U.S Family Preference Immigrant Visas

Family immigrant visas are for those who want to join their family members in the U.S.

///U.S Family-Based Immigrant Visas
U.S Family-Based Immigrant Visas

U.S immigrant visas have different categories based on the intent of immigration. These categories are:

  • Family-Based Immigrant Visas to reunite with close family members;
  • Employment-Based Immigrant Visas to work in the U.S without an Employment Authorization Document (EAD);
  • Diversity Visas for those with low rates of immigration to the U.S;
  • Returning Resident Visas for those who have once held a U.S immigrant visa and want to return to the country again.

This article will go through the relevant information for Family Based Immigrant Visas.

What are Family Based Immigration Visas?

Family immigrant visas are for those who want to join their family members in the U.S. The U.S government though allows only close family members to unite. Close family members are considered spouses, children, parents and siblings. Other relatives such as grandparents or cousins do not qualify.

The family members in the U.S must have legal status in the country. If they are in the U.S illegally, they cannot petition to bring their family members to the U.S. For these visas they must at least be Legal Permanent Residents (LPR), which means they have a Green Card. Those who are U.S citizens can unite with family members through the Immediate Relative (IR) Visas too.

The family based immigrant visas will allow you to live in the U.S. You can work and go to school or university. You can also own property and get a driver’s license. Finally, you can travel in and out of the U.S for short periods of time.

These visas have many benefits, but they are also limited. Each visa has a yearly limit and applicants get processing on a first come first serve basis. The earlier you apply, the higher the chances for processing. Once applications reach the yearly limit, the rest get processing in the next years.

What are the Types of Family Visas?

There are different types of family visas based on which family member is coming to the U.S. The visa types are:

  • F-1 visas for unmarried sons and daughters of U.S citizens and their minor children;
  • F-2 visas for spouses and children of Lawful Permanent Residents (LPR). They are of two categories:
    • F-2A visas for spouses and minor children under 21 years old;
    • F-2B visas for adult children over 21 years old;
  • F-3 visas for married children of U.S citizens and their families (spouses and minor children);
  • F-4 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.

Because of the numerical limits on these visas, they get a specific amount each year, such as:

  • 23,400 people get the F-1 visa each year;
  • 79,940 people get the F-2A visa each year;
  • 34,260 people get the F-2B visa each year;
  • 23,400 people get the F-3 visa each year;
  • 65,000 people get the F-4 visa each year.

If there any leftover visas from one of the categories, the category after it gets them. For example, any unused F-1 visas go to F-2A visas and so on.

What are the Requirements for Family Immigration?

Each of these types of visas has their own requirements. The list below goes through them one by one.

For the F-1 visa, the requirements are:

  • The U.S citizen must have birth or adoption certificates to prove relationship with sons/daughters
  • The U.S citizen must have a valid U.S address;
  • Sons/daughters must have birth or adoption certificates of their minor children to prove relationships. The children must be under 21 years old to qualify.
  • The sons and daughters must be unmarried.

For the F-2A visa, the requirements 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 relationship with the children.

For the F-2B visa, the requirements 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 visa, the requirements are:

  • The U.S citizen must prove 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;
  • The U.S citizen’s child must prove they are married through a valid marriage certificate;
  • If the U.S citizen’s child also has minor children, they must prove relationship through a valid birth or adoption certificate.

For the F-4 visa, the requirements are:

  • The U.S citizen must be at least 21 years old;
  • The U.S citizen must have a valid U.S address;
  • The U.S citizen must prove relationship with siblings through valid birth or adoption certificates;
  • Siblings with minor children must prove relationship through valid birth or adoption certificates;
  • Married siblings must prove relationship through valid marriage certificate.

All applicants must meet the requirements for their visa. If you do not fulfill them, the U.S Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) could deny your visa.

How to Apply for Family Visas?

The application process for family based immigrant visas is very similar. The process must start from the U.S citizen or LPR and then the person in the foreign country must apply. The steps for the application are as follows.

Step 1: File the petition

The U.S citizen or LPR must file the petition for the family member at USCIS. They must send in Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative. USCIS reviews the petition and makes a decision to approve or deny. If approved, the case goes to the National Visa Center (NVC).

When the case gets its turn for processing, the NVC sends a package to the applicant. The package has instructions for application. This means that the priority date became current for that applicant. The NVC also assigns a case number and an invoice ID to the applicant.

Step 2: File Form DS-260

After the applicant gets the instructions, they have to apply for the visa. They must file Form DS-260, Online Immigrant Visa Application online and get the confirmation letter.

Step 3: Complete medical exam and vaccination

The U.S requires certain medical exams and vaccines for those who want immigrant visas. The applicant must go to a licensed doctor or hospital to complete them and keep the records.

Step 3: Compile supporting documents file

The applicant must also have other supporting documents. These documents will prove the applicant meets the criteria for the visa. These documents can be different depending on the type of family visa. Examples of 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, 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 4: Attend the interview

After processing, the U.S Embassy will invite the applicant for an interview. The questions will be on the background and the application. At the end, the officials will make a decision whether to give the visa or not.

Step 5: Receive NVC packet and travel to the U.S

If the Embassy approves the visa, the NVC will send another package to the applicant. The applicant must not open this package. At the U.S port of entry, the border official will open the package and decide whether to let the person in the country or not.

What are the Family Based Immigrant Visa Fees?

There are several fees to pay for family immigration visas. The petitioner and the applicant pay different fees. 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 Visas?

Since the family visas have numerical limits, processing times can be long. The time it takes for processing depends on when you apply. Applying earlier is better since you can get processing much faster.

The processing times for family based immigrant visas can range from a few months to a few years. In extreme cases, some visas can take up to 7 or 10 years before they reach processing. This is more common for F-2B, F-3, and F-4 visas. They have longer wait times because there are too many applicants in line for processing.