What do I need to know about getting a visa stamp in my passport?
Hi, I'm Jim Hacking immigration lawyer practicing law throughout the United States out of our office here in St. Louis, Missouri.
When I was a new immigration lawyer, I didn't really understand how visas worked and I wasn't really sure if people were in the United States, whether they could stay.
I remember it was very confusing. So I thought I would make this video to explain to you sort of conceptually what a visa is and what happens when you go overseas to get it stamped.
So, obviously US citizens and green card holders can stay in the United States forever. Most other people are going to be here on some kind of a visa. So a visa is a ticket into the United States.
It's your entryway, it's the paperwork, the stamp in your passport. You actually get a visa stamp in your passport and that's what lets a TSA and customs and border patrol know to let you into the United States.
So when you get your visa stamp, that's how you enter the United States. Now, some people will get what's called a single entry visa, and some people will get a multiple entry visa.
So a single entry visa means that you're going to be allowed into the United States a single time, just like its name, one time you're going to get to come to United States. A multiple entry visa means that you're going to be able to come and go repeatedly.
So obviously you can't come all the time but for instance, a lot of people from Brazil or other countries will get a 10 year multiple entry visa which means they can come at any time in the next 10 years and as long as they follow the rules and leave on time, they can come back.
But sometimes people are in the United States and they change their status or they get an extension of status or they're a student and they're entry into the United States is for their duration of their status and they need to go back overseas for some reason.
So usually it's to visit a sick family member or just to visit family. When they leave the United States, if their prior visa has expired, but they're still in status, either through an extension or a change of status, then they need to go to the embassy and file DS160 and get a stamp in their passport.
The reason I wanted to make this video is because this particular activity at this particular point in time is really causing problems.
We've been seeing a lot of people who have very straightforward, approved extensions, approved change of statuses, or have been maintaining their status throughout their studies or their work in the United States going overseas, trying to get a stamp and then getting stuck because the embassy just doesn't feel like giving them a visa.
Now, of course, this is especially true with the coronavirus pandemic and embassies is being closed, but even putting that to the side, it's a real risk to go overseas.
So we have filed probably 15 or 20 lawsuits in the last 12 months against the state department for people who have gone overseas to get a visa and have gotten stuck.
So as always, I really want to encourage you to think long and hard before you leave the United States, especially if it involves getting a stamp in your passport.
So this can be a really problematic area for people. The problem is that the state department has sort of complete discretion as to whether or not to give you the visa and so we've unfortunately been seeing a lot of people get stuck outside the United States for months and months, even years, trying to get that stamp back in their passport.
So you really have to ask yourself, is it worth it? Can I afford to not work? Can I afford not to be here in the United States?
What kind of an impact is that going to have on my day to day life and really make good decisions before you leave the United States.
If you have questions about this, please give us a call at (314) 961-8200.
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