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November 2017> Features >
Immigration Alerts

 

 

Index

 

The information contained on this page is for the benefit of non-immigrants.

SVD visa holders are encouraged to review these "alerts" on a regular basis.
Please note that these Alerts contain policies and procedures specific to the Chicago Province / Society of the Divine Word. Individuals and members of other organizations should consult with their own superiors on matters of policy and procedures.

For November 2017:
Overseas Training Program / Cultural Training Program (F-1s)
SVD Visa Holders Seminars (Info)
Trusted Traveler Programs

Other Topics:

Administrative Relief
Affidavit of Support Letters: Authorization
Alien Registration "Green Card" Holder Reminders
Application to Preserve Residence for Naturalization Purposes (for LPRs)
Canada: Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA)
Canadian Immigration Websites
Canadian Residency Obligation
Change of Address Requirement

Correct and Consistent Name on Immigration Documents
Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)
Deferred Inspection Sites
Driver's Licenses

Employment for F-1 Students Targeted
F-1 Student Status: Completion of Studies
Global Entry Program
Guide to USCIS Online Tools

I-94 Arrival/Departure Card
I-94: Paperless
I-94: Traveler Compliance Check
Immigration Documents
Immigration Site Visits by the USCIS

Immigration Terminology
InfoPass
Lawful Permanent Residence (LPR): Procedure for Applying
Maximum Status Rule (R-1s)
Medical Examination and Vaccination Record (LPR Applicants)
Naturalization

One Year Presence for LPRs
Overseas Training Program / Cultural Training Program (F-1s)
Passport: Expiration Date
Passport: Lost or Stolen
Passport: Renewal
Payment Requests: Scam Alert

Permanent Residence Card
R-1 Approval vs. I-94 Retrieval Validity Dates
R-1 Maximum Status Rule: New Policy
Reading and Understanding Your Visa
Re-entry Permit (for LPRs)
SEVIS: Fraud Alert (May 2015)
SEVIS: Status Verification at Ports of Entry

Social Security Number and/or Card
Special Immigrant Religious Worker Sunset Relief

Study in the States (DHS website)
SVD USC Handbook for Visa Holders
SVD Visa Holders Seminars
Travel Record (R-1s and LPRs)
Travel to Canada, Mexico (F-1s)

Traveling Outside of the U.S.
Trusted Traveler Programs
United States, China Extend Student Visa Validity
USC Province Immigration Activities
USCIS Case Status
USCIS Forms: Applications, Petitions
USCIS Website, Virtual Assistant
US-VISIT Program (LPRs)
Visa
(an overview)
Visa: Application Status Check Online
Visa: Evidence of Nonimmigrant Intent/Visa Denials
Visa: Fraud

Visa: New Application Fees
Visa: Renewal
Visa: Transit Visas
Visa: Validity Periods
Websites: Links and Resources

 * The SVD USC Handbook for Visa Holders is available to SVD members at the USC Province member website.

All links reviewed and are current as of June 4, 2015.



Administrative Relief

Alert (Jan 2017) President-elect Donald Trump will take office at noon on January 20, 2017.  The new president may decide to make adjustments to the current legal immigration system and enforcement policies and may discontinue DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals)--an election promise he issued.  Checking with the various U.S. Department of Justice agencies listed in the second paragraph below will help keep you informed of future changes in immigration policy, procedures and programs.

Info (Dec 2014):  If you have questions, concerns, or need basic facts concerning President Obama’s recent “Administrative Relief” actions announced on November 20, 2014 visit the Committee for Immigration Reform Implementation (CIRI) Resource Center at www.adminrelief.org for details and sign up for email alerts as well!

U.S. Department of Justice agencies are also providing information and details on how Administrative Relief will be implemented within their own agencies.
Department of Homeland Security (DHS): https://www.dhs.gov/archive/immigration-action

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE): https://www.ice.gov/immigrationAction
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS): https://www.uscis.gov/immigrationaction

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Affidavit of Support Letters: Authorization

Reminder (Apr 2016, Nov 2014): For the past several years, it has been the established protocol of the Society of the Divine Word's Chicago Province (USC) that the USC Provincial is the only person authorized to write letters of invitation for family members, friends, and other SVDs seeking to come to the U.S. to visit on a B1/B2 Tourist Visa. (This also includes so-called "simple" letters of invitation.) This policy was recommended to us by our immigration legal team who firmly advise that only one person should speak for the Chicago Province when inviting nonimmigrants into the United States. Since the legal responsibility for these nonimmigrants lies with the Chicago Province while they are here in the U.S., it is the Provincial who speaks for (and represents) the Chicago Province in this the legal responsibility.

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Alien Registration "Green Card" Holder Reminders

Reminder (Jul 2017, Feb 2015, Aug 2012): If you are a Legal Permanent Resident (LPR) traveling outside of the U.S., you need to have a valid passport and your "green card" with you.  It is a good, sensible idea to always have your passport stamped as this will help you keep track of your travel dates.  Later should you decide to apply for naturalization, you will be required to list all of your trips outside the U.S. since becoming an LPR and it may be difficult to recall all the dates without the corresponding stamps in your passport.

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Application to Preserve Residence for Naturalization Purposes (for LPRs)

Info (May 2015): Certain LPRs serving outside the U.S. may be eligible to file a form N-470 Application to Preserve Residence for Naturalization Purposes.  If approved, time spent outside the U.S. may be counted as physical presence in the U.S. and count toward the LPR’s naturalization.

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Canada: Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA)

Update (Jun 2016):  The leniency period for complying with the new Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) requirement has been extended to September 29, 2016 but if you need an eTA don’t wait!  Find instructions at http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/visit/eta.asp and answers to frequently asked questions at http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/helpcentre/results-by-topic.asp?st=16.7.

Alert (May 2016): As of March 15, 2016, visa-exempt foreign nationals are expected to have an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) to fly to or transit through Canada.  Exceptions include U.S. citizens and travelers with a valid Canadian visa.  Check http://cic.gc.ca/english/visit/eta.asp for details on eTA requirements, documents, and applying.

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Canadian Immigration Websites

Update (Aug 2016):  The website addresses and information listed for these Canadian immigration websites have been reviewed, updated, and are current as of August 2016.

Update (Apr 2014): Several of the links below have been updated.

Info (Mar 2013): Following are several websites that could be helpful to our members assigned to Canada.  The list is courtesy of our Canadian immigration attorneys.

   Citizenship and Immigration Canada: http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/index.asp

   Official site of the Government of Quebec. The Ministère de I’Immigration, de la Diversitè et l'Inclusion:
http://www.immigration-quebec.gouv.qc.ca/en/index.html 
(note that the content of this site is not entirely translated in English)

   The Régie d’Assurance Maladie du Québec (Quebec health insurance program): http://www.ramq.gouv.qc.ca/en/Pages/home.aspx

   Employment and Social Development (previously known as "Service Canada") https://www.canada.ca/en/employment-social-development.html

   Ontario Health Insurance Program (OHIP): http://www.health.gov.on.ca/en/public/programs/ohip/

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Canadian Residency Obligation

Reminder (Jun 2014): Individuals with Permanent Resident (PR) status in Canada are required to comply with the residency obligation with respect to "every five-year period".  This means that an individual must be physically present in Canada for at least 730 days during each five-year period.

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Change of Address Requirement

Info (Mar 2016, Nov 2014):  Please note that when filling out the AR-11 Change of Address form, your employer's name and address is the "Society of the Divine Word, 1985 Waukegan Road, Techny, Illinois 60082."  The employer you list is not the archdiocese or parish you are assigned to.

Reminder (Jun 2014, Apr 2012):  It is your personal responsibility to keep the USCIS up-to-date on your current address. Please refer to the Alert below for details on how to do that.  Failure to report a change of address is punishable by fine or imprisonment and/or removal.  Keeping the USCIS up-to-date is the responsibility of Lawful Permanent Residents (LPRs) and all nonimmigrant visa holders. That includes those who are in R-1 Religious Worker status.

Reminder (Mar 2012): Lawful Permanent Residents (LPRs) are required to notify USCIS of every change of address until such time you obtain U.S. Citizenship.  See the Alert below.  The address change can be completed online at the USCIS website.  It is Form AR-11.

Alert (Jun 2011): Per the USCIS, Lawful Permanent Residents (LPRs) and all nonimmigrant visa holders, including R-1 Religious Worker status, are required to update the U.S. Customs and Immigration Service (USCIS) concerning any change in address.  To do this, go to https://www.uscis.gov/ar-11.   Complete the form online and submit it electronically.  Save a pdf copy of the completed, submitted form for your records and send a copy to the Provincial Office or Province Education Office.

During the May 24, 2011 Department of Homeland Security/U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ inspection visit, the officer from the Administrative Site Visit Verification Program inquired about our compliance with this address verification requirement.

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Correct (and Consistent) Name on Immigration Documents

Reminder (Jun 2016, Jan 2014): Visa holders are urged to make sure that their name is correct on all official immigration documents as well as driver's license applications and other identity-related documents.  All documents should have your name spelled exactly as it is listed on your passport and the passport should match exactly what is listed on your U.S. visa. 

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Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)

Alert (Jan 2017):  President-elect Donald Trump will take office at noon on January 20, 2017.  Although he stated during his campaign that he would end DACA, it is unclear how, when, or if this will actually happen.  If you are planning to apply for DACA or renewing your application, it is advised that you consult with your attorney or a trusted legal service provider for advice first.

Update (Sep 2012): On June 15, 2012, President Obama announced a program offering deferred action to certain people who are present in the United States unlawfully and came to the United States as children.  Program details can be found at https://www.uscis.gov/humanitarian/consideration-deferred-action-childhood-arrivals-daca (link updated October 7, 2015) or visit our Immigration Resources page here.

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Deferred Inspection Sites

Info (Jul 2016):  These sites provide assistance to those individuals who at the time of entry into the United States were scheduled for a deferred inspection or believe that the documentation and corresponding endorsements issued at the port of entry require review and possible correction.  For locations and details go to U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s website at https://www.cbp.gov/document/guidance/deferred-inspection-sites.

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Driver's License

Info (Jul 2017, Jul 2015):  The State of Nevada offers an up-to-date, comprehensive list of all 50 state's Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) websites.  Visit www.dmvnv.com/50_state_dmv_list.html

Info (May 2013): The requirements for applying for a driver's license may vary from state to state, so you will need to check with the local office that issues the license in your area of residence.  For State of Illinois requirements, please visit www.cyberdriveillinois.com which will provide you with information regarding necessary documents for both driver’s licenses and state ID cards.  (See also Section VI of the SVD USC Visa Holders Handbook.)

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Employment for F-1 Students Targeted

Update (Sep 2015):  On March 7, 2014 the U.S. General Accountability Office (GAO)  responded to Sen. Grassley's concerns. You can access the GAO’s recommendations and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) responses here.

Update (Sep 2012): Sen. Charles Grassley (R. IA) has focused on F-1 student employment as a possible threat to U.S. national and economic security and program integrity.  In a May 31, 2012 letter to the Government Accounting Office (GAO), he called for a complete investigation of the Optional Practical Training Program. In a February 2012 letter to President Obama, Sen. Grassley criticized an expansion of OPT for certain students in high tech fields during a period of high unemployment of U.S. workers.  Recently, USCIS has begun denying OPT requests that are not timely filed by the student within 30 days of the DSO’s recommendation.
Unauthorized employment by F-1 students is a violation of status.  Employment may be authorized:

   at an on-campus job;

   as curricular practical training (“CPT”) to engage in an externship or work-study program for course credit or required by his or her academic program;

   as optional practical training (“OPT”), with authorization by USCIS to allow a student to work in a job related to his or her field of study but not required by his or her academic program and for which course credit is not granted; or

   because of proven, unanticipated financial hardship.

F-1 students must consult with their DSO before beginning employment to make sure their employment is lawful and that all necessary paperwork is completed.   All of these employment categories contain restrictions on the number of hours or number of months a student may work.  For example on-campus employment, OPT engaged in prior to graduation, and financial hardship employment may be only part-time (i.e. no more than 20 hours a week) except during school holidays and in the summer.  In addition, in most cases students must have completed at least one academic year of full-time study before being eligible for employment authorization.  Finally, with the exception of on-campus employment, all employment requires the DSO to authorize the employment in SEVIS.  For OPT and financial hardship employment, the student must also apply to USCIS and receive an employment authorization card before beginning work. 

Sen. Grassley letter to GAO regarding OPT

Sen. Grassley Letter to the President

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F-1 Student Status: Completion of Studies

Alert (May 2016): After you have completed your academic studies, you must depart the U.S. within 60 days of completing your program.  See the SVD USC Handbook for Visa Holders, Section I, page 6 for complete details.

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Global Entry Program (LPRs)

Update (Aug 2017):  CBP (U.S. Customs and Border Protection) has expanded program eligibility for Global Entry to citizens of India.  The announcement was made July 3, 2017 and can be read at https://www.cbp.gov/newsroom/national-media-release/cbp-announces-expansion-global-entry-indian-citizens.

Info (Jun 2015): If you are enrolled in the Global Entry Program (GE) and your LPR card (aka "green card") has been renewed or replaced since enrolling in GE, you will need to visit a Global Entry Center so that a Customs Border Protection (CBP) officer can input the LPR card's "new" information.  The CBP-entered data will then coincide with your Global Entry Program membership and your LPR card will be accepted at GE kiosks.  Global Entry Centers are located in most major U.S. airports. Visit https://www.cbp.gov/travel/trusted-traveler-programs/global-entry/locations for a list.

Reminder (Feb 2015, Apr 2012): "Green Card" holders are eligible to apply for the Global Entry Program.  See the information below (Apr 2012) and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website for details.

Info (Apr 2012): Global Entry is a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) program that allows expedited clearance for pre-approved, low-risk travelers upon arrival in the United States.  For full details, requirements, and to sign up for the program, visit the CBP site https://www.cbp.gov/travel/trusted-traveler-programs/global-entry/how-apply.  As we understand it, this program is available to U.S. citizens, Lawful Permanent Residents (LPRs), and citizens of Mexico.

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Guide to USCIS Online Tools

Info (Feb 2017, Aug 2015, Jul 2014):  USCIS offers a variety of online tools for their customers, the organizations that serve them and the general public.  The information from their online tools is updated based on their systems and usually provides the same information you would get by calling the USCIS national toll-free number.  You can keep track of your case, make an appointment at one of their local field offices or verify your employment eligibility. Access the guide at https://www.uscis.gov/tools.  We even suggest you print the page out for quick reference.

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I-94 Arrival / Departure Record (NonImmigrants)

Alert (Nov 2016): Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has changed the website address at which you can obtain a copy of your I-94 and travel history.  Please note that the new address is https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov/I94/#/home.  When requesting a copy of your I-94 (or travel history), you should have your passport available as the site will ask you for your first name, last name, date of birth, passport number and the country of issuance.  (All of that information is noted on your passport.)

Info (Sep 2015, Dec 2013): Nonimmigrants departing the U.S. by air or sea and who were previously issued a paper Form I-94 (White Card) should surrender it to their commercial carrier or to Customs and Border Protection (CBP) upon departure.  Those with the new electronic I-94 record printout do NOT need to surrender the document since CBP will record their departure electronically via the manifest information provided by their carrier. 

Update (Sept 2015, Jul 2013): The paperless I-94 is now in effect.  Travelers arriving to the U.S. by sea or air will have their passports stamped with an admission stamp that notes their date of admission, class of admission and admitted-until date.  It is the responsibility of the traveler to then retrieve/obtain their own I-94 paper copy at https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov/I94/#/home

Reminder (Sep 2015, Aug 2012):  Rule 264e of the Immigration and Nationality Act, states that the I-94 Arrival/Departure Card must be carried on your person.  There is a fine as well as possible jail time (misdemeanor charge) for not complying with the rule. This rule also applies to anyone in the U.S. holding a B1/B2 Tourist status.

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I-94: Traveler Compliance Check

Alert (Oct 2017):  U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP of USCBP) has added a new function to the I-94 website  that allows visa holders to check the status of their stay in the United States.  On the website after entering your name, birthdate, passport number and passport country of issuance, you can view your admitted-until-date, how much longer you may remain and/or how many days you have overstayed with instructions on what to do in the event of an overstay.  On the website there is also a FAQs section.  The I-94 website is: https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov/I94/#/home

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Immigration Documents

Reminder (Jul 2017, Mar 2015, Sep 2013): Visa holders must carry their I-94 with them at all times.  This is the law for visa holders.  Legal Permanent Residents (LPRs) must carry their permanent residence card (aka "green card") with them at all times.  This is the law for LPRs.

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Immigration Site Visits by the USCIS

Info (Nov 2014): The number of unannounced site inspections by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is now seven: Five in-person inspections occurring at the Province Center, an SVD community or parish; and two inspections via phone by a USCIS agent.

Info (Aug 2014): The Chicago Province experienced the sixth unannounced site inspection by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Department of Homeland Security, Administrative Site Visit and Verification Program on April 16, 2014.  Four of the unannounced visits have taken place at the Province Center, one at an SVD Community, and one at an SVD Parish.  The Provincial also received a phone call from a USCIS Site Verification Office on May 15, 2014 asking to verify the R-1 employment of two SVDs working at a parish in the Midwest.

All Religious Worker (R-1) applicants and valid R-1 status holders are subject to these inspections.  An example being the latest inspection which was for an SVD recently approved for an R-1 extension.  Remain vigilant! 

Info (May 2011): The Chicago Province had its fourth unannounced immigration visit on May 24, 2011 when an agent from the Administrative Site Visit and Verification Program, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, Department of Homeland Security came to the Province Center.

The interview was lengthy and detailed, but we were well prepared and answered all questions thoroughly.  The visit also involved a campus tour, as well as some picture taking by the officer.

Earlier this year the same government agency paid an unannounced visit to one of our communities, and prior to this the USCIS conducted an inspection over the phone with a member.

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Immigration Terminology

Info (Jun 2017, Nov 2015): The SVD Handbook for Visa Holders has a section that explains many frequently used terms and acronyms with regards to immigration (i.e., "alien", "Port of Entry", "SEVIS", etc.).  See page 25, Section XIV.

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InfoPass

Info (Aug 2016):  USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services) has launched a “refresh” of InfoPass, the online system that lets you schedule an appointment at one of their offices.  New features include a mapping function that makes it easier to find a local office in the United States and an improved visual style that matches the rest of USCIS’ web site.  At the InfoPass site you can also link to application forms and check on your case status and more.  Go to https://my.uscis.gov/en/appointment.

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Lawful Permanent Residence (LPR): Procedure for Applying

Info (Feb 2016): SVDs applying for Lawful Permanent Residence status, i.e. a “green card” can only do so after receiving authorization from the Provincial.  Only the Provincial is authorized to give permission for this process. For complete procedure details see Section X, page 20 of the SVD Handbook for Visa Holders

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Maximum Status Rule (R-1s)

Reminder (Oct 2015, Sep 2011): An individual holding an R-1 visa must depart the U.S. for at least one full year after reaching the five-year maximum. R-1 Holders need to keep this in mind when planning extended trips outside of the United States.

This five-year time limit could also affect those filing for Legal Permanent Resident (LPR).  Such persons must remain in valid R-1 status up to the time he applies for LPR status and must obtain an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) in order to remain eligible to adjust status.

Update (Apr 2012): On March 8, 2012 the USCIS issued a Policy Memorandum which formally recognizes that time spent outside of the U.S. by R-1 nonimmigrants will not be counted toward their five-year time limit.  This reverses their official position of August 29, 2011 (below) and is good news, indeed!

Alert (Sep 2011): The USCIS reaffirmed their position on recapturing R-1 time while outside of the U.S. and this official position was published in "88 Interpreter Releases", pp. 2048, dated August 29, 2011.  The USCIC decision was made public during the National Religious Worker Stakeholder Engagement Q&A Sessions held on July 14, 2011 and July 28, 2011.

USCIS Official position (as of August 29, 2011): The five-year time limit will continue to accrue even while a person is outside of the U.S. for meetings, home leave or other reasons.

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Medical Examination and Vaccination Record (LPR Applicants)

Update (Apr 2017):  Form I-693 Report of Medical Examination and Vaccination Record has been updated by USCIS.  Starting April 28, 2017, USCIS will only accept the 02/07/17 edition of this form.  Until then, you can use the 03/30/15 edition.  (You can find the edition date at the bottom of the page on the Form and Instructions.)  For specific details and instructions go to the USCIS website at https://www.uscis.gov/i-693.

Alert (Aug 2014): Starting May 30, 2014, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will limit the validity period for all Forms I-693 Report of Medical Examination and Vaccination Record to one year from the date of submission to USCIS.  Applicants must also submit Form I-693 to USCIS within one year of the immigration medical examination. 

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Naturalization

Reminder (Feb 2017, Aug 2014): Legal Permanent Residents (LPRs) intending to apply for naturalization--whether soon or in the coming years--should review the U.S. residency requirements noted in the Oct 2011 Alert below.

Alert (Oct 2011): The rule for naturalization is that the applicant must be an LPR residing in the U.S. for at least five years, and physically present in the U.S. for at least one half of those five years.  Any departure of more than six months and less than one year gives rise to a presumption that the LPR broke his continuous residence.  That presumption may be overcome by evidence that the LPR did not intend to abandon his residence in the U.S.  Any departure of more than one year will necessarily break residence for naturalization purposes, unless the LPR has filed an N-470 application to preserve residence for naturalization purposes.

The N-470 application, when approved, treats period of time spent outside the U.S. as if it were physical presence in the U.S.  It is available to priests and religious workers assigned to perform religious service outside the U.S.  But the LPR must have been continuously physically present in the U.S. for one year in order to qualify for the N-470 benefit.

If the priest or confrere will be outside the U.S. for longer than six months, it is recommended that he file an application for a re-entry permit.  This is one way to argue that the LPR did not intend to abandon his residence in the U.S.

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One Year Presence (LPRs)

Reminder (Dec 2015, Aug 2011): LPRs must be continuously physically present in the U.S. for a one year period after becoming a Lawful Permanent Resident, if they intend to file for the N-470 (Application to Preserve Residence for Naturalization Purposes) anytime in the future.  Check the USCIS web site under https://www.uscis.gov/sites/default/files/files/form/n-470instr.pdf for additional details.

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Overseas Training Program / Cultural Training Program (F-1s)

Reminder (Nov 2017) Update (Apr 2015): The guidelines issued by this Province for OTP/CTP have been updated to be more specific and to also include information about C transit visas.  See item 2.(B) under section "Before returning to the U.S."  We suggest you print a copy of these guidelines for your reference.

Info (Sep 2012): The USC Education Office and Scott D. Pollock and Associates have developed a set of guidelines for F-1 Students planning to participate in the OTP (Overseas Training Program) / CTP (Cultural Training Program) outside of the United States.  You are encouraged to review the guidelines in order to ensure a timely and trouble-free return to the U.S.

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Passport: Expiration Date

Reminder (Sep 2017, Jan 2015, Dec 2012): You are reminded to check the expiration date of your passport and renew it well in advance of the expiration.  The renewal process for some countries can be lengthy.  You should check the website, www.embassyworld.org, which is a directory of locations and links to foreign nations' embassies and consulates.

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Passport: Lost or Stolen

Info (Sep 2017, Oct 2015, Apr 2013):  The U.S. Department of State has complete information and instructions on what to do if your valid U.S. passport is lost or stolen either in the United States or abroad or if you find another person's lost U.S. passport. The website is https://travel.state.gov/content/passports/en/emergencies/lost-or-stolen-passports-abroad.html.  If you have a foreign passport that has been lost or stolen, contact your home country's consulate general for additional information. To locate your home country's embassy or consular offices within the U.S. visit www.embassyworld.org.

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Passport: Renewal

Info (Sep 2017, Mar 2015, Nov 2012):  If you renew your passport and your old valid visa is in your old passport, please make sure your Consulate returns the old passport with the valid visa inside to you. Normally when this happens the Consulate stamps your passport VIOP, which means "visa in the old passport". This signals U.S. Customs and Border Protection (USCBP) to check your old passport (which you must keep with you) for your valid visa.

If your Consulate does not return your old passport with the valid visa inside, you will not be allowed to re-enter the U.S. and will be required to apply for a new visa, which takes a lot of extra time.

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Payment Requests: Scam Alert

Alert (Oct 2016):  Please be aware that USCIS officials will never ask for payment over the phone or in an email.  If USCIS need payment, they will mail a letter on official stationery requesting payment.  Never respond to a request for payment made by phone or email, no matter how persuasive or aggressive it sounds.  You can report a scam email or phone call to the Federal Trade Commission at https://www.ftc.gov/.

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Permanent Residence Card (LPRs)

Alert (May 2017):  USCIS has redesigned the Permanent Resident Cards (“green cards”) and the Employment Authorization Document (EAD) and will begin issuing these newly-designed cards to applicants on May 1, 2017.  USCIS news release.  The new card designs demonstrate USCIS’ commitment to continue taking a proactive approach against the threat of document tampering and fraud.  Read the news release from USCIS at. New cards will not be issued to current green card- and EAD-holders.  Current cards—regardless of design—remain valid until expiration.

Reminder (Feb 2015, Aug 2012): Those in Legal Permanent Resident (LPR) status must carry their "permanent residence card" (also known as a "green card") with them at all times. It is the law.

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R-1 Approval vs. I-94 Retrieval Validity Dates

Info (Sep 2016, May 2014):  An individual may receive R-1 status for a total period of up to five years in the U.S., with a maximum 30 month authorization at any given time.  An individual must have an approved R-1 petition in order to request an R-1 visa from a U.S. Consulate.

There has been a great discrepancy among CBP officials and the amount of R-1 authorized time that they issue upon an individual’s arrival to the U.S.  If at any time you see a stamp in your passport authorizing your stay in the U.S. beyond the validity period of you R-1 approval notice, it is IN ERROR.  This is the same for your I-94 printout, which often contains a different R-1 ending date than from the end date noted in your passport stamp.

You must rely on the dates of your original R-1 approval notice (issued by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services on Form 797B - Notice of Action), and be sure to always have an approved R-1 petition if you travel outside the U.S.  If you do not, you will be ineligible to receive a new visa and cannot return to the U.S.

It is confusing to see different dates on your approval, passport and I-94 printout.  Based on one document you appear to be in status while looking at another you are not.  For this reason it is of utmost importance that you provide a copy of your visa, any stamps placed in your passport and your I-94 printout to us within 48 hours of every new trip and re-entry to the U.S.  Only by doing so can we be sure that you are maintaining lawful status in the U.S.

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Reading and Understanding Your Visa

Info (Jun 2017, Aug 2015, Feb 2014): The U.S. Department of State has posted an illustrated guide to reading and understanding visas at https://travel.state.gov/content/visas/en/general/frequently-asked-questions/what-is-a-u-s-visa.html. The site also contains links to FAQs about visas as well as the latest USCIS-visa news.

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Re-entry Permit (for LPRs)

Info (May 2015): LPR holders planning to remain outside of the U.S. for 12 months or more, should request a “re-entry permit” with USCIS while still in the United States.  An approved permit from USCIS allows re-entry to the U.S. for up to two years from your departure date.

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SEVIS: Fraud Alert

Alert (May 2015): Recently, the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) became aware that scammers are targeting students in the Chicago area in an attempt to solicit funds on behalf of the I-901 Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) Fee. The scammers are using the 'Location Services' app on students' cellular devices to find the students' location and threaten them with continued pursuit if they do not receive the money.  Please read the full fraud alert for specific details on how to deal with this scam.

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SEVIS: Status Verification at Ports of Entry

Alert (Sep 2016):  If the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer at the port of entry cannot verify your information, or if you do not have all of the required documentation, a CBP officer may direct you to an interview area known as “secondary inspection.” Secondary inspection allows inspectors to conduct additional research in order to verify information without causing delays for other arriving passengers.  See DHS’s website for more information regarding secondary inspections: https://studyinthestates.dhs.gov/what-is-secondary-inspection

Alert (May 2013): The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has implemented a system that updates U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) databases with a lookout for F, M. and J nonimmigrants whose SEVIS record has been terminated, cancelled, or completed. The protocol has been implemented to ensure that individuals whose SEVIS records have been terminated, cancelled, or completed are not admitted or readmitted without a thorough review of their situation. Individuals who do not have a lookout on their record (due to termination, cancellation or completion) should be admitted to the United States as usual through primary inspection, unless there is some other unrelated reason which calls for a more thorough review in secondary inspection. For up-to-date information regarding your student visa status visit the "Study in the States" DHS website: https://studyinthestates.dhs.gov/

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Social Security Number and Card

Info (Mar 2016, May 2014): Information about applying for a social security number and/or card can be found online at http://www.ssa.gov/ssnumber/.  This is the U.S. Government’s official Social Security website.  You can also reference the SVD USC Handbook for Visa Holders (Section VI, page 14).

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Special Immigrant Religious Worker Sunset Relief

Update (Sep 2012): The House and Senate passed, S. 3245, legislation extending the Special Immigrant Religious Worker category for non-ministers for three years until September 30, 2015.  The legislation passed unanimously in the Senate and by a large majority in the House was sent to President Obama for signature on September 13.  Religious organizations should be able to continue filing I-360 petitions for non-ministers without difficulty. 

Bill summary and status: https://www.congress.gov/bill/112th-congress/senate-bill/3245/text?overview=closed
More details on the bill:  http://www.aila.org/infonet/s-3245-3-year-extension-of-certain-uscis-programs

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Study in the States Website

Info (Feb 2017, Dec 2014): The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has a website designed to provide information to international students studying in the U.S. as well as for the schools they attend.  Among the features are an interactive glossary with definitions of commonly used terms, an "Ask a Question" section, and links to SEVIS resources. The Study in the States website is at https://studyinthestates.dhs.gov/.

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SVD USC Handbook for Visa Holders

Update (Jul 2015): The Visa Handbook has been updated to include new information on Practical Training (page 5), Transit Visas (page 12), Change of Address Form (page 13) US-Visit Program (page 19), and SVD Policy on Applying for U.S. Citizenship (page 22).  SVD visa holders are strongly urged to print out this latest edition.  See Accessing the Visa Holders Handbook (below).

Accessing the Visa Holders Handbook:  Hardcopies of the Handbook are not physically distributed.  All SVD visa holders and those SVDs involved with immigration issues are urged to print out their own copy of the Handbook.  To do so, you will need to login to the USC Province members website uscsvd.center. Choose "Publications" from the menu bar at the top. Then, choose "SVD Visa Handbook" from the drop-down menu.

Please note that the Handbook is copyrighted and intended for SVD members only.

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Update (Oct 2014): The Visa Handbook has been updated to include new information on practical training for F-1 Students (page 5 of the Handbook). It is suggested that you print out page 5 of the online Handbook and insert it in your print copy. The current (most up-to-date) edition of the SVD USC VISA Holders Handbook which includes all updates is available to members at www.divineword.org.

Update (Jul 2014): The Visa Handbook has been updated to include changes to several website resources on page 24 as well additions to pages 10, 13, 22, and 24.  (See the last paragraph below for instructions on how to access the Handbook online.)

Update (Nov 2013): The Visa Handbook has been updated to include changes to Section IX: US-VISIT (pg. 19) wherein LPRs are no longer exempt from the US-VISIT program and Section XIII: RESOURCES (pg. 24) which has a new website added.  We strongly suggest you print out the Handbook's cover page and the updated pages to replace the old. (See the following paragraphs for instructions on how to access the Handbook online.)

New (Jul 2013):  The SVD USC Handbook for Visa Holders has been updated.  New information is included with regards to: Fundraising (pg. 10); change of address (pg. 13); the paperless I-94 process (Sections I and II); photograph requirements for F-1 visa applications (pg. 6); and applying for a visa at an overseas U.S. consulate (pg. 9).

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SVD Visa Holders Seminars

Alert (Nov 2017, Oct 2017):  The dates for the 2017-18 series of SVD Visa Holders Seminars are November 11, 2017 at Divine Word Theologate, Chicago and April 5, 2018 at Divine Word Missionaries in Bordentown, New Jersey.  All SVD visa holders in the Chicago Province are required to attend one of these meetings.  Click here for seminar details and registration instructions.

Info:  The dates for the 2016-17 series of SVD Visa Holders Seminars were November 12, 2016 at Divine Word Theologate, Chicago and April 20, 2017 at Divine Word Missionaries in Bordentown, New Jersey.

Info:  The dates for the 2015-16 series of SVD Visa Holders Seminars were November 14, 2015 at Divine Word Theologate, Chicago and April 23, 2016 at Divine Word Missionaries in Bordentown, New Jersey.

Info:  The dates for the 2014-15 series of SVD Visa Holders Seminars were November 8, 2014 at Divine Word Theologate in Chicago and April 25, 2015 at Divine Word Missionaries in Bordentown, New Jersey. 

Info:  The dates for the 2013-14 series of SVD Visa Holders Seminars were November 9, 2013 at Divine Word Theologate in Chicago and April 26, 2014 at Divine Word Missionaries in Bordentown, New Jersey. 

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Travel Record (R-1s and LPRs)

Reminder (Dec 2015, Nov 2012): Keep a list or log of ALL your travel "outside" of the United States, including the date of departure and the date of re-entry each time.  Should an R-1 holder need to recapture R-1 status time in order to take full advantage of R-1 approval for the maximum of five years, and should an LPR eventually seek naturalization approval from both the Provincial and ultimately USCIS, a detailed record of ALL travel outside of the U.S. since first arriving will be a mandatory document.  Make this an ongoing record/list/log and keep it in a safe place.

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Travel to Canada, Mexico (F-1s)

Reminder (Jan 2016):  Students in F-1 status may travel to Canada or Mexico for no more than 30 days and are reminded that they must have a current signed SEVIS I-20 with them when they re-enter the U.S.  Please refer to Section I, page 5 of the USC SVD Handbook for Visa Holders for specific information and more details.

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Traveling Outside of the U.S.

Reminder (Dec 2015, Oct 2013):  Members should always carry with them a copy of their updated SVD Affidavit of Support letter when traveling outside of the U.S. (for example: home leave) in case the U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer at your port of re-entry asks for proof of your continued membership and/or employment.  The Provincial Office or the Education Secretariat can provide you with this letter before you leave the U.S. if you request it well in advance.  Carrying a current Affidavit of Support letter is recommended even if your visa remains valid.

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Trusted Traveler Programs

Info (Nov 2017): International travelers can enroll in a Trusted Traveler Program (TTP) based on their country of origin, destination, and/or mode of travel. These programs allow for expedited processing into the United States.  To be a Trusted Traveler you must be pre-approved and determined to be low risk. Programs include Global Entry, NEXUS and SENTRI. U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) has redesigned the TTP website which now plainly and easily describes each Program with links to each specific program.  Visit https://ttp.cbp.dhs.gov/

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United States, China Extend Student Visa Validity

Info (Jan 2015): On November 10, 2014, President Barack Obama announced that the United States and China will increase the validity of student and exchange visitor visas from one to five years, and the validity of short-term tourist and business visas from one to 10 years.  Details on this agreement and answers to frequently asked questions can be found at http://beijing.usembassy-china.org.cn/niv_info.html and https://travel.state.gov/content/visas/en/general/us-china-agree-to-extend-visas.html.

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USC Province Immigration Activities

Info (May 2015, Sep 2014, Jul 2014, Jun 2014, Nov 2013, Apr 2013):  An overview of the immigration activities handled by the USC Province's immigration administrator and staff from 1995 to the present is available for your review here.

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USCIS Case Status

Info (Jun 2016, May 2014):  If you have a pending case with the USCIS, you can now check its status online.  You can also sign up to receive case status updates by email and text message.  Visit https://egov.uscis.gov/casestatus/landing.do.

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USCIS Forms: Applications, Petitions

Alert (Jan 2017):  During December 2016 U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) updated many of its application and petition forms to easier-to-use formats and to take advantage of new data collection technologies.  Form I-90 Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card, Form I-129 Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, and Form I-539 Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status were among those updated.  Our legal counsel is aware of the form updates and will always file the current acceptable form on your behalf.  Your timely cooperation with counsel when you are asked for information will keep your immigration case moving forward.

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USCIS Website, Virtual Assistant

Info (Jan 2016):  USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services) has added a virtual assistant to their website.  Her name is "Emma" and she is named after Emma Lazarus, whose famous words are inscribed at the base of the Statue of Liberty.  Emma can answer questions in plain English and navigate users to relevant USCIS web pages.  Check out Emma at https://www.uscis.gov and click the "Emma" icon in the upper right-hand corner of the page.

Info (Dec 2014):  USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services) has updated their homepage with a new look and a better Case Status tool.  The homepage will still offer the user-friendly icons and tabs you are familiar with, and it will now provide easy-to-navigate sections on USCIS news, outreach events, educational webinars, and other services.  Visit https://www.uscis.gov.

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US-VISIT Program (LPRs)

Update (Aug 2016):  The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has replaced the United States Visitor and Immigration Status Indicator Technology (US-VISIT) Program with the Office of Biometric Identity Management (OBIM).  Information about OBIM can be found at https://www.dhs.gov/obim.  You should also mark this new information in your SVD USC Handbook for Visa Holders on page 19.

Update (Nov 2013):  Please note that Legal Permanent Residents (LPRs) are no longer exempt from the US-VISIT program.  All LPRs must now submit to this biometric based entry/exit data collection program whenever arriving or departing the United States.

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Visa (an overview)

Info (Nov 2017, Apr 2015): A visa is a document issued by a U.S. consulate and placed in the visa holder’s passport. It allows the visa holder to travel to and enter the U.S. before the expiration date of the visa. The expiration date of the visa does not determine how long the visa holder may remain in the U.S. (How long you can stay in the U.S. is determined by and recorded by an immigration officer at the port of entry and is noted on your I-94.)
(Ref: page 26 of the SVD USC Handbook for Visa Holders).

   If your visa expires while you are in the U.S. this is not a problem. The visa is an entry document.

   For SVD purposes a new visa must be obtained outside of the U.S., preferably in the home country when a person is on home leave.

   A visa can be applied for in Canada or Mexico but if the SVD is denied a visa for any reason he must return immediately to his home country and will not be allowed back into the United States.  The online Visa Appointment Reservation System for U.S. nonimmigrant visa appointments at U.S. Consulates in Canada is at https://ais.usvisa-info.com/en-ca/niv; for Mexico it is at https://ais.usvisa-info.com/en-mx/niv.

   Visas are issued for various periods of time based on the Department of State (DS) Visa Reciprocity Table.  This table may be accessed online at https://travel.state.gov/content/visas/en/fees/reciprocity-by-country.html.

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Visa: Application Status Check

Info (Apr 2016, Nov 2013): You can now check the status of your visa application online at https://ceac.state.gov/CEACStatTracker/Status.aspx. You will need to enter your visa application type: Immigrant Visa (IV) or Nonimmigrant Visa (NIV); and your visa case number.  Note that the site is managed by the Bureau of Consular Affairs, U.S. Department of State--not U.S. Customs and Border Protection

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Visa: Evidence of Nonimmigrant Intent / Visa Denials

Info (Jul 2015):  Documents needed to prove nonimmigrant intent when applying for a visa vary according to the particular visa being requested.  Below is a list to assist you with this particular requirement (proof of nonimmigrant intent).

B1/B2 Visa:

   Clearly explain reasons for travel

   Have set dates of intended travel to and from

   Proof of financial support

   Roundtrip ticket

   Detailed itinerary while in the U.S.

   NO full time study

   No fundraising activities (refer to Visa Handbook, Section II, pg. 10)

F-1 Visa:

   SEVIS I-20 form from institution

   Evidence of financial support (refer to Visa Handbook, Section I, pg. 4 and pg. 7)

R-1 Visa:

   USCIS pre-approved petition (refer to Visa Handbook, Section II, pg. 8)

   SVD Affidavit of Membership, which includes vow history, ordination

   SVD Affidavit of Financial Support

   Detailed job description

   Academic credentials

H-3 Visa:

   USCIS pre-approved petition

   Valid explanation that training is not available in home country

   Detailed program/training description including topics and reading list

   Program calendar day by day and month

   Credentials of the program’s Director

Additional Resources:

   Department of State website https://travel.state.gov/content/visas/en/visit.html

   SVD USC Handbook for Visa Holders, Section VIII, pg. 17 and Section XII, pg. 23

Info (Jan 2015): Visa applicants should be aware of the requirement of providing evidence of nonimmigrant intent with the submission of their visa application.  Details on this requirement can be found on page 7 of the SVD USC Handbook for Visa Holders.

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Visa: Fraud

Info (May 2017, Dec 2014):  Visa fraud is a serious crime.  To underscore that statement, ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) frequently releases details on investigations and trials involving fraudulent visa schemes and those who exploit the legal immigration system for personal gain.  We mention this information as a caution to anyone who may be considering falsifying information on an application, concealing pertinent history, or simply attempting to "bend the rules" during the immigration process.  Visit ICE's website for the latest on document and benefit fraud.

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Visa: New Application Fees

Alert (Nov 2016):  U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has increased its application and petition fees.  The new fees average an increase of 21% and will go into effect December 23, 2016.  Applications and petitions postmarked or filed on or after December 23, 2016, must include the new fee or USCIS will reject the submission.  It should be noted that USCIS is almost entirely funded by application and petition fees.  For a list of the new fees visit https://www.uscis.gov/forms/our-fees.

Alert (Jul 2015, Apr 2012):  Nonimmigrant and immigrant visa application fees for certain visa categories changed on September 12, 2014.  All visa applicants must pay the fee amount in effect on the day they pay.  Visit the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs website https://travel.state.gov/content/visas/en/fees/fees-visa-services.html for current fee schedules.

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Visa: Renewal

Info (Aug 2017, Mar 2015, Feb 2013): The visa is an "entry only" document and cannot be renewed within the United States.  Consult the online version of the SVD USC Handbook for Visa Holders, Section VII for additional information.  Also see page 26 of the Immigration Terminology section under "visa".

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Visa: Transit Visa

Info (May 2015): Transit (C) visas are nonimmigrant visas for persons (i.e. foreign citizens) traveling to another country who will have a brief layover (such as changing planes) in the United States when the only reason for entering the United States is to transit.  See https://travel.state.gov/content/visas/en/other/transit.html for details.

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Visa: Validity Periods

Info (Jul 2016, Jan 2014): Visa validity periods vary depending on the country an individual is from.  Visa validity (the length of time the visa is good for and the number of entries that can be made with that visa) is regulated by the "visa reciprocity" agreement between the U.S. and the visa applicant's home country.  See Section VII: USC Visa Renewal Policy, page 15 of the SVD USC Handbook for Visa Holders.  You can also reference the USCIS Country Reciprocity Tables for updates and current information at https://travel.state.gov/content/visas/en/fees/reciprocity-by-country.html

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Websites: Links and Resources

Info (Nov 2015):  The SVD USC Handbook for Visa Holders contains a list of U.S. Department of State websites and links to pertinent immigration information (i.e., I-94 retrieval, visa application and status, consulates, etc.).  See page 24, Section XIII.

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Links reviewed and updated as necessary: February 2017

 

Office of Education, Recruitment & Formation
Society of the Divine Word   |   Chicago Province  |  1985 Waukegan Road  |  Techny, Illinois 60082
www.uscongoinged.org  |  Tel: 847.272.2700