Apply for a US Immigration Visa

Edited by Shelley, Anonymous, Eng

Applying for an immigrant visa is the first step in obtaining a permanent resident status in the United States. Immigration is a complex process that varies depending on the type of immigration, whether it's family, employment or adoption-based, as well as several other special immigration visa categories. There are four major steps you'll have to complete in order to qualify for a U.S. immigration visa, so read on for the complete step-by-step process explained throughout the article below.

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File a Petition

The first step to applying for an immigrant visa is submitting a petition. This must be done by a sponsor that's a U.S. citizen, lawful permanent resident (green-card holder) or a prospective employer. The U.S. citizen must be the beneficiary's spouse, sister, brother, child or parent. The lawful permanent resident must be the beneficiary's spouse or unmarried son or daughter. The petition must be approved by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) before you can move forward in the application process.

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  1. 1
    Download and complete the petition forms from the USCIS website.
    For U.S. Citizens or lawful permanent residents, you'll need to complete form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative. Prospective employers should fill out form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker. Print clearly and legibly with black ink, and fill out all sections correctly. Make sure you write the names and dates of birth exactly the same in all sections, and be sure to sign the forms. You may be eligible to file form I-140 electronically, so check the eligibility chart on this page of the USCIS.
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  2. 2
    Enclose the required filing fee.
    You can pay with check, money order or cashier's check, as long as it's drawn from U.S. financial institutions or payable in U.S. currency. Make checks payable to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and write the date in month/day/year format. You can also make payments by credit card through USCIS field offices. On the memo line, write a brief description of the reason for payment, such as form I-130 filing fee. As of July 2015, the filing fee for form I-130 costs $420, while I-140 costs $580, and the fee is non-refundable regardless of whether the application is approved or denied.
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  3. 3
    Enclose copies of all supporting documents.
    To file a petition, you'll need to enclose legible copies of official documents that prove your citizenship or permanent resident status, as well as proof of the relationship between the sponsor and the beneficiary. Employers must enclose labor certifications or other supporting documents that prove the worker meets all requirements for the position. Specific instructions for form I-130 can be found here, while form I-140 instructions are found here.
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  4. 4
    Submit the application packet.
    Make sure you enclose all supporting documents and filing fees in the application packet, and mail it to the appropriate USCIS office listed on the form instructions page at the USCIS website. Await the approval or denial of the petition.
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Application and Document Submission

Once the petition is approved, applicants will have to check the priority date to ensure an immigrant visa is available, since some types of visas are limited. There may be a waiting period. Once case is current, the National Visa Center will begin processing the visa application. Both the sponsor and the beneficiary will need to fill out additional forms, submit documentation and pay visa fees to move forward in the process.

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  1. 1
    Choose an agent.
    The visa applicant, or beneficiary, will need to choose an agent to represent himself/herself throughout the application process. This can be any trusted person, such as a friend, attorney, petitioner or an immigration professional. A beneficiary may also choose to act as his or her own agent. You can do this electronically via this page.
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  2. 2
    Pay the processing fees.
    After you've chosen an agent, you'll receive an invoice from the National Visa Center. These are the immigrant visa application processing fees for the beneficiary and the Affidavit of Support fees for the petitioner. These can be paid either by mail or through this login page. Personal checks are not accepted by mail, so use either a money order or cashier's check. Write the case number on the memo line, as well. If you choose to pay online, you'll need your bank's routing number, account number and check number for a personal check.
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  3. 3
    The petitioner must fill out the Affidavit of Support form.
    The petitioner must download and fill out the Affidavit of Support form from the USCIS website after paying the Affidavit of Support processing fees. Supporting financial documents must be submitted, as well. In some special cases, this isn't necessary, so be sure to fully read the requirements on the page.
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  4. 4
    Complete the immigrant visa application form.
    The beneficiary must complete and submit the immigrant visa application form through this page. The applicant must answer several questions about their personal, family medical, security and contact information, as well as U.S. travel questions, work history and education questions. It's best to have all supporting documentation available while filling out the form. Fully complete the form, then e-sign and submit. Print the confirmation page, because the applicant will need it for the interview.
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  5. 5
    Collect all supporting documents.
    The beneficiary will need to prepare and send photocopies of all supporting civil and financial documentation to the National Visa Center and original versions. Originals or certified copies must be submitted to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate during the interview. All documents that aren't in English will need to be translated and accompanied by a signed statement from the translator that the translation is accurate. The required documents are listed on this page.
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  6. 6
    Submit all of the documents to the National Visa Center.
    All supporting documents, translations, statements and photocopies must be submitted by mail or email in one package.
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Interview Process

Once the National Visa Center receives all fees, documentation and application, they'll review it and schedule and interview for the applicant at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate through a letter by mail, which can take up to a few months. There are several things to do to prepare for the interview process, so check out the steps below to get started.

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  1. 1
    Schedule a medical examination.
    Once the interview date has been set, the applicant will need to complete a medical exam and vaccinations through an authorized physician before the interview. The exam will include reviewing the applicant's medical history, blood tests, chest x-ray, physical examination and vaccinations. The results will be directly submitted to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate, or the applicant will receive them in a sealed envelope, which must remain unopened and brought to the interview.
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  2. 2
    Collect all unsubmitted, required forms to bring to the interview.
    Any of the required forms, documents, translations or evidence that hasn't already been submitted to the National Visa Center must be brought to the interview. Originals as well as certified copies of each document are required, and original copies will be returned to the applicant after the interview.
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  3. 3
    Prepare for the interview.
    The applicant, as well as the applicant's children, spouse or other qualifying people immigrating with the applicant that are listed on the interview letter are required to attend. The petitioner isn't required to attend. The applicant must bring the interview letter, a passport that's valid at least six months beyond the intended entry date to the U.S., two color photos of each applicant that meets the photo requirements, medical exam results in a sealed envelope (if they weren't directly submitted by the physician), and all original or certified copies, as well as photocopies of any required documents not previously submitted. If any fees haven't been paid, they're required at the time of the interview. If you cannot make it to the interview, contact the U.S. Embassy or Consulate as soon as possible to reschedule. If more than one year passes since you've received the interview letter, the visa application process will be canceled and all fees will be non-refundable.
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  4. 4
    Go to the interview.
    Before the interview, dress conservatively and professionally, and show up on time. Bring a book or crossword puzzle to keep occupied, since the wait times can be long. Present your interview letter, then wait for your name to be called. Answer all questions honestly, and be prepared to explain any known errors or changes since you began the application process. You'll then take an oath verifying that all information given is accurate and true. If the immigrant visa is approved, you'll be notified after the interview. If it's denied, you'll be given an explanation, and whether additional information is needed to process the application or whether you can apply for a waiver.
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What to Expect After Approval

You'll receive your passport and immigrant visa in the mail, as well as a sealed immigrant packet that contains document which are to be presented to U.S. Customs and Border Control at the port-of-entry to the United States. Don't open the envelope. Once you receive these documents, you must pay the USCIS immigrant fee of $165 before traveling to the United States.

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Recent edits by: Anonymous, Shelley

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