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How to Apply for an Immigrant Visa

Filing for an immigrant visa so that you can live and work in the U. S. on a permanent basis is a complicated process. Many steps are involved and the exact procedure will depend on the type of visa that pertains to your situation. Obtaining an immigrant visa starts with a petition. Most immigrant visas are obtained through family-based or employment-based petitions. However, other specialized categories for petitions also exist, such as for adoptions, marriages, and more.

Family-Based Immigrant Visas

Family-based immigrant visas are the most common type of visas filed in the U.S. To file for this type of visa, you will need to be sponsored by a family member who is already residing in the country as either a U.S. citizen or a lawful permanent resident (green card holder). Individuals in these two categories have the right to sponsor certain family members.

The members they may sponsor are divided into two groups as 1) immediate family members (spouse, parent, or child) or 2) family preference members (more extended family members such as siblings or married adult children). No limit exists on the number of visas available for immediate family members. However, visas available for family preference members are restricted to a certain number annually.

U.S. citizens may sponsor:

  • Spouses
  • Sons or daughters
  • Parents
  • Brothers or sisters

Lawful permanent residents may sponsor:

  • Spouses
  • Unmarried children under the age of 21
  • Unmarried sons or daughters aged 21 or older

The process of obtaining a family-based immigrant visa will start by filing an I-130 Petition for Alien Relative with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

Employment-Based Immigrant Visas

If you are seeking to enter the U.S. on an employment basis, your employer will be your sponsor in most cases. This process will begin with your employer filing an I-140 Petition for Alien Worker with the USCIS. Many categories exist for employment-based immigration based on preference. Examples of these categories include Individuals with extraordinary ability in the arts, sciences, athletics, business, and other areas; individuals with advanced educational degrees skilled workers; professionals, and more.

Visas are limited to a certain number per year in many of these categories. Filing a petition in any given year after the quota has been reached will put you on a waiting list. In both family-based and employment-based visas, your visa will be given a “priority date.” This is the date that your visa was received by the USCIS and marks your place in line for processing.

Steps for Filing an Immigrant Visa Petition

The process for obtaining an immigrant visa is as follows:

  1. The filing of the petition. Once it is approved, your case will move on to the National Visa Center (NVC). You will receive a welcome letter with the information you need.
  2. Submission of all necessary fees, forms, Affidavit of Financial Support, financial documentation, and all other supporting documentation required to the NVC.
  3. You will be required to see an approved medical professional for a medical examination. You will also be required to have certain vaccinations.
  4. You will be required to attend an interview with an immigration official who will review your application and documentation. Your fingerprints will be taken. You will need to present all necessary documentation, photographs, passports valid for at least six months beyond the date you will enter the U.S., medical exam report, and any fees you have not already paid to the NVC.

Once your interview has been completed, your application will either be approved or disapproved by the USCIS. If your application has been approved, you will be notified as to how and when your visa and passport will be sent to you. If your application has been denied, you will be notified as to why you were not qualified to receive a visa. Even if you have been refused, you may reapply in the future. However, you will have to address the problem that resulted in the refusal.

Turn to Appel & Morse for Legal Assistance

While the steps listed above may seem straightforward and simple, the documentation, preparation for your interview, and strict rules and deadlines involved can make it complicated and stressful. It is to your advantage to work with an immigration lawyer to ensure that all steps of the process are completed thoroughly and accurately. This will increase your chances for a successful outcome and help prevent any unnecessary delays or mistakes.

Our firm has extensive experience in handling the immigration visa process. No matter what type of visa you are applying for, we have the knowledge and skills you need.

Contact our firm to discuss your immigration needs at (805) 467-6060 or through our online request form today.