After Getting Immigrant Visa, Must I Fly Into the U.S. City Where My Parent Sponsor Lives?

Under U.S. immigration law, a person with an immigrant visa can enter the U.S. with at any U.S. border checkpoint and is not limited to flying into an airport near where he or she eventually plans to settle.

Question

After many years of waiting for my Priority Date to become current, I finally received my immigrant visa to join my U.S. citizen mother in the United States! My mother lives in Chicago, Illinois and I plan to move in with her until I can find work.

However, a friend of mine invited me to visit her in New York City before I move to Chicago. When checking U.S. flights, I learned it was less expensive to fly to New York and get a domestic flight to Chicago a week later, but my mother insists that I need to fly directly to Chicago, because she was my sponsor. Is this true?

Answer

The good news is that, under U.S. immigration law, a person with an immigrant visa can enter the U.S. with at any U.S. border checkpoint and is not limited to flying into an airport near where he or she eventually plans to settle. That means that, while your mother may have sponsored you for a U.S. permanent residence, the law does not require that you live with her or that you fly to Chicago.

While the intention of U.S. immigration law is to unify families, that doesn't literally mean they have to all end in the same place, especially in the case of adults who are in non-spousal relationships. (If your visa was based on marriage and you weren't planning to live with your husband or wife, the immigration officials might give your situation a closer look.) Therefore, it is fine for you to accept your friend's offer to visit New York.

Keep in mind that you will need to fill out a Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) form upon arrival indicating where you will be staying in the United States. CBP officials may have questions about why you are flying to New York when you indicated that you would be living in Chicago on your visa application. It shouldn't be a problem; just be honest and prepared for these questions.

Also remember that your actual permanent resident card or "green card" will be mailed to the U.S. address where you indicated you would be living when you paid your immigrant visa fees. If you do plan to move elsewhere, be sure to update your address with U.S Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) within ten days of your move. Failing to do so could not only be inconvenient for you, but a ground for removal from the United States. (Learn more about keeping your green card after you get it.)

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