Immigration, Passports, and Visas
How Can I Help?
- Immigration Applications
- Contact U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services or the U.S. State Department on your behalf
- Inquire about the status of the case
- Urge a full and fair consideration consistent with U.S. immigration law
- Contact the U.S. Passport Office on your behalf
- Assist citizens with obtaining or replacing a passport, and in specific cases, assist with expediting the issuance of a passport
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) oversees a majority of the lawful immigration services. USCIS may be able to answer your questions regarding the immigration process or citizenship and naturalization.
The USCIS website can help you find answers about:
- Who is eligible to immigrate
- The immigration process (application information, where to file, etc.)
- How to apply for a Green Card (permanent residence)
- Citizenship requirements
- Working in the U.S.
- Finding legal services
- Finding a medical doctor for an immigration medical exam
- Adopting children from another country
Where is the nearest USCIS Field Office?
The 18th District is served by the Chicago, St. Louis and Des Moines Field Offices. Please note that you must first schedule an INFOPASS appointment.
Chicago Field Office
101 West Congress Parkway Chicago, IL 60605
Serves residents of the following counties: Marshall, McLean, Peoria, Stark, Tazewell, Woodford
Des Moines Field Office
Neal Smith Federal Building 210 Walnut Street, Room 215 Des Moines, IA 50309
Serves residents of the following counties: Hancock, Logan, McDonough, Schuyler
St. Louis Field Office
Robert A. Young Federal Building 1222 Spruce Street, Room 2.205 Saint Louis, MO 63103-2815
Serves residents of the following counties: Adams, Brown, Cass, Mason, Menard, Morgan, Pike, Sangamon, Scott
Where can I check on the status of my immigration application?
The USCIS My Case Status is a place to check your case status, processing times, change your address, find office locations and make e-Requests.
What do I do if my application is pending for longer than the projected processing time?
If your application is pending for longer than the projected processing time on your receipt, and you have not received any notice or update from USCIS, please call the National Customer Service Center at 1-800-375-5283.
Items to have when you call:
- Your A-number
- Your receipt number
- Your most recent notice from USCIS.
An immigrant visa is permission granted to a foreign national to permanently reside in the U.S. According to the Department of State (DOS), “to be eligible to apply for an immigrant visa, a foreign citizen must be sponsored by a U.S. citizen relative(s), U.S. lawful permanent resident, or by a prospective employer, and be the beneficiary of an approved petition filed” with USCIS.
How do I apply for a visa?
First, USCIS must approve an immigrant petition for you, which is usually filed by an employer or a relative on your behalf. You must then wait until the DOS has a visa immediately available for you. If you receive an immigrant visa number (or “A number”), it means that an immigrant visa has been assigned to you.
If you are already in the United States, you may apply to adjust your status to become a legal permanent resident after a visa number becomes available for you. If you are outside the United States when an immigrant visa number becomes available for you, you must then go to your local U.S. embassy or consulate to complete your processing.
How long does it take to get a visa number?
In some cases, several years could pass between the time USCIS approves your immigrant visa petition and the DOS gives you an immigrant visa number. In addition, U.S. law also limits the number of immigrant visas available by country. This means you may have to wait longer if you come from a country with a high demand for U.S. immigrant visas. The U.S. Department of State Visa Bulletin provides information about the cut-off dates which govern visa availability.
What is a nonimmigrant visa?
Nonimmigrant visas are more commonly known as “tourist visas” or “visitor’s visas.” According to the U.S. Department of State, a nonimmigrant visa is a type of permission “for international travelers (citizens of other countries) to come into the U.S. temporarily.
What restrictions are there for nonimmigrant visas?
The visa, placed on your passport when issued, allows you to travel to a U.S. port-of-entry (e.g. airport) and request permission of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Customs and Border Protection immigration officer to enter the U.S.
A visa does not guarantee entry into the U.S. Foreign nationals wishing to travel to the U.S. must apply for a visa at an American embassy or consulate abroad. A Consular Officer at the U.S. embassy or consulate decides whether you are qualified for a visa.
What happens if my nonimmigrant visa is denied?
If a visa is denied because the person failed to overcome the presumption that they intend to immigrate, they are free to reapply. If they do reapply, they are strongly advised to submit additional documented proof of their economic, social and familial ties to their country of origin. The U.S. Department of State Visa Denial FAQs provides more answers on this issue.
Where can I learn more about nonimmigrant visas?
The U.S. Department of State's travel website provides information about nonimmigrant visas. The travel website provides information on:
- Nonimmigrant visa applications
- Visa types for temporary visitors
- Wait time information
- Traveling without a visa (visa waiver program, etc.).
A passport is an internationally recognized travel document that verifies the identity and nationality of the bearer. A valid U.S. passport is required to enter and leave most foreign countries. Only the U.S. Department of State has the authority to grant, issue or verify United States passports for U.S. citizens.
Obtaining a Passport
Through your local passport acceptance agent, usually at the Post Office, you can apply for a new passport, renew your old one, replace a lost, stolen, or damaged passport, or add new pages to your existing book. If you are leaving on a trip, include your departure date on your application.
You’ll need to apply in person if:
- You are applying for a U.S. passport for the first time
- Your expired U.S. passport is not in your possession
- Your previous U.S. passport has expired and was issued more than 15 years ago
- Your previous U.S. passport was issued when you were under 16
- Your currently valid U.S. passport has been lost or stolen
Renewing a Passport
You can renew by mail if:
- Your most recent passport is available to submit and it is not damaged
- You received the passport within the past 15 years
- You were at least age 16 when it was issued
- You still have the same name or can legally document your name change.
For more information on forms and fees, go to the State Department's webpage on how to apply for passport renewal.
Expediting Obtaining a Passport
Within a month of travel:
For a $60.00 fee--plus the cost of 2-way overnight mail--you can "expedite" this process and receive your passport in about two weeks. Clearly mark Expedited on the envelope.
Please note: Passport applications sent together or at the same time do not necessarily remain together. Passports will be mailed separately. For more information on expedited passport processing click here.
Within two weeks of travel:
The Chicago Passport Agency serves customers who are traveling within 2 weeks (14 days), or who need foreign visas for travel. An appointment is required. Please contact them here:
Chicago Passport Agency
Kluczynski Federal Building
230 S. Dearborn Street, 18th Floor
Chicago, IL 60604-1564
Appointment Hours: 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.-Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday / 10:00 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.-Thursday
Automated Appointment Number: 1-877-487-2778
Travelling to Canada or Mexico
All persons, including U.S. citizens, traveling by air between the United States and Canada, Mexico, Central and South America, the Caribbean, and Bermuda are required to present a valid passport, Air NEXUS card, or U.S. Coast Guard Merchant Mariner Document, or an Alien Registration Card, Form I-551.
A visa is permission from a country to cross its borders and comes in the form of a stamp in your U.S. Passport. You usually have to mail your passport to the Embassy or Consulate of the country you'll be visiting, so allow plenty of time to accomplish this.
Check the State Department website for travel warnings and consular information sheets that provide very helpful information about the country you plan on visiting. Its services website also contains information on all the services provided by the State Department both stateside and abroad. This includes crisis assistance for U.S. citizens living or traveling abroad and various travel publications available on-line.
American Embassies and Consulates General: Many U.S. Diplomatic Missions abroad have information online. For those that don't, check the State Department's Key Officers of Foreign Service Posts for addresses, and phone and fax numbers for U.S. Embassies and Consulates throughout the world.
For travel information by country, including entry/exit requirements, safety information, updates on current events, you may access country-specific fact sheets on the Department of State website. Prior to your departure, check the fact sheets for any advisories that may affect your travel plans or preparation.
If you have a travel emergency, please call the National Passport Information Center to speak to a Customer Service Representative. Customer Service Representatives and Operators for TDD/TTY are available Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., Eastern Time, excluding federal holidays.
- Telephone Number: 1-877-4USA-PPT (1-877-487-2778)
- TDD/TTY: 1-888-874-7793
Registering with a U.S. Embassy
Although voluntary, it is advisable to register at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in the foreign country you are visiting in order to make your presence known in case it is necessary for a consular officer to contact you in an emergency. You may register in advance on-line by visiting the Department of State website. Registration is particularly important for those who plan to stay in a country longer than one month, or who will travel to:
- A country that is experiencing civil unrest, has an unstable political climate, or is undergoing a natural disaster, such as an earthquake or a hurricane.
- A country where there are no U.S. officials. In such cases, you should register at the U.S. embassy or consulate in an adjacent country, leave an itinerary with the Consular Section, ask about conditions in the country that you will visit and ask about the third country that may represent U.S. interests there.
U.S. Embassies and Consulates abroad also provide a wide variety of resources for U.S. citizen travelers:
- If you are ill or injured, contact the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate for a list of local medical facilities. At your request, consular officers are also available to help you contact family or friends.
- Should you find yourself in legal difficulty, contact a consular officer immediately. Although consular officers cannot serve as attorneys, they will visit you, advise you of your rights under local laws, provide a list of local attorneys who speak English, and ensure that you are held under humane conditions and are treated fairly under local law.
- Consular officers are also available to assist you in replacing stolen passports, contacting family, friends, or employers, address emergency needs that arise as a result of crime, and obtain information about local resources to assist victims of local crime.
You can get information on passports from a Customer Service operator at the NPIC numbers listed above. Additionally, automated information is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. If you would like to email the National Passport Information Center for a general question regarding passports or if you have already applied for a U.S. passport and would like to know the status of your application by email at NPIC@state.gov