Important information: Marriages between the same sex persons
Now spouses (the USA citizens or residents) that have the same sex and kids have all the rights as opposite sex persons who are married. They are also eligible getting family-based visas and immigrate to the USA. These visas are given on I-140 or I-130 petitions previously approved. Check FAQ sections to get more facts about it.
Family-based immigrant visas Review
There are two categories (groups) of family-based visas for immigrants that, according to American law of immigration, are issued to persons that are relatives.
Unlimited immigrant visas for immediate relatives
They are called IR visas and they are issued for persons- close relatives of an American citizen. USCIS issues an unlimited number of IR visas every year. The types of IR visas count:
IR-1 given for an American citizen spouse;
IR-2 given for a kid of an American citizen when this child is under 21 and not married;
IR-3 given for an adopted by an American citizen orphan if it happened abroad;
IR-4 given to an orphan when an American is going to adopt him in the USA;
IR-5: American citizen parent. He must be 21+.
Limited immigrant visas of family preference
These visas are issued for persons who have distant family connection with an American and certain connections with a person called LPR (Lawful Permanent Resident). The number of these visas is limited: each year only a certain quantity of them is issued. These visas categories are:
F1 that is called Family First Preference visa. It is issued to children of an American citizen, if these children are not married. If they have minor children, these kids also are eligible for F1 visa. The annual limit of F1 is 23,400 visas.
F2 called Family Second Preference visa. It is issued for minor kids, spouses, unmarried children of 21+ of legal permanent residents. 27% of F2 visas are usually issued to children and spouses, while the rest quantity is given to unmarried children at the age of 21+. The year limitation of F2 visas is 114,200.
F3 that is called Family Third Preference and issued to married children of the USA citizen as well as for their minor kids and spouses. Their annual limitation is 23,400 visas.
F3 which is the Family Fourth Preference visa given to siblings of an American, their minor children and spouses Brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens, and their spouses and minor children is the USA citizen has already marked his 21th birthday. The year limitation of F4 is 65,000 visas.
Important: Neither uncles or aunts not grandparents nor cousins and in-laws and cousins can become sponsors of their relatives going to immigrate.
Rules for getting limited family-based visas when the limit is over
When the quantity of persons wishing to get immigrant family-based visas of the categories mentioned above surpasses the announced limit, the immigrant wait list is formed. In this case individuals that filed petitions for these visas will get them in chronological order. The date when the petition was filed then becomes the so-called “priority date”. No one visa of this category can be issued before this date comes. Sometimes people whose petitions were already approved are waiting for these visas for years. Latest priority dates can be controlled in Visa Bulletin.
Immigrant Visas for residents that return to the USA (SB)
When a legal permanent US resident leaves the USA and stays outside the country for more than one year or longer than permitted for a re-entry, he should get an immigrant visa again. Moreover, he must resume his US residence. In accordance with the USA law about visas for permanent US residents who return to the country after staying overseas, residents who need a new immigrant visa can inform about special circumstances that could not be controlled and caused their being abroad for long. Visiting the page a with Returning Resident information, you can read about it in details.
Starting the work on getting an immigrant visa: Petition
First the relative of a person that needs an immigration visa becomes his sponsor and files special petition for his foreign sibling, spouse, child or other relatives. This petition is called I-130 Form and it is filed for USCIS.
Sometimes it is allowed that I-130 can be filed outside the USA. Read the paragraph about filing this petition abroad.
Age requirements for a sponsor from the USA
The minor age of an American citizen who wants to become a sponsor and file I-130 for his/hers parents and/or siblings is 21 years. No age limitations for a sponsor that files other groups of immigrant visas based on family relationships are announce. Anyhow, to sign an AOS, Form I-864 EZ or I-864, the USA permanent resident of an American citizen must be 18 and over and have his legal dwelling anywhere in the USA. Form I-864 EZ or I-864 are filed for an immigrant visas issued for relatives of a sponsor of his/hers spouse.
Should the USA sponsor have his own domicile?
He/she should have his/her dwelling in America. The USA domicile in the USA is the “must”. Sponsor should prove he has his/hers own place where he/she is planning to reside further. This is needed to file the Affidavit of Support.
Information for former US residents who got the USA citizenship
When being a legal USA permanent resident you filed petition for your children and /or spouse, but you have changed your status and became the USA citizen, the immigration visa category for the member of your family will change. Please g get information how you can prove that you have passed Naturalization process.
Minor children and spouses: when being a legal US resident you filed a petition to your minor children and /or spouse, you made it to get F2A type of immigration visa. For persons who changed their status and became the USA residents, this petition will be updated by NVC. Now these persons are eligible to get IR visa, which is more profitable to you and your relatives as IR referrers to non-limited visas categories.
Important: if being a permanent US resident you filed second preference petition F2 to your spouse and included there kids (minor) and then you changed your status for an American citizen, you should file again separate petitions to every child included into it. This should be done as kids cannot become “derivative applicants” and be added to a parent’s petition or IR visa.
Kids that were born overseas after the date when you got the USA citizenship can also become American citizens and apply for getting the USA passports. The fact that your kid is an American citizen and can get a passport is determined by an officer in American consulate. In case when the citizenship of the child is not determined and not proved, the child should get a visa of the immigrant category. It will give them the right to live in United States.
Effect on adult children: when being a permanent resident, you filed a petition for your 21+ children that are not married, and now you are the USA citizen, the NVC will change the category of visa. If before it could be F2B referring to the second preference visas, not it will be F1 first preference visa. It does not mean the visa category must be changed. According to the law about child protection CSPA applicants for these visas may not “update” F2B to F1 visa category.
When you pass naturalization process and get a certificate of residence, check information in Visa Bulletin. There you will learn is it beneficial for your adult child that is not married to stay in the category for F2B visa. The applicants, who have decided refusing from F1, should submit the correspondent request using the following tips and advices:
When the case of an applicant is at NVC, the must use the online NVC form and fill it is for the request. Further this form will be sent to USCIS, and the category of visa will be changed for F2B again. However, first this should be approved by USCIS.
When the cases of applicants are in the Consulate or Embassy of the USA abroad, the applicants must inquire a request to be submitted on their behalf by the US embassy. However, this request should be also approved by USCIS.
The second step for getting a visa — fees, AOS and application for Visa
When the petition is approved by USCIS, it is sent to the NVC. Getting this petition, National Visa Center will give your case a special unique number. Next NVC will give the applicant all the needed instructions about DS-261 form, and its correct completing, Agent and address choice.
Important: those who use the attorney services will be not instructed about completing DS-261 form. The NVC will give the petitioner and the applicant all the necessary instructions that will help them submitting the corresponding files. After the needed payment is done, the NVC will ask the applicant to provide them required immigrant visa documents. These documents include forms of application, AOS, civil documents and other stuff that is needed.
Learn more about this process in NVC.
Is an immigrant visa can be received by the members of y family?
Basing on your petition previously approved, your minor kids that are younger than 21 and are not married as well as your spouse can also apply for getting immigrant visas. They should also fill the necessary forms of application, like you, get the necessary civic documents, pay the required fees and go through the Medical exam. Same-sex spouses of the USA citizens and legal US residents as well as their kids have equal rights in getting all immigrant benefits with the spouses that have opposite sex. After I-130 or I-140 is approved by USCIS, officers working in the USA Consulates and Embassies will work with their applications for immigrant visa. Get additional information in FAQ.
Limits in quantity
All the immigrant visas of family preference are given to applicants in sequential order according to the date and time when the petitions were received. They will be issued until the limit in their quantity is reached. Priority date of the petition is the day when that petition was filed. No one visa can be issued before the priority date comes. Several categories of applicants have to wait for years for their issued visas. Latest priority dates can be checked in Visa Bulletin.
You should pay for the following:
Filing Form I-130 — USCIS chargers for it a fee; • Processing DS-260 form (the application for immigrant visa); • Required vaccination plus medical exam; • Other expenses that can include the following stuff: charges for making documents copies and for translations; payments for getting the needed for an application for immigrant visa documents (police certificates, passports, birth certificates, and so on); money spent for travelling to the U.S. Consulate or Embassy where you will have your interview on visa. These expenses always vary and depend on the country and each situation individually.
Check visa services fees and fees the services of USCIS at their official site.
Important: regardless of his/her age, a person intending to immigrate on an immigrant visa makes these payments and they are not refundable.
No fees are paid in the USA Consulate, Embassy of NVC, unless you get a special request for it. NVC send the applicants instructions about paying all the needed fees and tells the person when and where he/she should pay them. Never make any payments to the addresses of NVC, located in New Hampshire and in Portsmouth.
For making an application and getting an immigrant visa be ready providing the following stuff:
Passport. The document must be valid for at least half a year after the date when the individual enters the USA. Sometimes Consulate or Embassy of the USA in your country can make a special request on the legality of passport.
AOS from the US sponsor/ petitioner — I-864, I-864A, I-864W or I-864 EZ forms. Get tips to complete these forms in the guidance.
DS-260 form, application of alien registration and immigrant visa.
o Have a look at DS-260 sample (6.4MB).
2 photos 2×2 inches. In Photograph Requirements section get more detailed info about photos and their requirements.
Civil applicant and petitioner in F4 cases documents. Check the information about the requirements for the documents and the stuff that must be translated. Be ready to provide more documents if the officer will ask them during your interview. You must have with you all the originals or the copies certified. Be ready to provide the certificates of birth and marriage, legible copies of originals, as well as all needed translation. You will get back all the originals and translations.
After the needed vaccinations are made and you passed the medical exam, you will get special documents about it. Provide these papers as well.
Interview on your visa
When the NVC finds out that you have provided all the necessary documents and papers and all the fees were paid, the interview for an applicant will be scheduled. Further the NVC sends all your documents and paper in a file to the Consulate of Embassy of the USA, where the interview will be held. The applicant will get a letter about this appointment or a letter vial mail if the person does not have electronic mail. Third-party agent and an attorney (if they take part in the process) will also get the same letter. There will be a date and time of the visa interview as well as instructions for going though the medical exam.
The applicant must come to the interview with his valid passport as well as other documents that were not provided for the NVC. After the officer of the Consulate interviews the applicant, the decision if an immigrant visa can be issued to this applicant is taken. The applicant will have fingerprints scan (no ink is used). All the originals of documents and their translations will be returned to the applicant.
Protections and rights of an F2A applicant — legal permanent USA resident spouse
Read the circular about protections and rights before you come to the interview. You should know everything about the rights you have in the USA. You must stay protected from any forms of violence, child abuse and sexual assault. The officer from Consulate will tell you about these rights and protections during the interview.
Vaccinations and Medical Exam
Important information: During the preparation for your interview you should plan and go through a medical examination. You will also get all the needed vaccinations you have not done yet. All these things must be done before the interview date. You will get all the useful instructions concerning the medical examinations as well as the information about authorized physicians. Go to Medical Examination paragraph to get more information about this procedure, look through the list of medical specialists providing medical exam in different countries and read answers for FAQ.
Requirements for Vaccination
According to the immigration law of the USA all the applicants for immigrant visas should get needed for them vaccinations before visa is issued. Check the list of required vaccinations for each applicant.
How much time does it take?
Immigrant visas of family preference usually take much time, as they are limited for each visa category. The timeline always varies and cannot be predicted. You can wait for this visa for a year or even several years depending on the country you reside and other circumstances. Often delays in cases are caused by mistakes made by applicants during filling in forms and the other documents. Certain applications for immigrant visas need additional administrative processing. It takes time after the interview.
When visa cannot be issued
Certain actions of the applicant can cause the conditions when a visa cannot be issued to him/her. These are: submitting false documents, drug trafficking, a previous visa overstay, etc. The officer of the Consulate always informs people if they are ineligible for getting any visa to the USA. However, you should also have an advice what to do and the information about the waiver process. Check for the whole list of ineligibilities to understand if you eligible for getting the USA visa.
Fraud and providing false facts and documents
Any fraud can lead to the situation when you are refused from getting the USA visa and you can become ineligible to get this visa forever.
When will you get your immigrant visa?
When and immigrant visa is issued for you, you will be given your passport with this visa and a large packet with the documents you have provided. The package will be sealed are you are forbidden to open it. When you come to the USA, the immigration officer in the airport will open it. You must enter the USA before the date of your issued visa is expired. Primary applicant must enter America together with the members of his family— visa holders — or before them.
USCIS Immigrant Fee: You have to pay it to USCIS when you get your visa issued but before to enter the USA. However, this fee is not paid by children that go to the USA under orphans adoption programs. Check this information at USCIS site.
Important: no Green Card of I-551 form will be issued until the needed fee is paid.
Port of Entry in the USA
The immigrant visa lets an alien citizen to travel to the USA port of entry and ask for a permission to come to the USA. However, the visa presence is not the guarantee that you can enter America. Official working at US customs, the DHS, and Border Protection can refuse you entering the country. Check the information about the requirements for the USA entry on the CBP site.
After paying the immigrant fee for USCIS and after you have been admitted to the USA as the country permanent resident, your Green Card which is officially called Form I-551 will be mailed to your address in United States. Holders of IR-4, IR-3, IH-3 and IH-4 visas never pay any immigrant fee for USCIS.
Applying for your Social Security Number Card
When filling in you the application for your immigrant visa you marked that you need Social Security Number Card, this card will be mailed to your USA address that you mentioned in the form of your application. Usually, it comes in a letter to your mailbox in 6 weeks after your admission. When you have taken a decision not to get this card automatically, you should apply for it soon after you arrive to the USA. Read more information about this on the site of Social Security Administration.
Naturally when you come to the USA intending to live in America permanently, you must learn in details everything what your status gives to you — your rights and “musts”. This information can be found at USISsite.
More useful information
The applicants for immigrant visas must not sell their property, make the arrangements for their travel to the USA, quit work till the time when the visas are issued. Some visas may need administrative processing, which is also a time-taking process. Any visa for an immigrant remains valid for half of a year since the date it was issued.
General questions about visa
Please review this site very carefully before you send your inquiry. You will get here most answers on your questions. The number of inquiries is always so great that your personal question cannot be answered immediately.
Contact the USA Consulate of Embassy overseas when you have a question about a visa case that is in progress abroad. Find the address of the Consulate/Embassy and contact them.
Find the required contact information of Public Inquiries Division visiting Contact Us.