Permanent residents and U.S. citizens with family members outside the United States can file petitions to help them immigrate. The process to obtain an immigrant visa for your eligible family members will follow the same basic steps: a U.S. citizen (USC) or a lawful permanent resident (LPR).
Which Family Members Are Eligible?
Eligible family members are classified into two categories: so-called “immediate relatives” of U.S. citizens and “family preference” relatives.
The immediate relatives of U.S. citizens include the spouses of U.S. citizens and their unmarried children not up to 21 years old, their parents and orphans adopted abroad or in the U.S.
The “family preference” relatives include the following:
- First Preference (F1): unmarried children of U.S. citizens of any age
- Second Preference (F2): spouses (same-sex or opposite-sex), minor children, and unmarried sons and daughters (age 21 and above) of permanent residents.
- Third Preference (F3): Married children of U.S. citizens, their spouses and minor children.
- Fourth Preference (F4): Siblings of a U.S. citizen and half-brothers and half-sisters and adoptive siblings.
Start the Immigration Process
The immigration process starts with the U.S. citizen filing Form I-130 issued by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Once the requirements are met, the USCIS Approval Notice will follow.
Transferring the Immigrant’s File to the National Visa Center
The immigrant’s file will be transferred to the National Visa Center (NVC) and will be there until their visa has become available.
If a visa is available because the beneficiary’s priority date is current, the NVC will start processing the case. An updated Affidavit of Support for the immigrant is required at this stage and payment of applicable fees. In addition, the applicant will need to fill out Form DS-260.
Once all documents, fees and security checks have been done or paid, a notice for a personal interview will follow.
Visa Interview at a U.S. Consulate
One of the last steps is for the immigrant to attend an interview with a consular official. Again, the applicant should bring copies of all documents earlier submitted, plus the original. Usually, within a few weeks, the U.S. embassy will issue the passport stamp after the visa interview.
Arrival at the Port of Entry
At this point, the U.S. embassy has granted the immigrant visa, but the final interview will be with an officer at the border – it could be a Customs and Border Protection or CBP agent).
Receiving the Green Card
Finally, the Permanent Resident Card (Form I-551) is mailed to the beneficiary following their arrival in the U.S.
Learn more about Can my family member’s status grant me citizenship?