Immigrant Visas

Santa Barbara Immigration Lawyers

The first step to living permanently in the United States is to obtain an immigrant visa. Most immigrant visas are family or employment-based; however, visas may be issued in cases of international adoption, marriage, or for other special circumstances as well. To file a petition for a visa, you must have a sponsor who is a citizen or a lawful resident of the U.S.

If you are applying for a family visa, it is important to know the difference between having a citizen or a lawful resident as your sponsor. A citizen is able to sponsor a spouse, son or daughter, parent, or sibling, while a lawful resident can only sponsor a spouse or unmarried son or daughter. A family-based immigration visa will begin with your sponsor filing an I-130 Petition for Alien Relative with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USICIS).

If you are obtaining your visa through your employer, your sponsoring employer must file an I-140 Petition for Alien Worker with the USCIS. If you have a specialized skill or are an immigrant investor, you may be able to sponsor yourself and file your own petition.

United States law limits the number of visas issued per year in certain categories. If your petition is filed after this quota has been reached, you will be placed on a waiting list. The date your petition was filed is known as your priority date, and determines your place in the queue.

The Process of Filing for an Immigrant Visa

There are quite a few steps involved in successfully receiving an immigration visa. The process begins with your sponsor filing the correct petition for your situation with the USCIS. Once your petition is received and approved, you will be able to check your priority date. Your next step will be to begin National Visa Center (NVC) processing and choose an agent to handle your case. You will pay your processing fees, which are the Immigrant Visa Application Processing Fee and the Affidavit of Support Fee.

After your fees have been paid, you will collect, complete, and submit the appropriate forms and documents for your visa. These documents include your visa application form, financial documents, and supporting documents. Once you have completed the forms and collected the necessary documents, you will submit them to the NVC.

Before your interview, you and any family beneficiaries (i.e. your spouse or unmarried children) will undergo a medical examination and receive the necessary vaccinations from an embassy-approved doctor. Your results will either be sent directly to the embassy or given to you in a sealed envelope, which must be presented to the embassy with the rest of your documents. You will also need to register for courier services, for the return of your passport and the delivery of your visa after the interview.

Next comes your interview with the U.S. Embassy or Consulate. A consular officer will interview you and any accompanying family member beneficiaries. You will also be digitally fingerprinted at this time. If your spouse or unmarried children are immigrating with you, they must also attend the interview. You will need to bring the following:

  • Appointment letter: The letter detailing your appointment from the NVC.
  • Passport: You must bring a passport for each family member immigrating. The passports must be valid for 6 months beyond the date of entry to the U.S.
  • Photographs: 2 identical color photographs of each applicant, which need to meet the photograph requirements.
  • Medical exam results: If they were given to you, and not sent straight to the embassy by the examining physician.
  • Original and supporting documents: Bring originals and photocopies of each document required of you and your family members. The originals will be returned at the end of your interview.
  • English translations: If any documents required translation, you must bring the translated copies.
  • Visa fees: If there are unpaid fees, you will need to bring them to the interview. Most fees should already have been paid to the NVC.

Visa Approval or Denial

After your interview, you will receive word if your visa has been approved or denied. If you are approved, you will receive information about when and how your passport and visa will be returned to you. If you have been denied, you will be informed of the reason you are ineligible for a visa.

Getting Help for Your Visa Application

Our firm is well-versed in complex immigration issues, and has over 30 years of combined experience. We can help you with the process of applying for a visa, including completing forms, inter-country adoptions, intra-company employee transfers, and more. We are ready to tackle your case and provide you with dedicated, high-quality legal assistance.

Contact our team of Santa Barbara immigration attorneys today for a free case evaluation.