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U.S. Visas and Citizenship

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How do I get a visa?
Let us be the first to welcome you in advance to New York and to the United States. We are frequently asked how a foreigner can obtain a visa for travel to the United States. When you are ready to plan your trip, be sure to check with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate for the latest information on requirements for entering the United States, as these may change with little notice. You can find one near you by visiting the U.S. State Department’s website. From the same website you can also obtain visa and travel information. Click on Visas for Foreign Citizens for the latest entry requirements. We are sorry we cannot assist you with obtaining visas.

So how easy or hard is it to find a job in New York?
Even Canadians need a visa to live here, and we remind our friends who can travel for up to 90 days without a visa that you can't just relocate to the United States. Coming without a visa and starting to work means you are living here illegally. Will you get caught? Possibly. Will you be able to work legally? Not without a social security number, which you can't obtain legally without valid work authorization. What if you get caught and are deported? You likely will be barred from re-entry for five to ten years.

So then how do I get a work visa?
You can't get a work visa without a solid job offer. Most offers to foreigners are either for highly skilled work—in international corporations, high tech, nursing, or hospitality industry—or very unskilled work, such as migrant labor (i.e. picking fruits and vegetables). Those under age 25 might try to come as a student first to see if they actually like it here. How to come here as a student? First need to apply to a college, university or language school for admission, and then subsequently apply for a visa with the I-20 form that the school will arrange for you.

What does 'expiry date' mean on my visa?
As for the 'expiry date' of a visa, that means the last possible date you may enter the United States. It is the immigration officer at the port of entry who determines how long you may stay.

How would I qualify for citizenship in America? I would love to live in New York. I know that if I were to get married to an American, I could get citizenship. Would I have to live in the US for a certain number of years?
These are very complicated questions, and there are no simple answers. You will want to do further research at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website.

How do I get a social security number?
You can't get a social security number without a valid work visa.

What about hiring a lawyer to help me get a visa?
A word to the wise: Immigration lawyers make all sorts of promises, ask for your money upfront, and then sometimes fail to deliver on the visa. Make sure you are completely aware of what fees you will be charged, what exactly they will do for you (fill out forms, ensure you obtain the visa, etc.). Ask about their success rates in obtaining visas, and typically what sort of cases they process. We have heard far too many stories from around the world—even from Canada—about immigration lawyers who make big promises, charge huge fees, and deliver very little on what they promise.

What can I bring in to the USA?
If you are concerned about what you may carry into or out of the United States, we urge you to visit the U.S. Customs website, and click "Travel." Please note that if you are taking medication it is a good idea to have a prescription from your doctor demonstrating you need the drugs. Some basic facts about what you may carry in to the U.S. duty free:
- 1 liter of wine or hard liquor;
- 200 cigarettes, 150 cigars (but not from Cuba), or 3 pounds of smoking tobacco;
- $100 worth of gifts.
These exemptions are offered to travelers who spend at least 72 hours in the United States and who have not claimed them within the preceding 6 months.

In addition, foreign tourists may bring in or take out up to $10,000 in U.S. or foreign currency with no formalities; larger sums must be declared to U.S. Customs upon entering or leaving. You also might want to read the Top Ten Tips (PDF) for travelers.

More answers to typical questions about travelling to the USA can be found HERE.
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