Family Based Visas
Family-Based (F) Visas
Family-based immigrants are defined as: brothers and sisters and adult or married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens, or spouse of a U.S. permanent resident. There are numerical limitations to these categories of immigrants, meaning there will be a waiting period after your petition is approved and before you can apply for U.S. immigration.
Whenever there are more qualified applicants for a category than there are available places, the category is considered oversubscribed. Immigrant visas are issued in the chronological order in which the petitions were filed until the numerical limit for the category is reached. The filing date of a petition becomes the applicant's priority date. Immigrant visas cannot be issued until an applicant's priority date is reached. In certain heavily oversubscribed categories, there may be a waiting period of several years before a priority date is reached. Check the Visa Bulletin for the latest priority dates.
Family First Preference (F1)
Unmarried sons and daughters of U.S. citizens and their minor children, if any.
Family Second Preference (F2)
Spouses, minor unmarried children and unmarried sons and daughters (age 21 or older) of lawful permanent residents.
Family Third Preference (F3)
Married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens and their spouses and minor children.
Family Fourth Preference (F4)
Brothers and sisters of United States citizens and their spouses and minor children provided the U.S. citizen is at least 21 years of age.
Step One - File the Immigrant Petition
The US citizen or permanent resident relative of intending immigrants, who plans to base their immigrant visa application on family relationship, must submit a Petition for Alien Relative (Form I-130) to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) office nearest their place of residence. Once USCIS approves the petition, they will send the petitioner a notice of approval (Form I-797). USCIS will also forward the approved petition to the National Visa Center which will contact the intending immigrant with further information.
Important Notice: U.S. law limits the number of family-based immigrant visas that are available every year. This means that even if the DHS approves an immigrant visa petition for you, you may not get an immigrant visa immediately. In some cases, several years could pass between the time your immigrant visa petition is approved and the time your immigrant visa is issued. Immigrant visas are issued in the chronological order in which the petition was filed until the numerical limit for the category is reached. The filing date of the petition becomes the applicant's priority date. Immigrant visas cannot be issued until the applicant's priority is reached. Check the Visa Bulletin for the latest priority dates or call (202) 663-1541. DHS will send the approved immigrant visa petition to the National Visa Center where it will remain until the priority date is available. You do NOT need to contact the National Visa Center, the National Visa Center will contact you with the "Instruction package for immigrant visa applicants".
Step Two - Gather Required Documents and Prepare for the Immigrant Visa Interview
Once you have received the "Instruction Package for Immigrant Visa Applicants", the intending immigrant (your immediate relative) must follow the instructions regarding the visa fees and documentation.
Once NVC has received your immigrant visa fee, it will send you the immigrant visa application (Form DS-230) along with further instructions.
Step Three - The Immigrant Visa Interview
Once the Immigrant Visa Unit in Paris has received your case from the National Visa Center, they will schedule the final visa interview.
- The beneficiary will need to have a medical exam. The fee for the medical exam is in addition to fees paid directly to the U.S. government. You pay this fee, in euros, to the doctor directly. A list of panel physicians will be sent to you by mail.
- Appointments are necessary for immigrant visa interviews, but the petitioner is not required to attend.
- Applicants may be found ineligible in accordance with immigrant visa law. For example, if you have a communicable disease, have committed criminal acts, or you are likely to become a public charge you will be found ineligible. The two years foreign residency requirement for former exchange visitors is also applicable. If you are found ineligible, the consular officer will advise you if the law provides for a waiver.
Step Four - After the Visa is Approved and Issued
Once you have received your immigrant visa, you must enter the United States within 6 months of visa issuance to obtain an alien registration receipt or "green" card (Form I-151 or I-551) that will allow you to live and work in the United States.
- At the port of entry Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will stamp your passport, add the "alien number" and make a notation that you are registered for an alien registration card.
- It normally takes several months for DHS to process and send the alien registration card to you.
- In the interim, the passport stamp, valid for a year, permits employment and travel as you await your green card. You may depart and return to the U.S. before you receive the alien registration receipt card, as long as the DHS stamp in your passport has not expired.
- Should you wish to leave the U.S. and your stamp has expired and you have not yet received your alien card, you should contact DHS in the U.S. before departure to obtain permission to return to the U.S.
- If, in the future, you plan to live outside the U.S. for more than 12 months, you must apply for a re-entry permit (Form I-131) in the U.S. BEFORE departure. The maximum validity of this document is two years. If the relocation is permanent, you should formally abandon your permanent resident status.
- Without a re-entry permit, any absence from the U.S. of 12 months or longer, or any residence established outside the U.S., is considered grounds for loss of permanent resident status.
Important Notice: If at the time of admission to the United States, you will have not celebrated the second anniversary of your marriage, which is the basis of your immigrant status, you are subject to the provisions of section 216 of the Immigration and Nationality Act. Under these provisions, you will be granted conditional permanent residence by an officer of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) at the time of your admission to the United States. You and your spouse will be required to file a joint petition (Form I-751) with the DHS to have the conditional basis of your status removed. This petition must be filed within the ninety-day period immediately preceding the second anniversary of the date you were granted conditional permanent resident status. If a petition to remove the conditional basis of your status is not filed within this period, your conditional permanent status will be terminated automatically and you will be subject to deportation from the United States. You will be provided with written information about this status when your visa is approved and issued, which you should retain and use as a reference.