To be able to visit or live in the U.S, many residents of different countries need visas. Visas are stamps in your passport that give you the right to travel to various countries. A U.S visa allows you to make plans to visit or live in the U.S.
A U.S visa does not grant you entry into the U.S. This is determined by the officials at any U.S point of entry who can detain and return you if they have a reason. Common reasons include security concerns or other suspicions. However, if you meet all the requirements and you do not pose any threats to the U.S, its residents, and visitors, then you will be allowed to enter the U.S if you have a visa.
There are various U.S visa types, but the two major groups are:
- U.S nonimmigrant visas
- U.S immigrant visas
This article will go through the immigrant visa USA, what these visas are and various types of visas.
What is an Immigrant Visa?
Immigrant visas give its holders the right to stay in the U.S permanently. Whereas with a U.S nonimmigrant visa, the person is required to return to their home country when their visa expires, an immigrant visa does not expire. It allows you to live, work, and study in the U.S or engage in any activity you like.
Once you get the immigrant visa, you do not need to renew it or extend it. It is valid permanently unless you engage in an illegal activity in the U.S to have your immigrant visa revoked. The immigrant visa does not constrain you to stay in the U.S, but you can travel in and out of the U.S anytime you want and not have your visa in danger of being revoked or cancelled as long as you have a valid Re-entry Permit.
Additionally, if you live in the U.S for a specified period of time without any violations, you can also apply for a citizenship and if approved, you will become a U.S citizen.
What are the U.S Immigrant Visa Types?
Just like the U.S nonimmigrant visas, there are also several U.S immigrant visa types. They can take on different categories depending on how you get the permanent visa. There are two major categories of immigrant visas:
- Immediate Relative and Family Sponsored
- Employer Sponsored
Immediate Relative and Family Sponsored Visas
The Immediate Relative visas and Family immigrant visas means that you are joining your close family who live in the U.S permanently. This can be your parents, fiancé, or spouse. If you have family in the U.S, or you become engaged or married to a U.S citizen, then you are eligible for this category of immigrant visas.
The table below provides the names of the Immediate Relative and Family Sponsored visas and short descriptions of each.
IR-1, CR-1 Visa: US Spouse Visas
The first category is the US marriage visas. These visas are given to those who are legally married to a citizen of the U.S. Merely living together does not count as being married, so you will have to prove marriage by documents.
There are two types of spouse visas:
- Conditional Resident (CR-1) Visa – means that you have just been married and for 2 years you will maintain conditional status. This is to prevent marriages from happening only for obtaining permanent residence in the U.S.
- Immediate Relative (IR-1) Visa – after you have been married for 2 years, you will gain permanent status without the conditions of the CR-1 visa.
K-1 Visa: Fiance Visa USA
The K1 visa is given to a person engaged to a U.S citizen to go to the U.S for 90 days. During those 90 days, the couple is expected to be married so as to start filing for the petition to get a spouse visa.
K-2 Visa: Children of K-1 Visa Holders
The K-2 visa is given to unmarried children under 21 years old of K-1 visa holders, so the U.S citizen’s fiancé(e).
K-3 Visa: Spouse of a Green Card Holder
This visa has been created to shorten the time that the married couple is away from each other while one of them is waiting for their petition to be approved.
When a foreign citizen and a U.S citizen are married, they file the petition to get a spouse visa. While this petition is being processed, the spouse can obtain a K-3 visa so as to be able to live in the U.S.
K-4 Visa: Children of K-3 Visa Holders
This visa is intended to be given to unmarried children under 21 years old of K-3 visa holders, so the children of the spouse of a U.S citizen.
IR-3, IH-3, IR-4, IH-4: Intercountry Adoption of Orphan Children by U.S Citizens
This group of visas is intended to be used by U.S citizens who adopt children from countries other than the U.S. The children can then get one of the four visas.
- IH-3 visa is for children who are adopted from a country on the Hague Convention. The children who get the IH-3 visa are allowed to enter the U.S and then get U.S citizenship. The citizenship is given automatically only to children who are under 18 years old when they enter the U.S for the first time.
- IH-4 visa is the same as the IH-3 visa, but the children who enter the U.S do not get a U.S citizenship immediately, but after the adoption is complete.
- IR3 visa is given to children after the adoption procedure has been completed. The child must be from a country which does not require re-adoption when the child enters the U.S. The children who are under 18 years old get automatic citizenship when they first enter the U.S.
- IR4 visa is for children whose adoption will be completed after they enter the U.S. Initially, the parents will become legal guardians of the child and then will file for the adoption process once the child is inside the U.S.
IR-2, CR-2, IR-5, F-1, F-3, F-4: Certain Family Members of U.S Citizens
This group of visas is for family members of U.S citizens or the people that they will marry.
- IR2 visa is for the unmarried children under 21 years old of IR-1 visa holders, so the spouse of a U.S citizen.
- CR-2 visa is for the unmarried children under 21 years old of CR-1 visa holders, so the spouse a U.S citizen. The couple must be married less than 2 years for this visa to apply.
- IR5 visa is for the parents of a U.S citizen who is older than 21 years old.
- F-1 visa has a cap of 23,400 visas given to unmarried sons and daughters of U.S citizens and their minor children
- F3 visa has a cap of 23,400 visas for married sons and daughters of U.S citizens as well as their minor children and spouses
- F4 visa has a cap of 65,000 visas and is for siblings of U.S citizens, their minor children, and spouses. For this visa to apply, the U.S citizen must be at least 21 years old.
F-2A, F-2B: Certain Family Members of Lawful Permanent Residents
The F-2 visa is for minor children, spouses, and unmarried children of those who have immigrant visas.
This visa has two categories:
Employment Sponsored Visa
The US employer sponsored visas are immigrant visas which allow its holders to work permanently in the U.S. The U.S government limits the number of employment based visas that they give to around 140,000 per fiscal year. The table below shows the different types of employment based visas.
Eb-1 Visa: First Priority Workers
The First Priority Workers are those who get the EB1 visa and they can be in three groups:
- Outstanding professors and researchers who are recognized internationally
- Persons with extraordinary abilities in arts, sciences, business, education, or athletics
- Multinational managers of executive who have worked overseas for at least one out of the past three years for a U.S branch, subsidiary, or parent company.
Eb-2 Visa: Second Priority Workers
The Eb2 visa category of employees includes two groups:
- Professionals holding an advanced degree, who either have a Bachelor’s Degree and five years of work experience in that profession, or have completed a higher education degree beyond their Bachelor’s Degree.
- Persons with exceptional abilities in arts, sciences, or business.
Eb-3, EW-3 Visas: Third Priority Workers
The third priority workers include these groups:
- EB3 visa: Skilled workers who have at least two years of experience or training in that particular profession and who are not seasonal or temporary
- Professional workers who need at least a Bachelor’s Degree or a U.S equivalent to work in their profession
- EW3 visa: Unskilled workers who do not need at least two years of experience or training to work in a particular position.
Eb-4 visa: Fourth Priority Workers – Certain Special Immigrants
- Religious workers (SD visa and SR visa)
- Broadcasters in the U.S
- Current or Former employees of the U.S government
- Iraqi employees of the U.S government (SQ visa)
- Afghan employees of the U.S government (SQ visa)
- Iraqi and Afghan Interpreters or Translators (SI visa)
- Certain Foreign Medical Graduates
- Certain family members of International Organization Employees (spouses and unmarried children), etc.
EB5 visas: Fifth Priority Workers
The last group of the EB5 visas is targeted at investors, who invest:
- At least $1,000,000
- $500,000 in a high unemployment or rural area in the U.S
Based on this, there are four types of investor immigrant visas:
- C-5 visa for investors who create jobs outside of target areas
- T-5 visas for investors who create jobs in targeted rural or high unemployment areas
- R-5 visa for investors who participate in an Investor Pilot Program not in a target area
- I-5 visa for investors who participate in an Investor Pilot Program in a targeted area
US Immigrant Visa Application Process
The second type of US visas, the immigrant visas have a different type of US visa application requirements. They too start at a US consulate or embassy and you have to follow these guidelines for application for US visa which is of an immigrant type.
File the petitions
If you are applying for an immigrant visa based on family reunion or employment, the family or employer in the US must submit a petition for you at USCIS. This petition will be reviewed by the responsible authority and you must only wait to find out whether it will be approved or not. You cannot take any further steps without an approved petition, since if it is denied, all your efforts and payments will not be counted.
If your petition is approved, you will be directed to the National Visa Center (NVC), which will require you to go through more steps in order to get to your visa interview. You will receive a letter from the NVC which will have important information that guides you through the application process. Amongst that important information are your NVC Case Number, Beneficiary ID Number, and Invoice ID Number.
Choose an agent
The agent will serve as your point of contact for your visa matters. You must formally and legally select an agent to be able to proceed with the immigration visa application. You can choose yourself as an agent or you can choose an attorney, friend, family member, or sponsoring employer.
To choose your agent you must file Form DS-261, Choice of Address and Agent to the NVC which will take at least 3 weeks to be processed.
Pay the US immigrant visa fees
There are at least two fees you have to pay when applying for a US immigrant visa:
- Immigrant Visa Application Processing Fee
- Affidavit of Support Fee
You can pay these fees by credit card or check and you will need to complete this step online based on the guidance found in your NVC letter. You will also need your NVC Case Number and Invoice ID Number to proceed with this step.
Submit US immigrant visa application form
If you are applying for an immigrant visa you should fill Form DS-260, Application for Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration. You should not complete your immigrant visa application until you are invited for the interview and your date is current. To file for the Form DS-260 you will need your NVC Case Number, Beneficiary ID Number, and Invoice ID Number. At the end when you submit it, you will get a confirmation page and number.
You will have to give personal details as:
- Full name in English characters
- Full name in Native Alphabet
- Date of Birth
- Place of Birth
- Home Address
- Phone number
- Family information: Parents, spouse/previous spouse, children
- Previous US Travel Information
There are also a couple of questions on security and Background related to:
- Medical and Health information,
- Criminal Information
- Security Information
- Immigration law violation information
- Miscellaneous, etc.
Click here for a full DS-260 application form in pdf, so you can prepare the answers in advance.
All answers must be in English, with English letters, in both application forms. Most of the questions are mandatory, but there are some other optional questions that you can choose not to answer. At the end of the application, there is a “Sign Application” button which you should click on. If you do not click on this button it may result in US visa refusal.
After you fulfill the form, submit it and print the confirmation page. Take this page with you when you attend the interview as proof of submitting the application.
Submit supporting documents for US immigrant visas
Besides the standard required documents, depending on the type of immigrant visa you are applying for, you might be asked to submit additional ones. Note that all documents must be in English and those that are not must be accompanied by an official and notarized translation. You must submit these documents to the NVC based on the information you have received on the letter.
Attend your interview
Based on your current date, the NVC will schedule your visa interview with you and any accompanying family members. This is usually done one month in advance to give applicants time to prepare documents and prepare for the interview. At the interview, you will be asked questions by an official and it will be determined whether you are eligible and meet all the requirements for a US immigrant visa.
What are the US Immigration Forms?
Based on which category of immigration and which type of immigrant visa you want to apply for, there will be several forms that you must fill out and submit during the process. For the immigration process, someone from the U.S must first send out a petition on your behalf to the U.S Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). This petition is different depending on the type of visa and purpose, but it means that the petitioner is asking the U.S government to approve the applicant for an immigrant visa. All of these forms have fees that your petitioner must pay before they can get processed.
Below will be some of the most popular forms that people have to fill out during the U.S immigration application process.
Form I-129F, Petition for Alien Fiance
This form is sent out by a U.S citizen who is engaged to a person from a foreign country. The couple is already engaged and they have filed their documents for the fiancé to come to the U.S permanently. To shorten the time that the couple has to be apart, the U.S government will give the fiancé a visa to come to the U.S so the couple can get married.
Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative
This form is used by any family member who is a U.S permanent resident or citizen to petition the government to approve an immediate family member to come to the U.S. This is used for family sponsored immigration visas and is only for spouses, parents, or children and does not apply for other extended family members.
Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker
This form is used by employers who want to hire a person from a foreign country as an employee. If you apply for a job in the U.S and are hired, the employer will send this form with your information and reasons why you should be allowed to come to the U.S to work permanently and why your skills are valuable.
Form I-526, Immigrant Petition by Alien Entrepreneur
This form is used by those who want to invest in the U.S economy and get a visa that way. These are called investor visas and the person must invest from $500,000 to $1 million in a U.S company and create a certain number of jobs to get this visa. However, they must first petition the U.S government by submitting this form to be allowed to invest that amount.
Form I-800A, Determination on Suitability to Adopt a Child from a Convention Country
Many U.S couples want to adopt children from foreign countries and before they are allowed to do that, they must go through a lengthy process. One of the steps in this process includes filing this form so that they can get inspected by the U.S government. The government decides whether the couple fulfills the criteria to adopt a child.
Form DS-260, Immigrant Visa Electronic Application
This form is the one that all those who are applying for U.S immigration must fill and submit to the U.S Embassy. Since the U.S government moved their application portals online, all those seeking to immigrate in the country must submit a Form DS-260.
This form collects your basic information such as your name, address, family information, employment and education details and so on. It also gives you space to state for which type of immigrant visa you are applying for and why you want to immigrate.
At the end when you submit this form, it will give you a confirmation page and number, which you need to save since you might be asked to send it to the National Visa Center (NVC).
How to find U.S Immigration Services?
When you decide to apply for a U.S immigrant visa, you will have to go through different institutions and services to complete this task. The services and institutions you will have to go through depending on your visa can be as follows:
- US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) – is the place where your petitioner must submit the petition forms for the applicants.
- US State Department – is the institution which will go through various application forms and documents.
- National Visa Center (NVC) – will go through your approved petition and send you an informative package with all the necessary steps and forms you must take to apply for the immigrant visa.
- US Department of Labor (DOL) – is the place where companies must get their labor certification before they are allowed to hire an employee from a foreign country.
- US Embassy in your home country – is where the applicant submits their final application and has the visa interview. This step is conducted only after the petition and other documents have been approved.
The process for applying for a U.S immigrant visa can be long and tiresome and that is why many people seek help from other places. There are countless lawyer offices which will help you fill out forms and documents for a fee. Additionally, there are visa centers which you can pay to complete the entire application process on your behalf and all you will have to do is pay them their fee and sign any documents that they might ask you to. Because the forms are confusing and long, a lot of applicants choose to have either a lawyer or a visa center assist them in getting their immigrant visa to the U.S.
Merit Based Immigration
The current U.S administration has continuously been opposed to the current immigration laws and regulations.
Merit-based immigration means that the criteria to get a U.S Green Card would be based on certain achievements that they have rather than by mere chance. This could include demographics, education, job prospects and so on.
In the U.S, the proposed bill is being called the Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment Act or the RAISE Act. The RAISE Act point system will assign each applicant a certain number of points based on their qualifications.
Health Insurance Coverage for Immigrants in the United States
The health insurance policy for holders of immigrant visas in the US is similar to that of US citizens. Immigrants and citizens of the US have to purchase their health insurance through private companies because the US does not have a national healthcare system that covers all groups of people.
Here you can find more information about the best coverage plans for immigrants in the United States.