Your foreign relative requires an immigrant visa to enter the United States. You know that s/he is eligible to apply but the process seems complicated. For your information, CLG has listed the steps in the process below.
United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)
In order to initiate the process, the petitioner (U.S. citizen or permanent resident) files a Petition for Alien Relative (form I-130) on behalf of the beneficiary (foreign relative) with the appropriate USCIS Service Center that has jurisdiction over where the petitioner resides. After the relative petition is filed, the USCIS will issue a receipt notice. After reviewing the relative petition, the USCIS will issue an approval notice. The approved relative petition is then forwarded to the National Visa Center (NVC).
Timing: Currently, the Petition for Alien Relative is approved within 20 to 41 months (on average) depending on your foreign relative’s family sponsored preference category.
National Visa Center (NVC)
The NVC performs a background check of your foreign relative, collects immigrant visa and affidavit of support fees and documents, processes the immigrant visa application and provides instruction regarding the interview and the required medical examination. After processing is complete, the NVC schedules an interview and forwards the relative petition, immigrant visa application and documents to the United States embassy or consulate nearest your foreign relative’s residence.
Timing: The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) limits the number of family based immigrant visas that are issued each year based on a preference category. Each preference category is assigned a number of immigrant visas. In addition, there is a limit to the percentage of immigrant visas that can be allotted to each country in a year. Since the demand for immigrant visas is higher than the limited number and greater for some countries, an immigrant visa ‘waiting list’ forms. As such, your foreign relative’s preference category and country of origin will determine the time the relative petition will remain at the NVC until an immigrant visa number becomes available. The wait time can be years.
United States Embassy or Consulate
At the interview, the consular officer will verify that all required documentation has been provided. Second, and more importantly, the consular officer will question your foreign relative in detail with respect to the specifics of your relationship in order to determine its legitimacy.
Assuming that the consular officer is satisfied, the immigrant visa application is approved and an immigrant visa is placed in your foreign relative’s passport. The visas will be valid for 6 months. The United States embassy or consulate will also provide your foreign relative with a sealed envelope that contains the approved petition, applications and documentation. Before departing for the United States, your foreign relative must pay a USCIS Immigrant Fee online.
Timing: Currently, the interview is scheduled (on average) within 2-5 months of receipt of all requested material. Immigrant visas are issued within 7-10 days of approval.
Entering the United States
Upon issuance of the immigrant visas, your foreign relative must enter the United States within 6 months. Upon entry into the United States, your foreign relative will give the sealed envelope to the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer. The CBP officer will stamp your foreign relative’s passport. This signifies entry as an immigrant.
Permanent Resident (‘Green Card’) Status
After entry as an immigrant, your foreign relative will receive a lawful permanent resident card. The permanent resident card will be valid for 10 years.
If you have additional questions about the relative (immigrant) visa process, you may wish to read our immigrant visa FAQs.