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Frequently Asked Immigrant Visa Questions

For questions about Non-immigrant Visas (NIV), please visit the following link: For questions about immigrant visas, see below.

Note: If your question is not answered in our FAQs, you can send us a mail at Please include your case number and a title covering the intent of your mail in the subject line (ex. YTC2015000000, need Appointment) 

Updated on 31 August 2015

How much is the application fee? Why is it non-refundable?

The fee is non-refundable if the applicant is refused because it is a processing fee and not an issuance fee. For consular fees, please check the consular fees page.

I am an American citizen and I would like to appear with my elderly mother/ relative/ friend for his/her interview but the guards at the gate say they cannot let me, why?

No one may accompany a visa applicant to an interview unless the applicant is a minor incapable of communicating in any language spoken by the Embassy staff without the assistance of a certified interpreter, or in need of physical assistance for an obvious medical infirmity. By law, information from a third party is not germane to the determination of visa eligibility. Visa eligibility is determined by an American consular officer's evaluation of the individual applicant's personal situation with respect to his or her home country and his or her compelling reasons to return to that country after a short stay in the United States.

When must I pay the USCIS Immigrant Fee?

You must pay the fee prior to departing for the United States. USCIS will not issue your green card until USCIS receives payment.  However, even if you have not paid the fee, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers will admit you, as long as you are otherwise eligible to enter.

What if I was issued an immigrant visa before February 1,
2013?  Do I have to pay the fee?

No.  Only applicants issued visas on or after February 1, 2013 will pay the new fee.  The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers at the airport or land border will review immigration records to determine when your immigrant visa was issued.  If the visa was issued on or after February 1, 2013 but the fee was not paid, the Immigrant Visa package will be collected at the point of entry, but USCIS will not issue a green card until the $165.00 fee is paid.

Who has to pay the USCIS Immigrant Fee?

All applicants issued immigrant visas (including Diversity Visas), except children adopted under the Orphan (IR-3/IR-4) or Hague Processes (IH-3/IH-4), Iraqi and Afghan special immigrants who were employed by the U.S. Government, returning residents (SB-1s), and K visas, will pay the new fee.

How do I pay the new fee?

You will pay the fee by going to,
 clicking on the link to the USCIS intake page on, answering the questions on the USCIS intake page, and providing your checking account, debit, or credit card information.  Because checking payments must be drawn on a U.S. bank, someone else may pay the USCIS Immigrant Fee on your behalf.

How do I file for an Immigrant Visa?

All intending immigrants except for Diversity Visa candidates must have a petition filed on their behalf.  For immediate relatives of US citizens please find more information at

All petitions must be filed in the United States with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). USCIS sends approved petitions to the State Department’s National Visa Center (NVC). The NVC will contact the petitioner when the case is ready to be processed and will request documents in preparation for the visa interview. The NVC will then schedule the visa interview, mail an appointment letter, and forward the file to the Consular Section.

More information can be found at

Do you have information on the Diversity Visa Program?

DV-2015 Program:  This program will end on 30 September 2015. All applicants who were selected and interviewed for this year’s program must be issued before that date. If you have not received your passport with or without a visa by 15 October, please contact us at Please include your case number and note “Where is my Passport” in the subject line.

DV-2016 Program:  Appointments have already been scheduled to start after 01 October 2015. Please read the information on our website to prepare for the interview. 

DV 2017 Program: Online registration for the DV 2017 Program will begin on Wednesday, October 1, 2015 at 12:00 noon, Eastern Daylight Time (EDT) (GMT-4), and conclude on MONDAY, November 3, 2015 at 12:00 noon, Eastern Daylight Time (EST) (GMT-5).

When will I get my Immigrant Visa?

This is the most frequent question we get. Our best answer is that “You cannot be sure of when you will get your immigrant visa until it is in your hands.” Acquiring an immigrant visa is a lengthy, complicated process.

We strive to deliver the passport with an immigrant visa within three weeks after the interview.  There are others that may need further adjudication as required.  At the interview, the officer will explain if there is additional processing necessary for your particular case.  Procedures and documentary requirements also change, and you may be asked several times to provide additional documents.

We are committed to processing all immigrant visa applications as expeditiously as possible given our resources and all relevant laws and regulations. We are also committed to giving applicants who contact us  precise explanations as to the status of their cases. In some cases, an applicant may be refused. If an applicant is refused and feels that he/she did not provide all relevant information during the interview, the applicant may submit the additional information and request reconsideration. We may then review that information and reconsider the decision. A request for reconsideration, however, does not guarantee further review.

If you have a question about your case, please contact our office by email at Please include your case number and note “Where is my Visa” in the subject line. 

What is Administrative Processing?

Some visa applications require further administrative processing, which takes additional time after the visa applicant’s interview by a Consular Officer.  Applicants are advised of this requirement at the conclusion of the interview.  Most administrative processing is resolved within five months of the visa interview.  When administrative processing is required, the timing will vary based on the individual circumstances of each case.  The administrative processing occurs in Washington, DC and cannot be expedited or waived.  Visa applicants are reminded not to make any non-refundable travel plans until they receive their visas.

If your administrative processing is still pending six months after your interview, please contact our office by email at Please include your case number and note “Administrative Processing” in the subject line.

Transfer of Your Case to Cairo

If your case is assigned to another U.S. Embassy or Consulate and you want to have it adjudicated in Cairo, please send a note to Please include your case number and note “Request for transfer to Cairo” in the subject line

We will determine whether to accept it based on our resource availability and respond to your email.  If we accept it, we will contact the other Post to send us the case file. After we receive the case file, we will contact you to schedule an appointment.  

Transfer of Your Case to Cairo (Yemeni applicants only)

Notice:  The U.S. Department of State is currently scheduling immigrant visa (IV) appointments for Yemeni applicants at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo (for petition-based IVs).  Currently, the Egyptian government requires Yemenis ages 18-60 to obtain Egyptian visas prior to arrival in their country.  Please contact the nearest Egyptian Embassy for information on how and where to apply for an Egyptian visa. 

The U.S. Embassy in Cairo wishes to inform U.S. citizens and their non-U.S. citizen family members wishing to process their Immigrant Visas in Cairo of requirements relating to immigrant visa case transfer requests. In order to improve service and appointment availability, Non-U.S. citizen family members are requested to send the following information to Consular staff: their case file number, a local contact number or email address, a photo of their Egyptian entry stamp, and a photo of their passport bio-data page. This information should be e-mailed to us. Failure to provide all requested information may result in delays relating to immigrant visa case transfer requests to the Embassy. 

AFTER arrival in Cairo, applicants should contact us to request an appointment at Please include your case number and note “appointment” in the subject line.

Note 1: The request for expedited services is contingent upon availability of resources and the arrival of the beneficiaries to Cairo. 

Note 2: We would request that the beneficiary hand carry all supporting documents required for the interview. Once received, Embassy Cairo will respond to the beneficiary with instructions and an appointment schedule.

Note 3:  Below is the standard instruction given to the applicants to prepare for the interview.  

Please prepare the following documents for each person applying for a visa and send them by Aramex to our office:

1.           Photocopy of applicant’s passport (the original to be submitted on the appointment date)

2.           Photocopy of applicants’ birth certificate (the original to be submitted on the appointment date)

3.           An Affidavit of Support (Form I-864) signed by the petitioner

4.           Sponsor’s last year of federal income taxes (form 1040 only).

5.           Medical exam from applicant

6.           2 photos of the applicant on a white background (frontal face view)

7.           Log-in to your website at, and create your profile.

Upon receipt of the required documents, we will schedule an appointment for the final visa interview on the first available slot.

Note:  Those who prefer to process at a post other than Cairo may request a transfer through the National Visa Center (NVC) by emailing their request to Please include your case number and note “request for transfer to XXX” in the subject line.

Transfer of Your IV Case to another Post

If your case is assigned to U.S. Embassy Cairo and you want to have it adjudicated at another Post, please contact that Post to request the transfer and inform us that you are requesting a transfer. 

Send a note to Please include your case number and note “Request for transfer to XXX” in the subject line.

We will transfer the case upon receipt of an email from that other Post stating that they accept it. Once transferred, you will need to work with the other Post on scheduling an appointment. 

Lost or stolen Residence Card

A Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) of the United States is required to present a valid unexpired Form I-551, Permanent Resident Card, if seeking admission after a temporary absence abroad of less than one year.  If the LPR’s card is lost, mutilated, stolen, or expired while temporarily outside of the United States, he/she may be refused boarding by a transportation company.  The alien may seek to obtain temporary evidence of his/her status in order to board a transportation carrier and return to the United States.  Temporary evidence of LPR status may be in the form of a Boarding Foil issued by the immigration section.

Documents needed for a Boarding Foil:

1. Passport

2. Police Report (if your I-551 was stolen)

3. Passport size photographs (2)

4. A completed I-90 form obtainable at

5. A copy of your I-551

6. Movement Certificate

It is recommended that you send your documents two to three weeks before you intend to travel back to the U.S. You will need to send the documents to our office via DHL, attention to immigrant visa section.

SB1 Returning Resident Visas

A legal permanent resident (Green card holder) is entitled to stay out of the United States for a period that does not exceed 12 months.  Failure to return to the United States within the 12 months period may render you ineligible to enter the United States again using your green card.  You will then be considered to have lost your status as a green card holder. 

A Lawful Permanent Resident who has been out of the U.S. for more than one year cannot travel back to the U.S. without a new immigrant visa in the SB-1 category because they are considered to have abandoned their application for permanent residence.  To qualify for SB-1 status, the law states that an applicant must prove that he/she meets three criteria:

1.     The applicant must prove that he/she possessed valid LPR status upon departure from the United States.  This is most easily done by submitting a valid, unexpired I-551, Alien Resident Card (green card). 

2.     The applicant must prove that at the time of departure, he/she did not intend to forfeit LPR status. 

3.      The applicant must prove that a temporary stay outside the United States, if protracted, was beyond his/her control and for reasons for which he/she is not responsible.

To apply for a Returning Resident visa, at the time of your appointment, you will need to submit the following:

1.  Completed form DS-117 (Application to Determine Returning Resident Status).  You can download the form through the link:

2.  A fee of US $180

3.  Documents showing that your prolonged stay outside of the United States was due to circumstances beyond your control. 

Your application will be reviewed by a consular officer, who will determine your eligibility for a Returning Resident visa.  Whenever you complete the form contact us at Please include your last name and note “Request for SB1 Return” in the subject line. We will contact you with an appointment date.

What is a Boarding Foil?

A Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) of the United States is required to present a valid unexpired Form I-551/Permanent Resident Card, if seeking admission after a temporary absence abroad of less than ONE year.  If the LPR’s card is lost, mutilated, stolen, or has expired while temporarily outside of the United States, he/she may be refused boarding by a transportation company.  The LPR must seek to obtain temporary evidence of his/her status in order to board a transportation carrier and return to the United States. 

When the LPR presents a passport with an Alien Documentation and Identification System (ADIT) stamp indicating admission to the United States as an LPR (or an adjustment to that status), the LPR may travel without a boarding foil while the ADIT stamp is valid. If the LPR does not have a valid Form I-551 or ADIT stamp, a consular officer, where there is no DHS counter presence, may issue a secure boarding foil to facilitate the boarding of an in-status LPR on a U.S.–bound flight and the application for admission to the United States.  There is no DHS counter presence in Egypt.

A boarding foil may be considered by the airline as evidence of the alien’s status as an LPR.  It serves only to give notice to the air carrier that the U.S. Government does not intend to issue a penalty under INA Section 273(b).  A boarding foil does not replace expectations for a traveler to present a valid passport or other valid travel document to CBP at the port of entry (POE).


Only a Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) of the United States/Green Card holder who did NOT stay outside of the US for MORE than ONE year is eligible to apply as long as he/she can provide the relevant documents for the procedure.

 NOTE:  Individuals granted conditional resident status must file a petition to remove the conditions of residence with USCIS before the two-year grant of status expires; individuals in conditional status who remain outside of the U.S. for more than one year are not eligible for a boarding foil.

Documents Required for a Boarding Foil:

1. A completed I-90 form; can be found at

2. Police Report if green card was lost or stolen; the police report must be accompanied with an accredited English translation.  If Green Card was mutilated or has expired please present the original card

3. Valid Original Passport [If passport had been recently renewed then please provide the old and the new passports] 

4. Two Photos Passport size with white Background (no modifications or touch ups permitted)

5. Movement Certificate only for Egyptian Citizens from AlTahrir Center [Mogammaa AlTahrir]

6. Itinerary copy of last air ticket used to depart the US and a copy of air ticket for the intended Reentry to the US. Both tickets MUST include month/day/year of departure & arrival.

7.  Photocopy of lost/stolen green card if possible

Note 1: Applicants must send the documents by DHL and then we will review the documents and schedule them for an interview. English translations MUST be provided for any non-English documents you submit.

Note 2: The boarding foil will be valid for no more than 30 days, single entry. Applicants will not be issued a boarding foil on the day of the interview. Normally it will be delivered within a week via DHL courier service. 

I am unable to travel before the Expiration Date of my Immigrant Visa

We do not extend the validity of issued immigrant visas.  We may however re-issue a visa when necessary.  If you failed to travel prior to the expiration date of the visa, you will need to return the passport and visa packet to our office for review.  A consular officer will make a decision whether to accept the case or not provided that there was a strong reason that prevented the applicant from travelling. We will review the documents included in the package and in case any of the documents are expired, we will ask you to update the documents before we can issue a new immigrant visa.  In all cases, you will have to re-pay all visa fees.