Non-immigrant and immigrant visa process – Frequently Asked Questions

Typically, the attorney of record and the petitioner/sponsor/employer will get a Receipt Notice in the mail. Most employment-based visas require a U.S. sponsor or employer. Where there is no sponsor or employer, but the applicant is applying directly for a benefit, such as for Adjustment of Status or an Employment Authorization Document based on a visa granted to a spouse, the applicant and the attorney will both get Receipt Notices in the mail. With the case number on the Receipt Notice, the case can then be tracked online via the USCIS website.

Processing times vary according to how busy the Immigration Service is, how complex the case is and what visa classification is requested. Non-immigrant visas such as H-1B, L-1 and O-1 visas usually have processing times of around 60-90 days. Employment-based immigrant visas can take up to a year in many cases.

For many of these visas, the Premium Processing Service is available for an additional filing fee of $1,225. The Premium Processing Service guarantees a response within 15 calendar days of issuing a Receipt Notice.

The Immigration Service rarely issues an outright rejection or denial of an application if the correct filing fee and forms are submitted. However, they frequently issue what is known as a Request for Evidence (“RFE”) where they are not satisfied with the initial evidence submitted, or have questions about the evidence. A period ranging from 30-90 days is usually given to respond to the RFE.

The policy of this office is to submit very thorough and detailed submissions with the initial filing so as to get a straight approved and avoid the receipt of an RFE. We are proud to state that approximately 90% of our cases get direct approvals without an RFE. We believe it pays off to put in a lot of work up front and thereby avoid the stress of an RFE, which often poses unreasonable questions and onerous demands for evidence and information not easily available.

No, you do not need to be physically present in the U.S. when your case is filed. Once the application is approved, you must obtain a copy of the Approval Notice and make an appointment online with the U.S. Consulate closest to your home in order to get the visa stamp in your passport. Once you have the visa stamp, you can enter the U.S. using that visa.

Careful review of the visa application is required in order to determine whether the applicant may remain in the US. If the beneficiary (visa applicant) was in the U.S. when the case was filed and is in the U.S. on a valid visa when the case is approved, and a change of status was requested in the underlying visa petition, then the beneficiary may often just remain in the US. However, if the underlying visa petition requested consular processing, as opposed to a change of status, then the applicant must usually go to a U.S. Embassy or Consulate overseas in order to get the visa.

Of late, Consulates have shown a tendency to re-adjudicate applications, even though prior approval by the Immigration Service should be sufficient to obtain the visa stamps. This factor must be taken into consideration when the initial application is made to the Immigration Service. A strong, well-documented submission is imperative and our office takes great pains to ensure a thorough packet is submitted to the Immigration Service. A complete copy of the filing should be provided to the client prior to attendance at the interview.

You can apply for a Social Security number at any Social Security office. You will need to show your passport and a valid work visa or Approval Notice with Form I-94 attached. The Social Security card will be mailed to you within 4-6 weeks.