There are many types of U.S Immigrant Visas or otherwise known as Green Cards. One of those types are the Family Preference Immigrant Visas. These visas were created to give families the opportunity to reunite in the U.S. Those who qualify for these visas are the immediate family such as spouse, children, parents, and siblings. Extended family members such as grandparents, aunts, uncles, or others do not qualify for the Family Green Card.
Since so many families want to become reunited in the U.S, the demand for these visas is very high. Because of this, the U.S has made the family visas with limited numbers. This means that these Green Cards have a cap on the number that can be issues each year. If your application exceeds that limit, then you will be processed in the next periods depending on when you applied. These visas are then processed in chronological order.
This article will go through the F4 visa, what is it, its requirements, application procedures and other relevant details.
What is the F4 visa?
The F4 visa is a U.S Family Preference Visa that allows US Lawful Permanent Residents to reunite with their siblings. This includes brothers and sisters and if applicable, their spouses and minor children. The children must be unmarried and under 21 years old.
To be eligible for the F4 visa, the U.S citizen must be at least 21 years old and qualify to bring their siblings to the U.S. The F4 visa gives them the opportunity to live in the U.S, work without the need for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) but only with their Social Security Number, as well as enroll in studies.
The F4 visa has a cap of 65,000 visas issued each year which limits the number of applications that are accepted and processed by the U.S government.
What are the requirements of the F4 visa?
The requirements for the F4 visa include eligibility conditions for both the siblings of the U.S citizen who are living in a foreign country, but also for the U.S citizen who wants to reunite with them.
However, the only requirement for the F4 visa is that you have a sibling in the U.S who is a U.S citizen. You can be married and have children and they would qualify for the F4 visa too, but it is not a requirement.
As for the U.S citizen who wants to bring their siblings in the U.S permanently, you must fulfill these conditions:
- You must be a U.S citizen
- You must be at least 21 years old
- You must have siblings in a foreign country and prove it through birth certificates or adoption documents
- You must be living in the U.S and have a valid U.S address
How to apply for the F4 visa?
The F4 visa application process must start with the U.S citizen petitioning for his siblings to join in the U.S. The petition must be approved so that the siblings and their families can start to apply for the F4 visa. The siblings cannot start their application and will not be eligible if they apply for a F4 visa without an approved petition. This means that application is divided in two parts:
- The U.S Citizen petitions for their adult child, spouse, and minor children to U.S Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)
- When the petition is approved, the adult child and their family must apply to a U.S Embassy or Consulate in their home country
Filing the Petition
The U.S citizen must petition to USCIS by filing Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative. The petition must include the sibling as the main person and if the sibling is married and has minor children, it must also list the spouse and the children. This makes it easier for the whole family to get F4 visas if the petition is approved.
The petition is sent through the Department of Homeland Security and is processed within a few months. USCIS will then inform the petitioner whether it was approved or denied. If denied, they will specify the reason and the petitioner can correct the mistakes and send another petition. If the petition is approved, then the documents are sent to the National Visa Center (NVC).
The NVC then sends a package of instructions and documents to the applicants in the foreign country. The documents contain the case number and the invoice ID number. These will be used when the application procedure starts and for the applicants to pay the fees.
However, due to the cap on the number of F4 visas available each year, the applicants cannot start their application process until their priority date is current. What this means is that you can only apply for the F4 visa when it is your turn in the chronological order of all applications for F4 visas. For example, If there are so many applications that they exceed two years of limits, then your application will be processed in the third year.
Applying for the F-2A visa
When your priority date becomes current, the NVC will inform you that you can start the application process for the F4 visa. If you as the sibling of a U.S citizen are married and have minor children, then all of you individually must submit F4 visa applications. This is completed at a U.S Embassy or Consulate in your country of residence.
File Form DS-260
Form DS-260, Immigrant Visa Electronic Application is the form which all applicants for immigrant visas must submit. You, your spouse, and children must each submit a DS-260 Form. This is an online form in which you must state your background information and reasons for immigration. To access it, you must enter your NVC case number so that it can link to your approved petition. When you submit the DS-260 form, you will get a confirmation page and number which you must save to send to the NVC with your other supporting documents.
Complete medical examination and vaccination
All immigrant applicants for the U.S must comply with the medical and vaccination requirements if they want to live permanently in the country. That is why, the NVC will inform you on what medical check-ups and vaccines you and your family need to go through to complete the requirements for the F4 visa. You must visit licensed doctors and get the vaccines as well as fill out the documents signed by the doctor. These documents will be attached as supporting ones when you send them to the NVC.
Compile documents file
Your documents file must contain all the necessary documentation which supports your case. You must convince the NVC and U.S Embassy or Consulate that you and your family fulfill all the requirements and are eligible to get the F4 visa. The file must contain the following:
- Your valid passports for more than 6 months after your planned entry into the U.S (your passport, your spouse’s, and minor children’s if applicable)
- A signed Form I-864, Affidavit of Support from the U.S petitioner (applicant’s sibling)
- Form DS-260 confirmation page
- Medical examination and vaccination documents
- Two photographs per individual according to the Photo Requirements for an American Visa
- Your valid marriage certificate to prove your marriage
- Birth certificates or adoption documents of your children
- Court and criminal records and/or police certificate
- If you have been previously married, you must bring divorce or certificates of death to prove the marriage was officially terminated
- If you served in the military, you must bring your military records
All immigrant applicants must go through an interview with an official at the U.S Embassy or Consulate in their country of residence. After the NVC makes sure that you have sent all the necessary documents, they will schedule this interview for you and you must attend it on time. If your spouse and minor children are also applying with you, they also must accompany you to the interview. The interviewer will ask questions about your background and determine whether you should get the F4 visa.
Receive NVC packet and travel to the U.S.
If the Embassy approves your visa then it will be stamped on your passport. With that, the Embassy will also give you a package which you must bring with you when you first enter the U.S. You are not allowed to open the package under any circumstances. An immigration official at the U.S port of entry will open it and determine whether you are allowed to enter the country or not.
How much does the F4 visa cost?
There are various fees that the petitioner and the applicant must pay throughout the application process for the F4 visa. The amounts vary and are set by USCIS, the Department of Homeland Security and the individual U.S Embassy or Consulate where you are applying. The main categories of fees that must be paid are as follows:
- Form I-130 filing fee
- Processing fee for the Form DS-260
- Medical examination and vaccination fees
- Fees to get and translate all the supporting documents
- USCIS Immigrant Fee which you must pay after you receive your visa and before you travel to the U.S. USCIS will not issue you a Green Card without you paying this fee.
How long is the F4 visa processing time?
Since the F4 visa has a cap on the number of visas issued each yet, the processing time can be very long. An F4 visa estimated time can range from 1 year to extremes of 10 years, which means that it will take long for you to be able to join your sibling in the U.S.
Other Types of US Family Based Immigrant Visas
The Family Green Cards are denoted with the prefix F. There are four types of these visas:
- F-1 visa is given to unmarried sons and daughters of U.S citizens and their minor children
- F-2 visa is given to the spouse and minor children (F-2A visa), or adult children (F-2B visa) of U.S Lawful Permanent Residents
- F-3 visa is given to married children of U.S citizens who will go to the U.S with their spouses and minor children
- F4 visa is given to siblings of U.S citizens who will go to the U.S with their spouses and minor children. For this visa to apply, the U.S citizen must be at least 21 years old.