Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What is a U.S. visa?
A: A United States Visa is a travel document that allows an alien to apply for U.S. admission into the country at its borders and is indicated by a stamp on the alien's passport.
Q: How do I know if my U.S. visa is still valid?
A: To determine if your U.S. visa is valid, you need to check your passport for your visa's expiration date and the number of travel document entries. If the expiration date has passed, your visa is not valid. However, if the date is within the expiration date and you have not used all of the available entries, your visa is valid.
Q: What does “valid U.S. status” mean?
A: Valid U.S. status means that you are authorized by the USCIS (formerly known as the INS) to remain within the U.S. for the authorized period of time.
Q: How do I know if my U.S. status is valid?
A: You can determine the validity of your U.S. status by reviewing your I-94 (Entry/Exit card). When you enter the U.S., you are given an I-94, and generally, the USCIS officer stamps the I-94 card with your legal status' expiration date. If you extend your stay within the U.S. beyond your expiration date and do not obtain a new I-94, your status in the U.S. is no longer valid.
If you are a student, you can determine the validity of your status in the U.S. by checking your SEVIS Form I-20 (Certificate of Eligibility for F-1 Students) or IAP-66 (Certificate of Eligibility for J-1 Students). The length of your program dictates the length of your valid stay in the U.S. If you violate the terms and conditions of your authorized stay, however, you will be considered out of status, even though you have an unexpired I-94.
Q: How does an alien become out of status?
A: An alien can become out of status if he/she leaves the U.S. or if his/her U.S. legal status expires before the status can be renewed or adjusted.
Q: What is the relationship between a U.S. visa and valid U.S. status?
A: A visa is a travel document that allows an alien to apply for admission to the U.S. at its borders. Valid U.S. status gives you permission to remain within the United States. Generally, an alien cannot obtain valid U.S. status without first obtaining a visa. However, you may have a valid U.S. visa but be out of status. Conversely, you may have an expired visa and still have valid U.S. status.
Margarita was issued a U.S. visa that expires next year. Margarita remains in the U.S. beyond her authorized period of stay of one year. She is out of status, even though her visa is valid.
Paula was issued a U.S. visa that expires on November 11, 2012.However, Paula violates her terms and conditions of stay as outlined on her visa. Therefore, she is considered out of status, even though her visa is still valid.
Joseph is currently in the United States on valid B-1 student status. However, the expiration date of his B-1 status is December 21, 2012, while the expiration date of his B-1 visa was August 20, 2012. Therefore, Joseph has valid U.S. status but an expired visa.
Q: I have valid U.S. status in the US, but my visa has expired. If I would like to visit my home country and return to the U.S., what do I need to do?
A: Generally, an alien must obtain a visa at U.S. Consulate abroad to return to the United States; however, there are instances where an alien may return to the U.S. if they still have valid non-immigrant status, through Advance Parole. Advance Parole is a document that allows certain aliens to re-enter the United States without an immigrant visa or non-immigrant visa after traveling abroad. Such aliens must be granted Advance Parole before leaving the United States. If they have not obtained Advance Parole prior to traveling abroad, they may not be permitted to re-enter the United States upon their return without obtaining some kind of visa. For more information about Advance Parole, please click here
Q: I have valid U.S. status, but do not have a valid visa. If I apply for a visa at a U.S. Consulate located abroad or in my home country, is there a chance that I may not obtain a visa?
A: Yes, applying to a U.S. Consulate does not guarantee that you will obtain a visa. A U.S. Consulate has the authority to approve or deny your visa application for any reason.
Q: If I do not have a valid U.S. Visa, can I return to the U.S.?
A: Generally, you may not return to the U.S. unless you have a valid visa, or if you received an Advance Parole document prior to leaving the country.
Q: What is a Third Country Visa?
A: A Third Country Visa refers to a visa application or visa obtained from a U.S. Consulate in a country other than the alien’s home country. Usually, the U.S. Consulate for Third Country Visa processing is located in Canada or Mexico.
Q: Why is it better to apply for a Third Country Visa rather than applying for a visa at a U.S. Consulate located in my home country?
A: Before April 1, 2002, if you applied for a visa at a U.S. Consulate located in Mexico or Canada and were denied the visa request, you would still be able to return to the U.S., provided you had valid U.S. status and you returned to the U.S. within thirty (30) days of your U.S. departure. After April 1, 2002, according to the new interim rule adopted by the US Department of State, such benefit is no longer applicable to the Third Country Visa applicants. An alien may still apply for a non-immigrant visa with a U.S. consulate located in Mexico or Canada, but if he/she cannot obtain the visa, he/she may not re-enter the US even if he/she has a valid I-94 form at the time of entry and stays in Mexico or Canada within 30 days.
Q: Is this new rule intended to be a permanent restriction on Third Country Visa applicants?
A: So far, it is not clear. The US State Department hopes that when circumstances improve, they will restore the privilege of the old rule to the Third Country Visa applicants. However, they currently do not anticipate that time as being in the near future.
Q: Is there a difference between going to Canada or Mexico to obtain a Third Country Visa?
A: Yes. To obtain a Third Country Visa from a U.S. Consulate located in Canada, you may be required to obtain a Canadian visa to enter Canada. However, you don't need to apply for a Mexican visa to enter Mexico if you travel within thirty (30) miles from the U.S. border since there are U.S. Consulates located within thirty (30) miles of the U.S. border. Currently, an entry travel document is required to enter Mexico, but that is easier to obtain than a visa.
Q: I was planning on making an appointment for my third country visa (TCV) application. I do not have a TCV appointment yet and heard that TCV processing is no longer available. Is this true?
A: No, TCV processing was temporarily suspended for certain Consulate posts. However, normal service has resumed and appointments are now once again available either online or via the 1-900 phone number.
Q: I have heard that the Third Country Visa application is no longer available for nationals of certain countries as a measure of anti-terrorism. Is it true?
A: Yes. The U.S. State Department is not allowing nationals from certain countries, which have been identified as sponsoring terrorism, from applying for Third Country Visa. Currently, the designated countries include: Iraq, Iran, Syria, Libya, Sudan, North Korea, and Cuba.
Q: Does your firm have an attorney who speaks Spanish?
A: Yes, we have an Attorney who speaks Spanish.
Q: Does your firm have experience with Third Country Visas?
A: Yes. We have an experienced attorney who often goes to Mexico to assist clients in obtaining a Third Country Visa.
Q: I live in California, but your office is headquartered in Houston, Texas. Can you handle my Third Country Visa case?
A: Yes. Z&A is headquartered in Houston, TX, but has branch offices in Chicago, IL; Los Angeles, CA; Austin, TX; Silicon Valley, CA; Seattle, WA; and New York, NY. We handle U.S. immigration cases anywhere within and outside the U.S. by using the latest technology in providing professional services to our clients, since immigration cases are based on federal law. Please click here to see the map of our clients' locations in the United States.
Q: Do I need to make an appointment with the U.S. Consulate before my Third Country Visa interview?
A: Yes. An appointment is required in order to meet with a U.S. Consul and have a Third Country Visa interview. Z&A can make an appointment on your behalf.
Q: I am in J-1 (Exchange Program Participant) status and subject to the two-year home country residency requirement. May I obtain an F-1 Visa through the Third Country Visa Process?
A: Yes. However, a U.S. Consulate in Canada will accept your visa application. Moreover, you cannot apply for an F-1 visa at a U.S. Consulate in Mexico as your F-1 visa is different from your J-1 status in the U.S.
Q: I am in F-1 (Student) status and would like to obtain an F-1 visa so that I may visit my home country and still return to the U.S. May I obtain an F-1 visa through the Third Country Visa Process?
Q: I am in J-1 (Exchange Program Participant) status and subject to the two-year home country residency requirement. May I obtain an O-1 (Alien of Extraordinary Ability) Visa through the Third Country Visa Process?
A: Yes, you may apply for an O-1 visa at a U.S. Consulate in Canada. However, a U.S. Consulate in Mexico will not accept your visa application as your O-1 visa is different from your J-1 status in the U.S. Moreover, you will still be subject to the two-year home country residency requirement. For more information about O-1 visas, please click here.
Q: I am in J-1 status and subject to the two-year home country residency requirement. May I obtain an H-1 visa through the Third Country Visa Process?
A: No. You must first satisfy your two-year home country residency requirement or obtain a waiver before applying for an H-1B visa. For more information about J-1 status, please click here
Q: I am in L-1 (Intra-company Transferee) status, and do not have an L-1 visa. Is the Third Country Visa an available option?
Q: Do I need to be present at my Third Country Visa interview?
A: Yes. You need to personally attend your Third Country Visa interview. You may not send someone to go to the interview on your behalf, but an attorney may accompany you to the interview.
Q: If my application for a Third Country Visa is approved, how long do I need to wait until I obtain the visa?
A: If approved, you are given the visa on the same day as the visa interview. At the U.S. Consulate in Juarez, Mexico, a visa is typically given to the applicant within two (2) hours after the visa application is approved.
Q: If I am issued a visa in a third country with a limited number of entries, is my return to the U.S. from that third country counted as an entry?
A: Yes. Upon admittance into the U.S. (at the U.S. Inspection Station located at the border), USCIS will indicate on your visa that you have used an entry.
Q: How many entries am I granted under a Third Country Visa?
A: The number of entries granted under a Third Country Visa depends on your specific facts and circumstances.
Q: If I have a question regarding my TCV application, may I inquire to your firm?
A: Yes. You are welcome to use our Free Consultation services for your own questions on TCVs. If we adopt your question into our FAQ section, you will receive a gift from Z&A as a token of our appreciation to you. Please provide your mailing address so that we can send you our materials related to your inquiries and the gift, if applicable.
Q: If I wish to retain you as my attorney for my Third Country Visa application, what kinds of services do you provide?
A: We will provide a series of full services for you throughout the entire Third Country Visa process. They include:
Making the appointment for you at the U.S. Consulate in Mexico/Canada;
Answering any questions you may have about the third country visa process;
Helping you to prepare documents needed;
Discussing with you on the issues that may be important to your case; and
Preparing you for your interview by providing you consultation services.
Q: I am an F-1 student and I wish to apply for a visa by myself. May I consult with a Z&A attorney on my situation?
A: Yes, you can. We will give you professional guidance on your Third Country Visa application by:
Evaluating your situation and the possibility of obtaining a visa;
Helping you to prepare documents needed;
Discussing with you on any issues that may be important in your case; and
Preparing with you for the visa application by e-mailing you a detailed list of questions the consular officer may ask at the interview.
Q: I am a J-1 holder. Before my J-1 status expires, I wish to go to Mexico to apply for an O-1 visa. In case I fail to obtain an O-1 visa, may I come back to the United States?
A: No, you cannot change to a different visa in Mexico. You can, however, change to a different visa by going to a U.S. consulate in Canada.
For more information about Third Country Visas, please click on one of the following links: