Trying to apply to the United States for an immigrant visa can be a very stressful process (USA is not among the top immigrant accepting countries). Many prospective clients try to contact lawyers to assist with this matter and end up paying a substantial amount of money for something that many can file for on their own. The key to saving money on your United States immigrant visa application is to understand the timeline of the visa process and the specific visa that you qualify for.
Consider the chart below to understand the evolution of the path to obtaining a legal immigrant visa in the United States:
Submitting a Petition:
The key to submitting any petition is to know how you may be eligible to receive an immigrant based visa to stay in the United States and commence your path towards permanent residency or citizenship. The image below demonstrates who can petition on your behalf to obtain a legal United States immigrant visa. The most essential understanding of this process is that a petition must be filed before one can apply for their immigrant visa. By petitioning, they are acknowledging that they have a right to apply for the immigration visa to obtain permanent residency through having a spouse, parent, sibling or employer petitioning on their behalf.
As noted above, any United States citizen regardless if they were born in the United States can file an immigrant visa petition for a spouse, son or daughter, parent, and brother or sister. What is important to remember about this is that if you have a brother who is a United States citizen and you are married, you can then apply on behalf of your spouse after your brother has petitioned you when you become a permanent resident. Many people miss this as an avenue to bring one’s whole family to the United States at one time.
Additionally, a lawful United States permanent resident, which is also known as a green-card holder, can file an immigrant visa for their spouse or unmarried son or daughter. One key aspect of this is that it is better to get the immigrant visa through your spouse than your parents because if you get the immigrant visa through your spouse, it will only take you three years to become a United States citizen rather than five that it would take you if you utilized your parent’s permanent residence or nationality.
For those who are offered a job in the United States, it is also pertinent to remember that one can transfer their “immigration visa status” at any time should their situation change. A great example of this is if that worker gets engaged to a United States citizen. At that point, they can file a change of status and switch to be legally present in the United States based on their future spouse rather than their employer. This is an appealing option for many immigrants so that they have more of a say in their immigration status. Bear in mind that you must be very diligent if you are going to change your status to make sure that there is no issue with your permanent residency. Otherwise, you will have to return to your home country.
Regardless if you are obtaining your immigrant visa through your spouse, family member or job, you are going to have to fill out some sort of form to apply. Although the forms are typically filled out digitally, there are paper-based forms as well for those who do not feel comfortable submitting their intricate immigrant information digitally.
The important aspect of your application process is to fill out the proper paper form if you are choosing to be sponsored by a family member/spouse or your employer. Both forms can be obtained from: https://www.uscis.gov/i-130 and https://www.uscis.gov/i-140 . The I-130 form is for a spouse or relative that is sponsoring the immigrant visa and the I-140 is for an employer to sponsor a worker. The two forms are pictured below:
After Your Petition is Approved:
It is imperative to note once again that you cannot proceed any further with the immigration visa process if your petition has not been approved by USCIS. During this time, it is essential that you regularly check your mail so that you do not miss any important documentation that will be sent to you. Upon receiving approval of your petition, you would then commence filing your application with the National Visa Center Processing.
Throughout this time, follow the instructions that you have received from the National Visa Center in order to enter in the proper fields to continue with your immigrant visa application.
You must choose an agent and pay the applicable fees to apply. This application is usually best completed via Internet; however, the letter will give you detailed instructions on what is best for your specific circumstances. This process for the submission of the immigrant visa is called Form DS-260 and can be started here: https://ceac.state.gov/IV/Login.aspx . Additionally, here is a print sample of what you will encounter on the website so that you can be prepared with the information that you will be asked: https://travel.state.gov/content/dam/visas/DS-260%20Exemplar.pdf .
Collect and Submit Forms:
Another important aspect of this process after you submit your details online is that you are going to have to prove your finances and provide supporting documentation. Pertaining to your finances, you are going to have to submit an Affidavit of Support and Financial Evidence. Information regarding what you will need to submit for the Affidavit of Support and Financial Evidence can be found here: https://www.uscis.gov/green-card/green-card-processes-and-procedures/affidavit-support .
A detailed chart that is more user-friendly with different financial scenarios along with the necessary financial evidence that will have to be demonstrated can also be found here: https://travel.state.gov/content/visas/en/immigrate/immigrant-process/documents/Step_4_Collect_Financial_Documents.html .
In order to submit the supporting documents, one can choose which documents are relevant to their specific visa application. Examples of these documents include adoption documentation, birth certificates, court/prison records, marriage certificates, marriage termination documentation, military records, petitioner documents, photography of valid passport biographic data page, photographs, and police certifications.
Your individual application will request these and regardless of what language they were originally written in, you must have them translated by a competent translator into English. There are no exceptions to this rule and thus, it is best to prepare these documents as early as possible.
Once your application has been submitted online and all of your supporting documents have been submitted as well, you and your petitioner will receive a letter inviting you to interview. At this stage, the supporting documents will be sent to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate that your appointment is set for. Each and every one of your family members set to immigrate with you must be present, have a medical examination, and bring any supporting documents to the interview as preparation. These documents that must be brought include appointment letter, passport, photographs, medical exam results, and original and supporting documents requested for your application.
After the interview, you will receive your results depending on the volume of applications received. Do not reserve any flights until you have the approval of your visa and also, make sure that you enter the United States before your visa expires; otherwise, it will be lost.
Applying for a United States immigrant visa does not have to be a painful process. The key to the success of this is that the applicant needs to be diligent and have their affairs organized. If they do not, the United States is known for refusing applications right and left. To avoid these setbacks, be sure to carefully understand what you need if a family member/spouse is petitioning for you or an employer.
By doing this, you will be able to zero in on what you need to do to get your application successfully process and be on your way to the path of United States citizenship.