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A U.S. visitor who’s grown passionate about staying in the U.S. for the long-term must acquire a visa. If you find the prospect of staying in the U.S. indefinitely is an extremely exciting idea, a visa document is key to making it a reality. This process isn’t without its challenges—that’s for sure—and there’s no getting around the fact that visas can be tricky to understand.
There is a lot of important information contained within a visa document. Many people find understanding their visa document extremely difficult or overwhelming. There are so many concepts and key pieces of information that are necessary to understand and take into account.
One of the most common challenges is understanding where the visa number is and why it matters. If you need help locating this number on your visa or understanding why it’s crucial, you’ve come to the right place. In addition to clarifying your visa number, we also describe the different types of visas and how the different options will affect your stay in the U.S.
Following is an explanation of your visa number as well as how to find it on your visa document.
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What Is a Nonimmigrant Visa Number?
When a foreign national enters the U.S., United States Citizenship & Immigration Service (USCIS) issues them a nonimmigrant visa. This type of visa is most commonly used for visitors entering the country temporarily for short-term periods of work, study, or tourism. Think of a nonimmigrant visa as a temporary access card to the U.S. In other words, it is only granted to provide temporary stay in the U.S.
This visa will include a visa number. The visa document itself serves as your permit, whereas the visa number acts as a marker used for identification purposes.
Where Is the Visa Number Located on the Visa Document?
The visa number is usually located in the bottom, right-hand corner of the visa document. It is typically printed in red ink to make it easily visible. This number is called the nonimmigrant visa number or the visa foil number.
These identification markers can vary in terms of how they are laid out and displayed. In most instances, the visa identification number consists of eight numbers. However, in some instances, it will first include a letter that is proceeded by seven numbers.
For example, your visa number may look like either 12345678 or A1234567.
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For How Long Is a Visa Number Valid?
How long a visa number is valid depends on visa type, such as whether its a Green Card (the result of Form I-130) and how long the visa document is valid.
If the visa that is granted is a nonimmigrant visa, then the visa number is only valid for as long as the visa document itself is valid. Whereas, if the visa that is granted is a Green Card, the visa number is permanent and won’t change—it will be used on an ongoing basis.
Why Are Nonimmigrant Visa Numbers Used?
Your nonimmigrant visa number serves as your ID in the U.S. For example, any authorities won’t identify you by your face or photograph, they will use your visa number as the key aspect of identification. This number will be used to determine that you are you and no one else.
Every time your visa number is scanned, whether you’re crossing a border, visiting a depot, or presenting it at a hotel or restaurant, it is recorded and stored in a database. This data is often not used; however, there are instances when this information will be used to verify crucial data.
For example, this data may be pulled when you apply for additional visas in the future. When searching for information about you, the office that is handling your visa application may refer to previously stored information that is linked to your via your visa number. Your visa number records may also be requested when it comes to applying for another visa.
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How Do You Get a U.S. Visa Number?
As a rule of thumb, your visa will come with a nonimmigrant visa number issued upon it. There is no need to apply for a visa number separately. All that needs to be done to apply for a nonimmigrant visa is an application via a Form DS-160. Once you submit this form, all you need to do is await the return of your documentation.
In addition to the form, you may be asked to share medical information, identification documents, and attend an interview with the U.S. Embassy.
Once your documentation has been approved, you will then be given your eight-digit visa number as part of your visa documentation.
How to Find Your Nonimmigrant Visa Number
As visas tend to incorporate a lot of information—such as your date of birth, full name, visa issue and expiration dates, and various other data—it can be difficult to source your visa number from your visa documentation.
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What’s the Availability of Immigrant Visa Numbers?
Immigrant visa numbers are an entirely different concept from nonimmigrant visa numbers. An immigrant visa number is, in essence, a Green Card. USCIS has a set number of Green Cards available to give out each year, which means that it’s highly competitive and therefore can be extremely difficult to get a visa number that falls under this visa type.
Even after a Form I-130 petition for a Green Card is granted, there may still be a waiting list to receive the actual visa. A Green Card visa is offered on a waiting list-basis. To acquire this visa type, you have to be at the top of the waiting list. Like many others, you may have to wait an extended period of time for your Green Card visa to be granted.
The U.S. has reduced the number of Green Cards available each year compared to previous years, which means the waiting time for a visa of this nature is now longer than ever before. It can take many months—or even years—to hear back about the status of your Green Card application. Despite the significant backlog of applicants awaiting them, only a limited number of Green Cards are issued each year.
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Know What to Expect With Your Visa Number
It’s important to know what to expect from your visa type and where your visa number is on your visa document. Making an error on a form as a result of mistakenly reporting the wrong visa number can result in significant consequences. It could impact the validity of your document and may cost you more in fees (many document costs are non-refundable).
It’s vital to understand where your visa number is located on your visa document and how it functions as your primary aspect of identification.