People who want to join their family members in the U.S. require family preference immigrant visa
There are different categories of U.S. immigrant visa based on the intent of immigration or why someone wants to seek permanent residence in the U.S. These categories are:
- Family-Based Immigrant US Visas to reunite with close family members;
- Employment-Based Immigrant US Visas to work in the U.S without an Employment Authorization Document (EAD);
- Diversity US Visas for those with low rates of immigration to the U.S;
- Returning Resident US Visas for those who have once held a U.S immigrant visa and want to return to the country.
This section will go through the relevant information for Family Based Immigrant US Visas.
What are Family-Based Immigration US Visas?
The Family Immigrant US Visas are for those people who want to reunite with their family members in the U.S. The U.S. government, however, only permits those close family members such as spouses, children (biological/adopted), parents, and siblings to reunite. Other relatives such as grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins are considered extended family members and are therefore not qualified.
The family members in the U.S. must be legally residing in the country. Otherwise, if they are living illegally in the U.S., they cannot petition their family members to immigrate into the U.S. They must at least be Legal Permanent Residents (LPR) and have a Green Card for these US visas. The U.S. citizens can reunite with their immediate family too with the Immediate Relative (IR) Visas.
The Family-Based Immigrant U.S. Visas will grant family members into the U.S. They can also enroll in schools or universities. They can also own property and apply for a driver’s license. Certainly, after all, they can travel in and out of the U.S. for short periods
These US visas have many advantages but also have limitations. Each US visa has an annual capacity and the application goes on a first come first serve basis. The earlier the application, the higher the chances it gets to be processed. Once the applications reached the yearly limit, the late or the rest applications will be processed in the next years.
What are the Types of Family Visas?
There are several types of family US visas and are based on which family member is going into the U.S. The US visa types are:
- F-1 US visas are for the unmarried sons and daughters of U.S citizens and their minor children;
- F-2 US visas are for the spouses and children of Lawful Permanent Residents (LPR). They are of two categories:
- F-3 US visas are for the married children of U.S citizens and their families (spouses and minor children);
- F-4 US visas for siblings of U.S citizens and their families (spouses and minor children). To petition for siblings, the U.S citizen must be at least 21 years old.
Since there are numerical limits on these US visas, they get a specific amount each year, such as:
- 23,400 people get the F-1 US visa each year;
- 79,940 people get the F-2A US visa each year;
- 34,260 people get the F-2B US visa each year;
- 23,400 people get the F-3 US visa each year;
- 65,000 people get the F-4 US visa each year.
Any type of unused/remaining US visas of this category is available of use for the other i.e. unused F-1 US visas can go to F-2A US visas and so on.
What are the Requirements for Family Immigration?
Every type of US visa has its own qualifications. Below is the list that describes each:
For the F-1 US visa, the qualifications are:
- The U.S citizen must have birth or adoption certificates to prove their relationship with their sons/daughters.
- The U.S citizen must have a valid U.S address;
- The sons/daughters must have birth or adoption certificates of their minor children to prove their relationship. The children must be under 21 years old to qualify.
- The sons and daughters must be unmarried.
For the F-2A US visa, the qualifications are:
- The LPR must be at least 18 years old;
- The LPR must have a valid U.S address;
- The LPR’s children must be under 21 years old and unmarried;
- The LPR must have valid birth or adoption certificates to prove their relationship with the children.
For the F-2B US visa, the qualifications are:
- The LPR must prove the relationship through a valid birth or adoption certificate.
- The LPR must have a valid U.S address.
- The adult child must be over 21 years old and unmarried.
For the F-3 US visa, the qualifications are:
- The U.S citizen must prove their relationship through a valid birth or adoption certificate;
- The U.S citizen must have a valid U.S address;
- The U.S citizen’s child must be over 21 years old;
- A valid marriage certificate must be presented by the U.S. citizen’s child to prove that they are married;
- A valid birth or adoption certificate is to be presented by the U.S citizen’s child who has minor children to prove their relationship.
For the F-4 visa, the qualifications are:
- The U.S citizen must be at least 21 years old;
- The U.S citizen must have a valid U.S address;
- A valid birth or adoption certificate is to be presented by the U.S citizen to prove their relationship with siblings;
- A valid birth or adoption certificate should be formally given for siblings with minor children in order to prove their relationship;
- A valid marriage certificate is to be shown for married siblings for a way to prove their relationship.
All of the applicants must fit all the qualifications for their US visa. If they do not fill the qualifications, the U.S Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) could deny their US visa.
How to Apply for Family US Visas?
The application process for family-based immigrant US visas is very alike. The process is supposed to start from the U.S citizen or LPR and then, the person in the foreign country must apply. Following are the steps for the application:
Step 1: File the petition
U.S citizens or Legal Permanent Residents must file the petition for the family member at USCIS. They must send in the Form I-130 or the Petition for Alien Relative.
The USCIS examines or evaluates the petition and makes a decision to approve or deny. If it is approved, the case will go to the National Visa Center (NVC).
The moment when the case is being processed, the NVC will send a package to the applicant which contains the instructions for application. This means that the applicant has already the priority date. The NVC will also assign a case number and an invoice ID to the applicant.
Step 2: File Form DS-260
When the applicant receives the instructions, they can now apply for the US visa. They will fill up the Form DS-260 or the Online Immigrant Visa Application online and then later receives the confirmation letter.
Step 3: Complete medical exam and vaccination
The U.S. requires those who want to immigrate to the U.S. to have medical examinations and vaccinations. The applicant must go to the licensed doctor to complete the requirements and have it documented.
Step 4: Compile supporting documents file
The applicant must compile other supporting documents. These documents will prove that the applicant completes and meets the criteria for a U.S. visa. These documents may differ and depend on the type of family US visa. Some of the documents in the file are:
- A valid passport for more than 6 months after your intended departure to the U.S
- A signed Form I-864 or the Affidavit of Support from the U.S petitioner or LPR
- Form DS-260 confirmation page
- Medical exam and vaccination documents
- Two photographs according to the Photo Requirements
- Marriage certificates for those who are married
- Birth or adoption certificates to prove relationships with children or siblings
- Court and criminal records and/or police certificate
- Those who were married before must bring divorce or death certificates to prove the marriage ended
- If the applicant was in the military, they must bring military records
Step 5: Attend the interview
After the processing, the U.S. Embassy will schedule an interview for the applicant. They will ask for the applicant’s background and their application. After, they will decide whether to grant the applicant the US visa or not.
Step 6: Receive NVC packet and travel to the U.S
Granted that U.S Embassy approves the U.S. visa, the applicant will receive another package sent by the NVC. It is very important that the applicant must not open the package. At the U.S. port of entry, the border official will be the one responsible for opening the package and decide if they let the applicant enter the U.S. or not.
What is the Family-Based Immigrant US Visa Fees?
There are particular fees that the petitioner and the applicant must pay to get the U.S. Family-Based Immigrant US Visas. The applicant and the petitioner will pay different fees fixed by each department who processes the application. These fees are:
- Form I-130 filing fee – $535;
- Processing fee for the Form DS-260 – $230;
- Medical exam and vaccination fees;
- Fees to get and translate all supporting documents;
- USCIS Immigrant Fee – $220.
How Long is the Processing Time for Family Immigration US Visas?
Considering that the family US visas have numerical limits, it may take a long time to process. The longer it takes for processing depends on when the applicant applies. The earlier to apply, the faster the processing gets.
The U.S. Family-Based Immigrant US Visas application processing may take a few months to a few years to process. In severe cases, some US visas can take up to 7 to 10 years before they get processed. This is more common for US visas F-2B, F-3, and F-4. These US visas have longer interval times for there are exceedingly many applicants in line for processing.