Family Immigrant Visa Information

Family Immigrant Visa Overview

An immigrant visa allows someone to come to the United States for the purpose of becoming a permanent resident and getting a green card. This process is sometimes referred to as "consular processing."

The immigrant visa process begins when a United States citizen or permanent resident submits and I-130 petition. The I-130 petition asks the government to permit the family member to immigrate to the United States. After the I-130 is approved, you'll be able to move forward with the immigrant visa interview. If all goes well at the interview, the immigrant visa will be approved. When immigrants enter the United States using an immigrant visa, they become permanent resident and their green card will be mailed to them.

If an immigrant visa is not a good option for you, you should explore other options such as an adjustment of status or a fiance visa. If you are unsure which option is best for you, you should discuss your case with an immigration lawyer.

Qualifying Family Relationships

Not all family relationships qualify for an immigrant visa. United States citizens can help the following relatives immigrate:

  • Spouses
  • Parents (if the US citizen is at least 21 years old)
  • Children
  • Brothers and sisters

Permanent residents can help the following relatives immigrate:

  • Spouses
  • Unmarried children under age 21

Immigrant Visa Steps

The steps in the immigrant visa process are:

Step 1: Make sure that you qualify for an immigrant visa before you begin the process.

Step 2: Collect the information and supporting documents needed to complete your I-130 petition package.

Step 3: Prepare and submit your I-130 petition package to USCIS.

Step 4: The official receipt notice from USCIS will arrive in the mail.

Step 5: Complete Department of State National Visa Center processing after the I-130 petition has been approved.

Step 6: Complete immigrant visa interview at the US consulate or embassy assigned to your case.

Step 7: After the immigrant visa is approved, pay immigrant visa fee to USCIS.

Step 8: Travel to the United States after receiving the immigrant visa.

Step 9: Become a permanent resident upon entering the United States and green card is mailed to their address.

National Visa Center Processing

When your approved I-130 petition for alien relative arrives at the Department of State National Visa Center (NVC), you'll receive a notice that includes your Department of State case number. You then will need to complete several steps so that the NVC can schedule the immigrant visa interview with a consular officer at the embassy or consulate that will handle your case.

If you are not working with an immigration lawyer, you may need to select an agent as the first step in the NVC processing.

Next, you will need to pay the affidavit of support and immigrant visa fees. The NVC will give you an invoice with instructions on how to pay these fees.

After paying the fees, you'll be able to submit your affidavit of support and civil documents. You will also be able to complete the Form DS-260 immigrant visa application online. The consular officer who does the visa interview will go over the Form DS-260 during the interview, so it is important that you make sure that everything on it is accurate.

After you submit your documents and complete the DS-260, you'll receive a visa interview appointment letter. You will typically receive this letter several weeks after submitting the DS-260 and your documents.

Immigrant Visa Timeline

The time it takes to get an immigrant visa will vary significantly based on the family relationship involved. Immediate relatives of United States citizens will be able to get an immigrant visa as soon as the government processes their paperwork.

Immediate relatives of United States citizens are:

  • Spouses
  • Children who are unmarried and under age 21
  • Parents if the United States citizen child is at least 21 years old

People who are not immediate relatives will have to wait until a visa number becomes available. You can check to see how long the wait for a visa is on the State Department Visa Bulletin.

If your case involves special issues such as the need to apply for an immigration waiver, your case may take longer than a less complex case.

Your immigration lawyer will be able to give you an idea of how long your case will take based on the current processing times for I-130 petitions and National Visa Center processing. In general, the immigrant visa process normally takes between 8 to 16 months.

There are other issues that can impact how long it takes for your immigrant visa process. For example, the wait for your immigrant visa could be considerably longer if you receive a request for evidence or if your case is placed in administrative processing after the visa interview. Working with an immigration lawyer can help you to minimize some types of delays in your case.

Immigrant Visa Costs

The costs involved in getting a green card through the adjustment of status process can be viewed in three groups: the required government filing fees, other required costs and attorney fees.

The required government filing fees are:

  • $535 for the Form I-130 filing fee
  • $325 for the State Department immigrant visa fee
  • $120 for the State Department affidavit of support fee
  • $265 for the USCIS immigrant visa fee

The I-130 filing fee must be submitted with the application. The State Department fees are paid after the I-130 is approved. The USCIS immigrant visa fee is paid after the immigrant visa is approved.

The other required costs that you should expect as part of the adjustment of status process are:

  • Medical exam – cost depends on doctor and location, often is between $250 – $700
  • Passport photographs – cost depends on photographer, but often inexpensive
  • Translation costs – varies by the translator and type of documents being translated into English
  • Original documents/certified copies – varies by what documents need to be obtained

Depending on whether you work with an immigration lawyer, you may also have attorney fees as part of the total costs of the process.

Not everyone who applies for an immigrant visa will need a lawyer to assist them with the process. You can learn more about whether you need a lawyer by reading the information on this website and by learning more about the role of an immigration lawyer in the immigrant visa process. If you decide to hire an immigration lawyer to assist you, the legal fees will vary by law firm and the complexity of the case.

How We Can Help With Your Immigrant Visa Application

Immigration Lawyer Immigrant Visa Services

You are not required to work with an immigration lawyer, but working with one can be very helpful and can help minimize the stress involved in the immigrant visa process.

Our immigration lawyer immigrant visa services include the following:

  • Explain the immigrant visa process in detail to you to help you decide if it is the best process for you
  • Review your immigration history to make sure that you qualify for an immigrant visa
  • Research and resolve any special issues with your case to minimize the risk that your application will be denied
  • Prepare all forms necessary for your application, including your I-130, I-130A, DS-260, and I-864
  • Prepare any legal letters or memos needed for your case
  • Identify the supporting documents needed for your application
  • Assist with preparing any affidavits or declarations needed for your case
  • Assist you in preparing for your immigrant visa interview
  • Prepare and submit responses to any standard Requests for Evidence received from USCIS

I-130 Application Review Services

Our application review service is for people who prefer to prepare their I-130 petition on their own, but want the peace of mind of having an immigration lawyer review the application before it is submitted to USCIS.

Our I-130 application review service includes the following:

  • We will review your I-130 and I-130A for accuracy and completeness
  • We will review your supporting documents to evaluate whether all required documents are included and to provide you with our professional opinion of your documents
  • We will prepare a written report for you that describes any issues that we found in reviewing your application
  • An application review appointment to go over your application with us and to give you the opportunity to ask our lawyers any questions you have about your application and the next steps in the process