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Before traveling to the United States, a nonimmigrant, meaning someone who intends to remain in the United States temporarily, must seek and obtain a visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate unless s/he is visa exempt. Nonimmigrant visa applicants are required to have their photos and fingerprints captured and almost always must appear for a personal interview with a consular office having jurisdiction over his/her place of residence.

Immigrant visa applicants, or those wishing to travel to the United States with plans to live here permanently, must seek and obtain an immigrant visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate. S/he must do so whether or not visa exempt. Background checks of immigrant visa applicants will be performed and all applicants are required to appear for a personal interview with a consular office.

Approval and issuance of a visa, however, does not guarantee admission to the United States. It only permits boarding of transportation to the United States. After obtaining the visa or, in cases where the visa waiver program or other statutory or regulatory exemptions apply, the applicant must apply for admission into the United States at the border or pre-flight inspection station by a Customs and Border Patrol ("CBP") officer. A CBP inspector performs an interview at the airport, seaport or land border to determine if the applicant is admissible to the United States. Often times, these officers are so good at what they do that applicants do not even realize they are being interviewed or undergoing a "primary inspection."

If the applicant is found to be admissible to the United States after inspection s/he will be given an I-94, which is a little white or green card which is stapled to a foreign national's passport and authorizes that person's stay in the United States. It is used to record arrival and departures from the United States and is stamped with the port of entry code and date. This card is extremely important as it proves that someone was inspected and lawfully admitted to the United States.

After entering the United States a foreign national is responsible for maintaining his/her lawful status. This means if you have entered the United States with a F-1 student visa, then you should be studying. If you entered with a B-2 visitor visa, then you should not be working.

It is extremely easy for someone's dreams to travel to the United States, whether temporarily or permanently, to turn into a nightmare. Lengthy processing times, requests for further evidence and/or denials at a United States Citizenship and Immigration Services office, the National Visa Center, or your U.S. Embassy or Consulate can hold up a case for months, if not years! There are several factors that impact whether a visa is approved or denied, whether someone is then deemed admissible to the United States and actually admitted to the United States and whether someone maintains lawful status or violates status after arriving to the United States.

You need an experienced attorney by your side every step of the way. This will not only ensure that you achieve your immediate goals now, but your long-term goals as well, which can be just as important, if not more so. Gabriela will guide you every step of the way, from determining short-and long-term goals to formulating a course of action you feel comfortable with and understand to achieving those goals for you and your loved ones.

There is a voluminous amount of information with respect to consular processing of nonimmigrant visas and immigrant visas, traveling to the United States and then what to do and not do when you get here. To discuss your questions and concerns in greater detail, contact Gabriela.