Family Based Immigration

Two groups of family based immigrant visa categories, including immediate relatives and family preference categories, are provided under the provisions of United States immigration law, specifically the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).


Employment Based Immigration

Every fiscal year, approximately 140,000 employment-based immigrant visas are made available to qualified applicants. Employment based immigrant visas are divided into five preference categories. Certain spouses and children may accompany or follow-to-join employment-based immigrants.


Non-Immigrant Visas

A non-immigrant visa is most frequently a tourist, business, student or specialty worker travel document that permits you to travel to the United States during the validity of the visa to accomplish a specific purpose, such as visiting, studying or working in a specialty job.


Immigrant Visa Process (Consular Processing)

Consular processing is an alternate process for an individual outside the United States (or who is in the United States but is ineligible to adjust status) to obtain a visa abroad and enter the United States as a permanent resident) This pathway is referred to as “consular processing."


Submit a Petition
To apply for an immigrant visa, a foreign citizen must be sponsored by a U.S. citizen relative(s), U.S. lawful permanent resident, or by a prospective employer***, and be the beneficiary of an approved petition. A first step in the process is the sponsor filing a petition with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). 

After Your Petition is Approved
Petitions (Forms I-130 and Forms I-140) approved by USCIS in the United States are sent to the Department of State's National Visa Center (NVC) for pre-processing. When your petition becomes current, or is likely to become current within one year, the NVC initiates immigrant visa pre-processing, including collecting visa fees, forms, and documents from sponsors (petitioners) and immigrant visa applicant(s).

Check Priority Date
The time you have to wait for an immigrant visa to be available depends on annual limits the law sets in certain visa categories, the date the petition is filed, and the number of applicants.

Begin National Visa Center (NVC) Processing
Step 1:  Choose an agent
Step 2:  Pay fees
Step 3:  Submit visa application form
Step 4:  Collect financial documents
Step 5:  Collect supporting documents
Step 6:  Submit documents to the NVC

Collect and Submit Forms and Documents to the NVC
After you have completed Step 1 (Choose an agent) and Step 2 (Pay fees), you will submit your visa application form, and collect and submit the required documents to the the National Visa Center (NVC). 

After the necessary forms and documents have been collected, and when your priority date is current (if applicable), the NVC will schedule your interview at the appropriate U.S. Embassy or Consulate. The NVC will then transfer your case file to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate.

Interview
After you have paid the necessary fees and have submitted the required immigrant visa application, Affidavit of Support, and supporting documents to the National Visa Center (NVC), they will review your file for completeness. Once your case becomes qualified for an interview, the NVC will work with the appropriate U.S. Embassy or Consulate to schedule an appointment for you.


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The information displayed was taken straight from the USCIS website.  To go their website, click on the 'Learn More' button.

The information displayed was taken straight from the Department of State's website.  To go their website, click on the 'Learn More' button.

Immigrant Visa Process (Adjustment of Status)

Adjustment of status is the process by which an eligible individual already in the United States can get permanent resident status (a green card) without having to return to their home country to complete visa processing.

4. File Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residency or Adjust Status
Regardless of whether a petition must be filed and approved prior to your filing Form I-485 or whether it may be filed concurrently, you will need to apply for permanent residence on Form I-485 at the appropriate time.

Note: There are a few categories which may require a different form than Form I-485.

When filing Form I-485, you must read the form instructions carefully and submit all required documentation and evidence required for your particular category.  Failure to do so may result in your application being delayed or possibly denied for failure to establish that you are eligible to adjust status.

5. Go to your Application Support Center appointment (fingerprints)
After you file your application, you will be notified to appear at an Application Support Center for biometrics collection, which usually involves having your picture and signature taken and being fingerprinted.  This information will be used to conduct your required security checks and for eventual creation of a green card, employment authorization (work permit) or advance parole document.

6. Go to your interview (if applicable)
You may be notified of the date, time, and location for an interview at a USCIS office to answer questions under oath or affirmation regarding your application. You must attend all interviews when you receive a notice.

When you come to your interview, you (and the family member that filed the Form I-130 petition on your behalf, if applicable) must bring originals of all documentation submitted with this application including passports, official travel documents, and Form I-94 regardless if they are expired.

Not all applications require an interview. USCIS officials will review your case to determine if it meets one of the exceptions. 

7. Get your final decision in the mail
After all paperwork has been received, interviews conducted (if necessary), security checks completed, and other eligibility requirements reviewed, your case will be ready for a decision by USCIS.  In all cases, you will be notified of the decision in writing.

The granting of permanent residency is generally recorded as the date that you became a permanent resident.  Refugees and certain humanitarian parolees (e.g. Cuban, Lautenberg) will have their date of adjustment of status recorded as that of their entry into the United States as a refugee. Asylees, whether the principal filer or his/her derivatives, will have their date of adjustment recorded as 1 year prior to the date of being granted permanent residence.

1. Determine Your Basis to Immigrate
The first step in the adjustment of status process is to determine if you fit into a specific immigrant category . Most immigrants become eligible for a green card (permanent residence) through a petition filed on your behalf by a family member or employer.  Others become permanent residents through first obtaining refugee or asylum status, or through a number of other special provisions.  

2. File the Immigrant Petition
When you know what category you believe best fits your situation, in most cases, you will need to have an immigrant petition filed on your behalf.  

Family Based 
Family based categories require that a U.S. citizen or permanent resident relative file a Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, for you.  

Employment Based
Employment based categories most often require the intending U.S. employer to file a Form I-140, Petition for Alien Worker, for you.  Entrepreneurs who intend to invest significant amounts of capital into a business venture in the United States may file Form I-526, Immigrant Petition by Alien Entrepreneur” on their own behalf. 

Special Classes of Immigrants 
In some cases, certain immigrants may file a Form I-360, Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), and Special Immigrant, or have one filed on their behalf. 

Humanitarian Programs
Most humanitarian programs do not require an underlying petition, although individuals may need to meet additional requirements before they can adjust status. 

Depending on the category you wish to adjust under, you may be eligible to have the petition filed at the same time that you file your Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status. This is called “concurrent filing.” Immediate relatives of a U.S. citizen may be able to file concurrently.  Also, other certain classes of individuals who have a visa immediately available may be able to file concurrently.  Most categories, however, require that you first establish your eligibility for the immigrant category by having an approved petition before you are allowed to file Form I-485, for these categories you will not be able to file concurrently.

3. Check Visa Availability
You may not file your Form I-485 until a visa is available in your category.  If an immigrant visa is currently available to you, you may be able to apply for permanent residence status on Form I-485. 

***To be considered for an immigrant visa under some of the employment-based categories, the applicant's prospective employer or agent must first obtain a labor certification approval from the Department of Labor. 

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