My mother, who lives in Brazil, was just approved for U.S. permanent residency through me. (I’m a U.S. citizen.) She is elderly, however, and needs to sell her house and pack up or sell her possessions before moving here to join us. We are worried that this will take several months. How long does she have before her visa is no good anymore? What’s the best way to handle this?
When your mother got her visa, it was placed inside her passport. Tell her to look at the visa and find the expiration date. It should be somewhere near the bottom right of the visa, under where it says “IV Expires On.” (“IV” means immigrant visa, which is the type of visa for permanent residency in the United States.) If your mother tries to enter the U.S. after that date using that visa, she won’t be allowed in.
Usually when the consulate issues someone an immigrant visa, it will set the expiration for a date six months later. This gives people time to sell a house and get ready to move to the United States.
Your mother should check the visa for the expiration date, however, because the consulate is allowed to give an immigrant less time. If she hasn’t been given the full six months ans she needs more time, she can ask for an extension, up to the full six months after the date the visa was issued.
She should also make sure her passport is not going to expire before she leaves for the U.S. — when setting an expiration date for a parent or spouse, the consulate must make sure that the immigrant’s passport is still good for 60 days after the visa expiration date. (There are other expiration date rules for people immigrating as children or adult sons or daughters.)
If your mother still has unfinished business in Brazil before the expiration date of her visa, she should travel to the U.S. before the expiration date and then return to Brazil to wrap things up. She won’t need to wait to get an actual permanent resident card (“green card”), which is usually what she would show to get back into the United States. Instead she can show the visa, which serves as temporary proof of permanent residence for one year after she first enters the United States.