What happens after I get my immigrant visa?

What happens after I get my immigrant visa?After months or years of waiting, you’ve finally received your immigrant visa. Now what?

Immigrating to the United States

Once you receive your immigrant visa, you’ll be able to immigrate to the United States. You should keep in mind that you’ll only have a limited amount of time to immigrate. You should make sure that you make arrangements to move before your visa expires. You’ll also need to keep the immigrant visa package that the embassy gives you in a safe place, making sure that no one opens it.

You’ll need to present the unopened immigrant visa package to the immigration officer when you arrive in the United States. Assuming that everything is in order, they’ll stamp your passport to show that you are a permanent resident. Your green card should arrive in the mail a couple of weeks after you arrive.

After you arrive in the United States

Once you receive your green card in the mail, you should inspect it to make sure that everything on it is correct. Any errors should be corrected as soon as possible.

If you have been married for less than two years and your green card is based on your marriage, you will receive a conditional green card and will need to apply to remove the conditions on your green card in two years. If your green card is based on your marriage to an United States citizen, in three years you will be able to submit a naturalization application to become a United States citizen. If your green card is based on a different type of family relationship, in five years you will be able to submit a naturalization application to become a United States citizen.

It is very important to review the qualifications for citizenship before submitting a naturalization application. If you submit a naturalization application when you don’t qualify for citizenship, you risk losing your application fee and possibly being deported.

WARNING: permanent resident status isn’t always permanent

Once you become a permanent resident, you should keep in mind that it is possible to lose your status as a permanent resident. For example, if you remain outside the United States for too long, you could lose your green card due to abandonment.

In addition, you can lose your status as a permanent resident as the result of certain criminal convictions. If you ever face criminal charges, you should consult with an immigration lawyer as soon as possible so that you can get advice on the possible immigration consequences of any potential conviction.

Other acts, such as false claims to United States citizenship or unlawful voting could also place your green card at risk. You should make sure that you learn as much as possible about your permanent resident status and how you can lose your green card before you run into immigration trouble.


About Kimberley Schaefer

Kimberley Schaefer is an immigration lawyer with offices in Boise, ID and Rexburg, Idaho. She helps future Americans become citizens by assisting them with immigrant visas, fiance visas, adjustment of status and green card applications, applying for immigration waivers, fighting deportation and applying for asylum. To contact her, you can call (208) 918-0852 or send Kimberley an email now.


  1. Hi, Kimberly,
    This information is really useful. I recently got denied a Tourist Visa on the grounds that they weren’t sure I would leave the country after the visa was expired. I’m married to an American citizen and my wife is currently doing a Master’s Degree in Michigan. All I wanted was to be with her as long as possible before returning to Spain. Now I can’t even enter the country anymore. It’s just plain ridiculous. I understand they can’t let everyone in or that they have to control immigration or whatever. I just think it’s ridiculous they denied me the visa and prevented me from visiting my family for good based on some civil servant’s judgement, without knowing me or showing any interest or willingness to understand this particular case.
    Anyway, my question is:
    If I applied for an Immigrant Visa and ended up getting it, would I have to give up my Spanish nationality with all that this implies?
    Thanks a lot beforehand.

    • Kimberley Schaefer says


      When someone enters the United States using an immigrant visa, they become a permanent resident of the United States and obtain a green card. They do not automatically become United States citizens, nor are they even required to apply for United States citizenship. Many people are permanent residents for decades. Because a permanent resident does not acquire United States citizenship automatically, their only nationality would be that of their home country.

      In most cases, someone who obtains permanent resident status based on marriage to a United States citizen can apply for citizenship 3 years after becoming a permanent resident. If you were to apply for United States citizenship when you become eligible, current United States law would not require that you renounce your Spanish citizenship. You would need to confirm with a lawyer familiar with Spanish law whether Spanish law would revoke your Spanish citizenship when you became a United States citizen.

      – Kimberley

  2. i just got to the us i have an immigrant visa n am also married to a us citizen.he bcame a citizen by naturalization we have been married for 5years now.i want to knw that now that am in the state how long will it take to get my green card

    • Kimberley Schaefer says

      Assuming that there is nothing unusual in a case, most people who enter the United States using an immigrant visa receive their green card in the mail several weeks after entering the United States.

      If there has been an exteded delay in getting your green card, you may want to consult with an immigration lawyer to help in tracking down the issue. If you move, you should also make sure that you update your address with USCIS as soon as possible (and no later than 10 days after moving). Once your green card arrives, make sure that you verify that all of the information on it is correct. If there are any errors, you’ll need to get the card corrected.

  3. My brother and his family had been granted and received their immigrant visas last month. They intend to fly to the US as soon as they are able to comply the Philippine government-required Pre-departure orientation seminar (PDOS) as a requirement for purchasing plane tickets. Unfortunately, our dad who happened to be their petitioner died last February 21 and will be buried sometime this coming 17th of March. Would this circumstance going to give them problem upon their arrival at the port of entry?

    • Kimberley Schaefer says

      Your brother should discuss his situation with an immigration attorney before he travels to the United States. What options, if any, that he has will depend on the specific facts of his case.

      • Just for curiosity, if they proceed to travel this week just to catch the public viewing rites of our late Dad, scheduled sometime this March 8, in a scale of 0 to 10, zero being worst and ten being best, what is their chance of being allowed by the immigration officer to go through the process at the port entry and attend said rites?

        • Kimberley Schaefer says


          I am unable to provide you with any legal advice related to this matter. Your brother needs to schedule a consultation with an immigration lawyer so that he can get an in-depth evaluation of his options before he makes any decisions related to his immigration status. Immigration matters are serious and even small mistakes can have devastating consequences. Small changes in facts can lead to very different outcomes in an immigration case. Because of this, neither you nor your brother should make immigration decisions based on speculation or without first discussing your case in detail with an immigration lawyer.


  4. Mylene gamutin says

    Hi! I received our immigrant visa this month and it expires in June 11 due to the fact that our medicals expires on the same date. But we haven’t sorted things that we need to sort out yet. Because of this reason, we are planning to go to New York to visit relatives for 1 week just to use the visa before it expires. I want to know if it is legal to do it. But we will eventually move to US within the next 3 months. Thank you very much.

    • Kimberley Schaefer says


      You’ll need to discuss your situation in detail with an immigration lawyer to confirm your options. At this point your immigrant visa is too important to risk by relying on an answer that isn’t based on a complete review of your situation.


  5. Hamidullah says

    Dear Madam,
    I have traveled to US by immigrant visa and it will expire on 2014June12, can I travel to other states via air plan at the inside of US after June 12(Visa Expiration)?
    Thank you,

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