When you arrive in the United States, you must show valid travel documents as part of the entry process. The documents you need and whether your passport needs to be valid for six months after your travel dates depend on the country you are arriving from and your citizenship or status.
The Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative covers travel by land, sea, or air from Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Bermuda:
- American citizens entering the U.S. must show a valid passport, U.S. passport card, a Trusted Traveler Program card (NEXUS, SENTRI, Global Entry or FAST), or an enhanced driver’s license. If you have any questions, contact your carrier to find out if they require a specific document.
- Lawful permanent residents of the U.S. need to show a Permanent Resident Card (Green card). A passport is not required.
- Citizens of Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Bermuda can find the necessary travel documents from the Department of Homeland Security under “land and sea entry.”
- All travelers entering the United States from all other countries need a passport upon arrival (regardless of their country of citizenship).
- Permanent residents and foreign nationals may also need a U.S. visa. You must apply for a visa before you start your trip.
If you want to apply to become a permanent resident of the United States, where you are determines how you apply.
If you’re in the U.S., you do not have to apply for an immigrant visa. Instead, apply for a Permanent Resident (Green) Card by filing for an adjustment of status. The advantage of this is that you won’t have to return to your home country to complete visa processing.
If you’re outside the U.S., apply for an immigrant visa through a U.S. Department of State embassy or consulate abroad.
Both procedures involve several key steps.
- In most cases, someone must “sponsor” you, or file an immigrant petition for you.
- Once the petition is approved, and there is a visa available in your category, you apply for either a Green Card or an immigrant visa.
- Get a medical examination.
- Go to an interview.
- You’ll then receive a decision on your application.
Top Types of Immigrant Visas
Most people who come to the U.S. using an immigrant visa receive one of the following types:
- Family-based visa, which is based on being related to a U.S. citizen or permanent resident
- Employment-based visa, which generally requires a job offer from a U.S. employer