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Besides the Family Based Immigration Visas, the US has another category of visas for families. These are the Immediate Relative Visas. While the family visas are used for both US citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents (LPR), the immediate relative visas are for US citizens only.

This article will go through the details of US immediate relative visas, its types, and application processes.

What are Immediate Relative Visas?

The immediate relative visas are for US citizens to unite with family members who live out of the country. This only includes spouses, children, and parents. Other family members such as siblings, grandparents, or cousins do not qualify and cannot apply for these visas.

With an immediate relative visa, the family member gets a Green Card. This means that they can move to the US permanently and live there. They can enroll in school or find a job without needing an Employment Authorization Document (EAD). They can also own property in the US, get a driver’s license, and travel in and out of the country for short periods of time.

The biggest benefit of the immediate relative visas is that they do not have a yearly limit. Other visas such as family and employment ones have the yearly caps. This increases processing and wait times for applicants. The immediate family visas do not have this disadvantage and they are better if you are looking to unite with your family in the US.

Once you qualify for an immediate family visa, you do not need to wait for your turn to get processed. The US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will give as many visas as necessary for immediate family members without a yearly quota.

What are the Types of Immediate Relative Visas?

As with other categories of US immigrant visas, this category also has different types. The types of immediate relative visas are:

  • IR1 visa for the spouse of a US citizen;
  • IR2 visa for the unmarried children under 21 years old of a US citizen;
  • IR3 visa for children adopted abroad by a US citizen;
  • IR4 visa for children adopted within the US by a US citizen;
  • IR5 visa for parents of a US citizen who is at least 21 years old.

What are the Requirements of Immediate Family Visas?

Each one of the 5 visas has their own requirements. Those who apply must meet these requirements or USCIS could deny their visa.

IR-1 visa requirements

The requirements for the IR-1 visa are:

  • The couple must be legally married and have a valid marriage certificate;
  • The couple must have been married for at least 2 years (those who are married less than 2 years get a Conditional Residence Visa (CR-1); See: Green Card through Marriage);
  • The US citizen must have a valid US address;
  • The US citizen must be able to financially support the spouse until the spouse can find a job.

IR-2 visa requirements

The requirements for the IR-2 visa are:

  • The US citizen must have a valid birth or adoption certificate for their child;
  • The US citizen must have a valid US address;
  • The US citizen must be able to financially support the child;
  • The child must be under 21 years old and unmarried.
  • If the US citizens have already adopted the child, they must have been living with the child in a foreign country for at least 2 years to qualify for this visa.

IR-3 and IR-4 visa requirements

The requirements for the IR-3 and IR-4 visas are:

  • The child must be eligible for adoption under the US Immigration and Nationality Act (INA);
  • The child must be under 21 years old and unmarried;
  • The child must be from a Hague or Non-Hague Convention Country;
  • The US citizen parent must pass an eligibility test by USCIS;
  • The US citizen must plan to bring the child to live in the US;
  • The US citizen must have a valid US address.

More detailed information on the requirements of these visas can be found in their articles.

IR-5 visa requirements

The requirements for the IR-5 visa are:

  • The US citizen must prove relationship to their parent with a valid birth certificate;
  • The US citizen’s parent must be living in a foreign country;
  • The US citizen must be at least 21 years old;
  • The US citizen must be financially stable to support the parent until they find a job;
  • The US citizen must have a valid US address.

How to apply for these visas?

Since these visas are quite different, they also have different application procedures. Despite the differences, they all start from the petition of the US citizen. The applicant in the foreign country cannot start applying on their own. Based on the five types of visas, there are two more similar application procedures. The process for IR-1, IR-2, and IR-5 visas is similar and the process for IR-3 and IR-4 visas is similar. The outline below will go through the general overview of the processes.

Application process for IR-1, IR-2, and IR-5 visas

This process has a few steps that applicants must follow for a successful application. The steps are as follows.

Step 1: File the petition

The first step is for the US citizen to petition USCIS for the family member. The US citizen petitions for the spouse, the child, or the parent. They must file Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relatives to USCIS.

USCIS will process the application and if they approve it, the case will go to the National Visa Center (NVC). NVC will assign a case number and an invoice ID number. They will then send a package with instructions to the applicant (spouse, child, parent). Then the application process begins.

Step 2: File Form DS-260

The applicant (spouse, child, or parent) must apply by filing Form DS-260 online. This is the official immigrant visa application form. If the child is a minor, someone can help them complete the form. At the end, the applicant must have the confirmation page of the form.

Step 3: Complete medical exam and vaccination

The applicant must follow the NVC instructions on what medical exams and vaccines they need to have. Then they can go to a licensed doctor or hospital and complete them.

Step 4: Compile supporting documents file

To show that the applicant meets the visa requirements, they must also submit supporting documents. These can include:

  • A valid passport for more than 6 months after entry in the US;
  • A signed Form I-864, Affidavit of Support from the US petitioner/citizen;
  • Form DS-260 confirmation page;
  • Medical examination and vaccination documents;
  • Two photographs per individual according to the Photograph Requirements;
  • Court and criminal records and/or police certificate;
  • Birth, adoption, or marriage certificate;
  • If the applicant served in the military, they must bring their military records.

Step 5: Attend the interview

After the US Embassy reviews the case, they will invite the applicant for an interview. They will ask questions about the application and the background. At the end, they will make a decision whether to give the visa or not.

Step 6: Receive NVC packet and travel to the US.

If the Embassy approves the visa, the applicant will receive another package from the NVC. The applicant must not open the package but bring it with them when they travel to the US.

The official at the US port of entry will open it and decide whether to let the applicant in the country or not.

Application process for IR-3 and IR-4 visas

The process of applying for the IR-3 and IR-4 visas is more complicated. It depends on whether the US citizen is adopting a child in a Hague or Non-Hague country. Also, to start the application process, USCIS must approve the US citizen for adoption. `

After getting approval from USCIS, the US citizen must submit Form DS-260 for the adopted child. If the Embassy approves the form, the US citizen may adopt the child. For those adopting a foreign child outside the US, they get an IR-3 visa. Adopting a foreign child within the US means that the child gets an IR-4 visa.

What are the Immediate Family Visa fees?

Because their application processes are different, the fees for immediate family visas are also different. The fees for the IR-1, IR-2, and IR-5 visas are:

  • Form I-130 filing fee – $535;
  • Processing fee for the Form DS-260 – $230;
  • USCIS Immigrant Fee – $220;
  • Medical examination and vaccination fees;
  • Fees to get and translate all the supporting documents.

The fees for the IR-3 and IR-4 visas are:

  • Form I-800/I-800A filing fee – $775;
  • Form DS-260 processing fees – $230;
  • Form I-600/I-600A filing fee – $725;
  • Translation fees;
  • Fees to get supporting documents.

What is the processing time for Immediate Family Visas?

The immediate family visas do not have any limits per year so the processing time is quite fast. USCIS reviews the cases as they come, but does not take long to make a decision. The processing times for each one of the visas are:

  • 8 to 10 months for the IR-1 visa;
  • 3 to 12 months for the IR-2 visa;
  • 6 months to 1 year for the IR-3, IR-4, and IR-5 visas.
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