An I-551 stamp is put in a person’s passport when they enter the United States after completing the spouse visa process.
The spouse visa process is completed while the immigrant is abroad. There’s an interview at a US embassy or consulate abroad and once you are approved at your interview at the US embassy or consulate, they will put a visa called an I-551 stamp in your passport and that’s what you’ll use to enter the United States.
The unique thing about that visa is it’s more than a visa. It’s essentially your green card and in order to complete the process, you will get that visa and you have to enter the United States with that visa. When you do, CBP will put a stamp in your passport.
Once you cross through a port of entry in the United States, you’ve completed the process and you are officially a lawful permanent resident. Your green card will come in the mail and sometimes, it takes a very long time for the card to come in the mail.
Uses of I-551 Stamp
Immigration wants you to actually be able to hit the ground running with your life to that visa and that stamp together is proof that you have a green card. The language on the passport usually will say, “upon endorsement serves as a temporary I-551 evidencing permanent resident status for one year.”
That’s a fancy way of saying this is the green card that you can use to work, get a driver’s license, and start your life in the United States while you wait for the physical card to be mailed to you. The great thing about this stamp is that you can use it right away to apply for a job.
Your Social Security card will come in the mail but there is a way, the Social Security website actually has on their website that you can apply for jobs while you’re waiting for your Social Security number. The HR department wherever you’re applying will take care of the logistics of all of that but you can start applying for jobs immediately with that visa and that stamp because you are a green card holder.
Those documents serve as proof that you are lawfully eligible to work. That visa and stamp also allow you to be able to travel outside of the country. Maybe you want to go on a honeymoon or maybe you want to go visit family or do something in another country, you can use that stamp to travel and come back. Just remember as a green card holder, you can’t travel outside of the country for more than six months.
K1 Visa Applicants
There are some individuals who are confused and think that K1 visa applicants get a comparable stamp and that they have this ability too. That is not accurate. The K1 visa applicant enters the United States with their K1 visa which is a one-entry visa.
You can’t leave and you are required to get married in 90 days and file your green card application. When you file your green card application, you will file a work permit and a travel permit with that application but there isn’t a comparable stamp for K1 visa applicants.