You and your family members can enjoy many great benefits as US visa holders. The rights and responsibilities of being authorized to live in the United States will depend on what type/class of US visa is stamped inside your passport or whether you possess a Green Card.

Temporary Visa Holders

In general, temporary US visa holder rights include being allowed to stay in the United States for the amount of time specified in the visa. For example, a temporary US visa that is stamped on one of the pages of a person’s passport will have an issue date and an expiration date. This basically means that the individual may enter the United States as of the visa issue date, but must leave the USA before the visa expires or renew their visa before the expiration date. (You should never overstay your US visa!)

The type or class of temporary US visa (e.g., visitor visa, student visa, work visa, etc.) will also affect certain rights the individual has, such as whether or not the foreign national can legally work in the USA. For example, someone with a temporary visitor visa can remain in the United States for a short stay (e.g., vacation, visit family or friends, receive medical treatment, etc.), but is not allowed to legally work in the USA, while US employment is permitted for someone with a temporary work visa.

Furthermore, certain US visas (such as a student visa and some other temporary visas) allow a foreign national to attend education programs in the United States, while other temporary US visas do not permit this.

Temporary US visa holders are generally allowed to travel throughout the country in any of the 50 states.

Most of the temporary US visas (e.g., student visas, temporary work visas) also have an option for the spouse (opposite sex or same sex) or unmarried children (under 21 years of age) of the main US visa holder (e.g., international student or temporary worker) to apply for a special US visa for family members so they can live in the United States together. Some of the temporary US visa types allow the spouse to work in the USA or attend educational programs, but other temporary US visas do not have this option.

Please note that this is a general overview, since there are so many types of temporary US visas with their own particular rights and responsibilities. The USAFIS team of US immigration professionals can provide you with more specific information after reviewing your details and conducting a personalized US Visa Assessment.

Permanent Resident Visa Holders

Lawful Permanent Residents (LPRs) of the United States have most of the same rights as US citizens, with some exceptions. There are several US immigration programs that can grant a Permanent Resident (PR) Visa and Green Card (examples include Employment-Based, Diversity Visa, and Family Sponsorship); however, the rights and responsibilities of most PR Visa/Green Card holders are generally the same.

When someone is approved for US immigration as a Permanent Resident of the United States, whether through an Employment-Based US immigration program or the Diversity Visa Lottery Program, the US State Department official will normally stamp the Permanent Resident (PR) Visa (also known as an immigrant visa) on one of the pages of his/her passport following a successful Consular Interview. The US immigration visa (like most visas) will have an issuance date and an expiration date, authorizing the new Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) to enter the United States within a specified time period. After receiving the US immigration visa, the LPR will also need to pay a fee to the USCIS agency so that the US Permanent Resident Card (known as a Green Card, because of its color) can be issued. In general, the US immigration visa (for example, a Diversity Visa) is used by the LPR to initially enter the United States during a certain timeframe, but the Green Card is carried long-term while living in the United States as an official form of identification (ID) and proof of LPR status. Thus, in the case of a Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) of the United States, it may be more accurate to discuss Green Card holder rights, rather than US visa holder rights.

Green Card holder rights include the following benefits:

·         the right to live in the United States long-term as a Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR);

·         the right to the protections provided by federal, state and local laws in the USA;

·         the right to legally work in the USA (some jobs require US citizenship);

·         access to education programs in the United States;

·         the opportunity to open a bank account in the USA;

·         being able to apply for a driver’s license in your state of residence;

·         the opportunity to buy a home or own other property in the USA;

·         the option to start your own business in the United States;

·         the right to sponsor eligible family members for a Green Card;

·         the right to travel from and to the United States according to the regulations;

·         the right to travel within the United States (i.e., the option to visit or live in any of the 50 states);

·         the option to apply for US citizenship after you live in the United States at least five years as a Green Card holder and meet all of the other criteria.

As you can see, Green Card holders living in the United States can enjoy many incredible benefits. To learn more about options that you and your family may have to live in the USA, click here!