Can I Work and Travel with My Immigrant Visa?

Congratulations on getting your immigrant visa approved and arriving in the United States! The hardest part of your immigration process is over, however, after you arrive in the U.S. with your immigrant visa, it may take a while still to actually receive your green card.

You might be wondering, do I have to wait for my green card to arrive before I can get a job in the U.S., or travel internationally? Thankfully, the answer is no. You can do everything that a green-card holder can, even while you are waiting for the actual card, because your immigrant visa alone serves as temporary proof that you are a Lawful Permanent Resident.

If you look closely at the immigrant visa in your passport, you’ll notice that it contains the following important statement: “Upon endorsement serves as temporary I-551 evidencing permanent residence for 1 year.” An “I-551” is the official code for a Permanent Resident Card, or “green card.” This means that once your passport has been stamped showing that you entered the U.S. using the immigrant visa, this visa serves as your temporary green card for up to 1 year, or until your green card does arrive. You can use it to work, travel internationally, or otherwise prove your Lawful Permanent Resident status when needed.

Of course, it’s still nerve-wracking and frustrating to have to wait to receive your actual green card. When you pay your USCIS Immigrant Fee (which you should do before or immediately upon arriving to the U.S. to speed up your green card production), you should receive an email containing a “case number” together with your payment receipt. This is the number that you can use to check the status of your green card, here. This will allow you to track the status of your green card production.

It is normal for your green card to take several months to arrive, but even though green card issuing has been significantly delayed throughout 2020-2022, you should still receive your card well within a year of arriving in the U.S. Make sure to follow up with USCIS if you haven’t received any updates on your green card production within 3-6 months of your arrival. You can call USCIS at 1 (800) 375-5283 and/or use their online e-request tools here. If you are still having trouble getting your green card issued, we recommend that you contact your local senator’s office, or give us a call at 503-427-8243.


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