their status.

Maintaining your Student Status

You are allowed to stay in the United States for as long as you are enrolled as a full-time student in an educational program and making normal progress toward completing your course of study. If approved, you also will be allowed to stay in the country up to twelve additional months beyond the completion of your studies to pursue practical training. At the end of your studies or practical training, you will be given sixty days to prepare to leave the country. You do not need to apply to extend your stay in the United States as long as you are maintaining your student status and making normal progress toward completing your academic course of study. The designated school official (DSO) from your school will write down a completion date on your USCIS Form I-20. Under normal circumstances, you should be able to complete your studies by this date.








Work Authorization

You may be allowed to work on-campus or off-campus (after the completion of your first year of study) under limited circumstances. You may also wish to discuss employment with the designated school official (DSO) at your school. Your accompanying spouse and child may not accept employment.

After completing your studies you may apply for practical training or Optional Practical Training for F-1 Students. For M-1 students, if approved, you will be allowed to have one month of practical training for every four months of study you have completed. You will be limited to six months total practical training time. F-1 students have 12 months of Optional Practical Training.

You must also submit USCIS Form I-765 (Application for Employment Authorization), and your I-20 ID, signed by the designated school official (DSO). You should send your application to USCIS no more than 60 days before your student status expires and no later than 30 days after your studies are completed. You may also wish to discuss practical training with the appropriate officials at your school.

Traveling Outside the United states

Students may leave the United States and be readmitted after absences of five months or less. Upon your return to the United States, you should provide immigration inspectors with:

a. A valid passport.

b. A valid F-1 entry visa stamped in the passport (if necessary).

c. A current USCIS Form I-20 ID Student Status - signed by your appropriate school official (you should have the appropriate school official sign your USCIS Form I-20 each time you wish to temporarily travel outside the United States).

d. A new USCIS Form I-20 if there has been any substantive changes in your course of study or place of study.

e. Proof of your financial support.

When making your travel plans, please remember that you must be a full-time student to keep your student status. You will be considered to be "in status" if you take the annual summer vacation, as long as you are eligible and intend to register for the next school term.

Diversity Visa

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Diversity Visa Lottery

Every year, thousands of people from all over the world are given an opportunity to become US residents, in a deliberate program to promote immigration. This program reinforces the fact that the United States is a nation of immigrants and that despites security challenges in the last few years, remains open to welcome visitors and residents from foreign lands.

The Diversity Visa Program is a congressionally mandated program that makes available 50,000 to 55,000 permanent resident visas annually, drawn from random selection among all entries to persons who meet strict eligibility requirements from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States.

1. Eligibility

Nationality

The visas, however, are distributed among six geographic regions with a greater number of visas going to regions with lower rates of immigration, and with no visas going to nationals of countries sending more than 50,000 immigrants to the U.S. over the period of the past five years. Within each region, no one country may receive more than seven percent of the available Diversity Visas in any one year.

For DV-2009, natives of the following countries were not eligible to apply because they sent a total of more than 50,000 immigrants to the U.S. over the period of the previous five years: BRAZIL, CANADA, CHINA (mainland-born), COLOMBIA, DOMINICAN REPUBLIC, ECUADOR, EL SALVADOR, GUATEMALA, HAITI, INDIA, JAMAICA, MEXICO, PAKISTAN, PHILIPPINES, PERU, POLAND, RUSSIA, SOUTH KOREA, UNITED KINGDOM (except Northern Ireland) and its dependent territories.

The list of ineligible countries may change from year to year. For latest information, prospective applicants should check the State Department website at http://www.state.gov . Information about the program for each particular year is normally available at the State Department website in the second half of the year, the next program will be the DV-2010 and information should be available in late 2008.

Educational Requirement

The law and regulations require that every entrant must have at least a high school education or its equivalent or, within the past five years, have two years of work experience in an occupation requiring at least two years training or experience. A "high school education or equivalent" is defined as successful completion of a twelve-year course of elementary and secondary education in the United States or successful completion in another country of a formal course of elementary and secondary education comparable to a high school education in the United States. Documentary proof of education or work experience must be presented to the consular officer at the time of the visa interview.

2. How to apply

The Department of State will only accept completed Electronic Diversity Visa (E-DV) Entry Forms submitted electronically at http://www.dvlottery.state.gov during the registration period.

Digital Photograph

The applicant, spouse and children photographs must be submitted in digital format. You can have a new digital photo taken or scan a paper photograph to convert it to digital format. Detailed specifications will be provided at the Diversity Visa website. The following is a summary of the photograph requirements:

Image File Format:

The image must be in the Joint Photographic Experts Group (JPEG) format.

Image File Size:

The maximum image file size will be sixty-two thousand five hundred (62,500) bytes.

Image Resolution

320 pixels high by 240 pixels wide.

Image Color Depth:

24-bit color Note: Colored photographs are preferred, but black and white or grayscale photographs, if used, must be scanned in 24-bit color mode. Monochrome images (2-bit color depth), 8-bit color or 8-bit grayscale will not be accepted

After completing the online forms for the main applicant, spouse and or unmarried children under 21 year old, the digital photos must be uploaded and attached for the entry to be considered complete. Individuals who attempt to make multiple entries will be disqualified. A successfully registered entry will result in the display of a confirmation screen containing your name, date of birth, country of chargeability, and a date/time stamp. You may print this confirmation screen for your records.

3. Selection and notification

The Diversity Visa lottery selection is done at the Kentucky Consular Center. All entries received from each region will be individually numbered. After the end of the registration period, a computer will randomly select entries from among all the entries received for each geographic region. Within each region, the first entry randomly selected will be the first case registered; the second entry selected the second registration, etc. All entries received during the registration period will have an equal chance of being selected within each region. When an entry has been selected, the entrant will be sent a notification letter by the Kentucky Consular Center, which will provide visa application instructions.

Please note that those selected in the random drawing are notified by postal mail NOT email. Those individuals NOT selected will NOT receive any notification.

4. Beware of scams

After the individuals have been selected at random from among all qualified entries through the State Department E-DV lottery computer program, they will NOT be notified by email. Those selected will be notified only by letter through the mail usually between May and July of the year following the year on which the entry was made. The letter will be sent to the addresses listed on their E-DV entry. Only the randomly selected individuals will be notified. Persons not selected will NOT receive any notification. U.S. embassies and consulates will NOT be able to provide a list of those selected to continue the visa process.

At legal alien, we provide information about the Diversity Visa program, but we are an independent organization, we are NOT affiliated to the US Government. Some websites may try to mislead customers and members of the public into thinking they are official websites and may contact you by email to lure you to their offers. These websites may attempt to require you to pay for services such as forms and information about immigration procedures, which are otherwise free on the Department of State Visa Services website, or overseas through the Embassy Consular Section websites. Additionally, these other websites may require you to pay for services you will not receive, often including diversity immigration application and visa fees in an effort to outright steal your money. Once you send money in one of these scams, you will never see it again. Also, you should be wary of sending any personal information that might be used for identity fraud/theft to these websites. Any website with a .com; .org; .net; .us etc will not be an official website.

No fee is charged for the electronic lottery entry in the annual DV program.

Please note that the U.S. Government employs no outside consultants or private services to operate the DV program. Any intermediaries or others who offer assistance to prepare DV entries do so without the authority or consent of the U.S. Government. Use of any outside intermediary or assistance to prepare a DV entry is entirely at the entrant's discretion. A qualified entry submitted electronically directly by an applicant has an equal chance of being selected by the computer at the Kentucky Consular Center, as does an entry submitted electronically through a paid intermediary who completes the entry for the applicant. Every entry received during the lottery registration period will have an equal random chance of being selected within its region. However, receipt of more than one entry per person will disqualify the person from registration, regardless of the source of the entry.