From every corner of the world, people come to the United States to visit our beautiful country, study in our first-class universities, seek treatment from our extraordinary medical system, and experience our vibrant democracy. Their contributions enrich our national tapestry and enliven our national conversation. Throughout our history, millions of international visitors have aspired to and earned citizenship in our great country. President Obama recently announced executive actions to reform the U.S. immigration system. These actions give parents of U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents who have been in the U.S. for more than five years the opportunity to apply for deferred action, and expand eligibility for the Deferred Action for Child Arrivals program.
These actions cannot be the end of our country’s conversation about immigration reform. The real solution to the complex issue of immigration must be comprehensive and permanent, like the reform bill I have long supported.
Please take a few minutes to read the information below and see if it answers your questions about visas, deferred action, immigration, and citizenship. There are several links to the State Department, Travel.State.gov, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection that may be helpful to you as well. Please contact my office if your question is not answered below.
The Privacy Act of 1974 requires that Members of Congress and their staff have written authorization before they can obtain information about an individual's case. Therefore, a consent form may be completed before we proceed with your issue. You can download that form here.
Q: Where can I find comprehensive information on immigration policies and procedures?
Because immigration law is so complex, the best single source of information is the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
The Bureau of Consular Affairs also provides a wealth of information about overseas immigrant and nonimmigrant visa processing.
We have provided a list of the phone numbers of Federal agencies for your convenience.
U.S. State Department
- American Citizens Services - (202) 647-5225
- National Visa Center - (603) 334-0700
- Visa Office - (202) 663-1225
- Priority Date Information - (202) 663-1541
- Passport Information- (877) 487-2778
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
- USCIS National Customer Service - (800) 375-5283
- USCIS Forms Request Line - (800) 870-3676
U.S. Customs and Border Protection
- U.S. Customs Service (Port of Blaine) - (360) 332-5771
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)
- Seattle Field Office - (206) 835-0650
Q: Can Congressman Larsen help me with my immigration issue?
Congressman Larsen hopes to provide general information and assistance in a number of areas related to immigration, including nonimmigrant visas, permanent residency ("green card"), naturalization, work permits, asylum and refugees. Congressman Larsen cannot help expedite applications, with the exception of those that involve medical emergencies. Please visit the USCIS for more information on immigration forms and processing.
Q: What does Congressman Larsen’s staff need to be able to review my immigration case?
All that is necessary is for you to contact his staff and let them know:
- your alien number and receipt number (if applicable)
- what forms you have filed, the dates the forms were filed, and the location at which the forms were filed (if applicable);
- whom you have already contacted to try to resolve the problem, and
- what responses you have received.
In certain cases, copies of receipts, applications, or additional documentation will be required. A staff member will contact you as soon as possible if additional material or information is required.
Q: Are there services for anyone who has a case pending with USCIS and can I obtain legal advice from Congressman Larsen’s Office?
Congressman Larsen’s office is not qualified to provide legal advice, but USCIS provides a listing of attorneys in Washington State who provide immigration services either for free or for little cost. The American Bar Association also provides information on finding legal services.
Immigrant Visas/Permanent Residency
Q: How do I apply for permanent residency (“green card”)?
The steps to becoming a Green Card holder (permanent resident) vary by category and depend on whether you currently live inside or outside the United States. The main categories are:
Immediate Relative and Family Sponsored
Petitions for alien relatives are only available for relatives of U.S. citizens or permanent residents. Your U.S. relative will need to sponsor you and prove he/she has enough income or assets to support you when in the United States. If you are a U.S. citizen and plan on marrying a foreign national fiancé(e), you will need to file an I-129F Petition for Alien Fiancé(e) with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
Employment-Based Immigrant Visas
Approximately 140,000 employment-based immigrant visas are available to qualified applicants under provisions of U.S. immigration law. These visas are divided into five preference categories.
Special immigrant visas are available for Iraqi or Afghan translators and others who worked for the U.S. government or U.S. Armed Forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. There are also two categories of visas for which religious workers may apply.
Diversity Visa Lottery Program
Each year, the Department of State holds a Diversity Visa Lottery that offers 55,000 applicants an opportunity to enter a random computer generated lottery drawing. If selected, the applicant must meet certain requirements prior to consideration for an immigrant visa.
More information from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services:
Q: How do I become a naturalized citizen?
If you are not a U.S. citizen by birth or did not acquire U.S. citizenship automatically after birth, you may still be eligible to become a citizen through the naturalization process. Permanent residents (Green Card holders) ages 18 and older who meet all eligibility requirements may submit a Form N-400, Application for Naturalization. Please visit the frequently asked questions on USCIS' web site for information on naturalization requirements and procedures.
More information from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services:
Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)
Q: Who qualifies for DACA?
USCIS set out the following guidelines, and you may request DACA if you:
- Were younger than 31 as of June 15, 2012;
- Came to the United States before reaching your 16th birthday;
- Have continuously resided in the United States since June 15, 2007, up to the present time;
- Were physically present in the United States on June 15, 2012, and at the time of making your request for consideration of deferred action with USCIS;
- Had no lawful status on June 15, 2012;
- Are currently in school, have graduated or obtained a certificate of completion from high school, have obtained a general education development (GED) certificate, or are an honorably discharged veteran of the Coast Guard or Armed Forces of the United States; and
- Have not been convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor,or three or more other misdemeanors, and do not otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety.
You can get more information about the process and how to start your application here.
Q: How do I renew my DACA status?
To renew your DACA status, you must reapply with USCIS. Get the information here. Importantly, USCIS recommends that you apply to renew your status about four months before your current status expires.
Expansion of Deferred Action for Child Arrivals (DACA), and Deferred Action for Parent Arrivals (DAPA)
Q: When can I apply?
These programs are currently on hold because of legal proceedings. However, you can get ready to apply by gathering documents that show your eligibility.
Since the application process isn’t open yet, don’t be deceived by someone asking for money to prepare your application, or offering to get you a spot at the head of the line. Learn more about avoiding scams here. Check the USCIS website for updates and join the email update list so you know when more information becomes available.
Q: What changes did the President announce to DACA?
The President announced updated guidelines to expand the opportunity to apply for DACA to more people. The changes expand the deferred action period and employment authorization to three years from two years, and will allow you to be considered for DACA if you:
- Entered the United States before the age of 16;
- Have lived in the United States continuously since at least January 1, 2010, rather than the prior requirement of June 15, 2007;
- Are of any age (removes the requirement to have been born since June 15, 1981); and
- Meet all the other DACA guidelines.
While applications are not available yet, you can start getting ready to apply. If you qualify under the original DACA guidelines, you can apply or renew your status.
Q: What is Deferred Action for Parent Arrivals?
You can apply for Deferred Action for Parent Arrivals if you:
While applications are not available yet, you can start getting ready to apply.
Q: What should I do to get ready?
Gather documents that establish your identity, show your continuous presence in the U.S. over the last five years or more, and show your relationship to a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident if applicable. Check the USCIS website for updates.
Q: Where can I find updated information about other parts of the President’s executive actions on immigration?
USCIS has information about provisional waivers of unlawful presence, updates to improve the immigrant and nonimmigrant visa processes for researchers and skilled foreign workers, and updates to the naturalization process here.
Nonimmigrant Visitor Visas
Q: Where can I find information about student visas?
Please visit the academic section on USCIS' website for information on student visa requirements and procedures.
Q: I want someone from a foreign country to visit me. What does this person need to do in order to obtain a tourist visa?
Have this person visit the United States Consulate Office in their home country and apply for a tourist visa. Some countries may require an interview. To qualify for a tourist visa, an applicant must show that he or she has a permanent residence and other ties that would compel his or her return home upon the end of his or her temporary stay in the United States. The law places this burden of proof upon the applicant. Evidence of strong ties includes family, home or property ownership, a letter of employment, and bank account.
Q: I know someone who was denied a tourist visa. Can tourist visa denials be appealed?
Unfortunately, tourist visa denials can't be appealed. Consular offices have sole authority to approve or deny tourist visas. The decision cannot be appealed to a higher authority, and it can be reviewed only for factual error within the Nonimmigrant Visa Section. The U.S. Department of State does not review, nor provide individual responses to, overseas visa decisions. There is nothing in U.S. immigration law that allows for an American relative to guarantee a visitors return home.
Tourist visas can always be reapplied for.
Q: What can someone who was denied a tourist visa do in order to enter the United States?
Every person who is denied a tourist visa can reapply unless the Embassy or Consulate overseas puts a stamp in their passport barring the person from coming back for a period of time. Someone should reapply only if there have been changes to the person's family or economic circumstances, or new evidence is presented that was not considered in the first visa interview.
Q: Where can I go for more information on tourist visas?
Please visit the Department of State's Visa Information website.
Q: I know someone who has been, or is going to be deported. Is there anything that Congressman Larsen can do to help?
U.S. Congress activity is restricted by the House Ethics Rules which prohibit Congressman Larsen from intervening in any civil or criminal matter. Deportation cases are prohibited House casework activity.
Q: How can I adopt a child from another country?
According to the U.S. Department of State, international (or intercountry) adoption is the process by which you adopt a child from a different country than your own through permanent legal means and bring that child to your home country to live with you permanently. Through international adoption, the legal transfer of parental rights from birth parent(s) to another parent(s) takes place.
The international adoption processes are:
The Hague Process
The Hague Convention adoption process generally involves six primary steps. You must complete these steps in the following order in order to meet all legal requirements for Hague Convention adoptions.
- Choose an accredited adoption service provider.
- Apply to be found eligible to adopt by submitting an I-800A (Application for Determination of Suitability to Adopt a Child from a Convention Country) with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
- Be referred for a child.
- Apply for the child to be found eligible to immigrate to the United States by submitting an I-800 (Petition to Classify Convention Adoptee as an Immediate Relative) with the USCIS.
- Adopt the child.
- Obtain an Immigrant Visa for the child at the U.S. embassy or consulate general abroad.
The Orphan Process
The process for non-Hague countries also generally involves six primary steps:
- Choosing a licensed adoption service provider.
- Applying to be found eligible to adopt by submitting an I-600A (Application for Advance Processing of Orphan Petition) with the USCIS.
- Being referred for a child.
- Adopting the child.
- Applying for the child to be found eligible for immigration to the United States by submitting an I-600 (Petition to Classify Orphan as an Immediate Relative).
- Obtaining an Immigrant Visa for the child at the U.S. embassy or consulate general abroad.
For more information please visit the State Department’s Intercountry Adoption website.