General Questions (Immigrant Visas)

Anyone wishing to live and/or work in the United States permanently requires an immigrant visa before travelling to the United States. See Immigrant Visa Categories for information on who may qualify for immigration and application procedures.

If you enter the United States on the Visa Waiver Program, you will not be allowed to change your status. Moreover, if the inspector at the port of entry is aware of your intention to stay in the United States permanently, you may be refused entry in to the United States.

Intending immigrants should always enter the United States on an immigrant visa. While it is true that some people who enter the United States on nonimmigrant visas do change their status to legal permanent resident, it is an expensive, time consuming, and difficult process. It is advisable to obtain your immigrant visa overseas.

Please note that these are all estimates. Processing time varies a great deal depending on the circumstances.

Once your I-130 petition has been approved, you are advised to proceed with the final interview for the immigrant visa within the six months before you intend to immigrate to the United Sates.  If you do not intend to immigrate to the United States within the next six months or so, you should NOT proceed with the final interview for the immigrant visa. This is because legal permanent residents (LPRs, or green card holders) lose their resident status if they are outside of the United States for a year or more. In short, legal permanent resident status is for people who are resident in the United States.

In the meanwhile, please note if you have not applied for the immigrant visa more than 1 year since your I-130 petition has been approved, your I-130 petition may be terminated. However, you can keep your I-130 active indefinitely by contacting us at least once a year. By sending us a letter updating your contact information and stating that you still intend to immigrate at some point in the future, we will reset the 1-year clock.

For information about customs duties, please visit DHS’s website.  Customs and Border Protection for more information.

On entering the United States on an immigrant visa you will require no further authorization from the Department of Homeland Security to take up employment. If you are seeking to immigrate on the basis of an offer of employment, you will require a U.S. based employer who will file an immigrant visa petition on your behalf with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).  There is no United States Government office in Japan which furnishes information concerning jobs available in the United States.

An immigrant can become a U. S. citizen through naturalization by living in the United States for a specified period, usually five years (three years if married to a citizen) and passing a naturalization examination. However, there is no requirement that an immigrant become a citizen and he/she is free to live in the United States as long as he/she wishes regardless of his/her citizenship, so long as he/she abides by the laws of the land, which are applicable to citizens and aliens alike.  For more information, please visit USCIS website.

By law, each immigrant or refugee admitted to the United States must obtain a Social Security number. Social Security numbers are required to work in the United States, to open a bank account, to pay taxes and for many other purposes. For further information, contact Social Security administration in the United States.

A health certificate is required to bring a dog or cat from Japan into the United States. Such a certificate is usually required by the airlines and the airlines should be contacted concerning any time limitations or other details. Japan is a rabies-free area, so the pet will not be quarantined and will not need a rabies vaccination unless required by the state or local authorities at your final destination. Please see Customs and Border Protection (PDF 250KB) for more information.

There is no limit on the amount of money which may be taken in or out of the United States. However, any amount in excess of $10,000 in currency, travelers checks or negotiable instruments, must be declared to the United States Customs at the time of arrival in or departure from the United States. Please see Customs and Border Protection (PDF 44KB) for more information.

The amount of money which may be taken out of the Japan is a matter under the jurisdiction of the Japanese Government. Further information is available from any bank in Japan.

Hand-written translations are acceptable. The translation does not need to match the original format. However, the translation format must be easy to compare with the original. All foreign language documents must be translated and signed by the translator as complete and correct. However, they do not have to be notarized.