Immigration Procedure Family Members
The Immigration Procedures for Family Members of US citizens (F1, F3, F4) and for Family Members of Permanent Residents (F2A, F2B) are similar.
The difference is the waiting time for a visa for each category/preference.
The immigration procedure has two phases:
1. The I-130 Petition for an Alien Relative
- The sponsoring Family Member must file this petition with USCIS. The date the petition is accepted by USCIS is your Priority Date.
- After approval of the I-130 petition you must wait until your Priority Date becomes Current – meaning an Immigrant Visa becomes available for you. If a spouse and/or an eligible child/children immigrate with you, they will get (a) visa(s) too.
- Once the visa becomes available, you must file your Visa Application within a year. You yourself must keep track of the Priority Dates – in the DOS Visa Bulletin – and take steps to timely file the Visa Application.
2. The Visa Application
- You must submit the Immigrant Visa Application Form DS-260. Your sponsor must provide proof he/she has the financial means to do so and submit an Affidavit of Support. If he/she cannot meet the requirements, one or two co-sponsors can be added.
- You must submit documentation, undergo a Medical Examination and appear for a Visa Interview in your home country. If you are approved you will be issued a visa.
- An Immigrant Visa is valid for six months after it is issued. You must travel to the US within that time to activate it. Inside the US the visa becomes a Green Card.
- An eligible child immigrating with you must still be unmarried and under 21 years when his or her visa is issued.
- The time it took USCIS to approve the I-130 Petition after it was accepted for processing, can be subtracted from a child’s age under the Child Status Protection Act (CSPA). The petition must have been filed before the child turned 21. His/her Visa Application must be approved within one year after a visa becomes available.
To see waiting times go to the USCIS website.
Search Visa Bulletin, add current year and month, scroll to Family Preferences.