Deciding to immigrate to the United States is a very good choice for foreign nationals. But the process of getting a visa to immigrate to the USA can quite tiring and full of doubts. Therefore, before you begin your immigration journey, you will need to understand what the immigration process all involves.
Moreover, many residents of different countries will require a visa in order to visit or live in the United States. However, most foreign nationals seeking to immigrate and live permanently in the United States must comply with U.S. visa immigration laws, and specific procedures to apply for visas.
This is to say, you must meet certain requirements, pay government fees, and have your application approved by the United States government. These can be complicated at times, that’s why we recommend that you should understand what the process involves before you start your immigration journey.
Therefore, in this article, we will provide information in detail on everything you need to know about getting a visa to immigrate to the USA, from visa types to eligibility requirements, application instructions, and any other important information pertaining to getting a visa to immigrate to the USA.
Getting a Visa to Immigrate to the USA – Overview
However, a visa does not grant you entry into the United States. It’s left to the immigration officials at the US point of entry to determine. Meanwhile, there are several types of US visas. But the two major categories are the US non-immigrant and immigrant visas. In this article, we will be going into details about the US immigrant visa. Since we are discussing getting a visa to immigrate to the USA.
Understanding Immigrant Visa
Immigration to the United States refers to relocating permanently to the country by obtaining a green card. Which is officially known as an immigrant visa or lawful permanent residence. Immigrant visas give the holders the right to stay in the United States permanently. An immigrant visa holder has the authorization to live, work, and study in the United States.
Whereas on the other hand, non-immigrant visa holders will have to return to their home country once their visa expires. You don’t need to renew or extend the immigrant visa and it also provides a pathway to US citizenship. Moreover, once a foreigner obtains an immigrant visa and comes to the United States, they become a lawful permanent resident (LPR).
The lawful permanent residents are eligible to apply for nearly all jobs and can remain in the US permanently. Besides, not everyone is eligible for a green card and such people instead use temporary visas to visit, work, or study in the US. Furthermore, in some circumstances, non-citizens already inside the United States can obtain LPR status through a process known as adjustment of status.
Types of US Immigrant Visas
Moreover, the two major groups of US visas which are the immigrant and non-immigrant visas are further divided into other categories. There are several types of immigrant visas. But the type of immigrant visa you get depends on the process you follow to get your permanent visa.
However, there are two major categories of US immigrant visas. But we will also be giving an overview of other US immigrant visa categories that foreigners can follow to get a visa to immigrate to the USA. There are as follows:
- Family-based immigration
- Diversity visa lottery programs
- Other immigrations
These are the immigration options used by most immigrants while getting a visa to immigrate to the United States. Without wasting further of your time let’s take a closer look at each of them.
Family-based Green Cards/ Immigration
The family-based immigration category allows US citizens and lawful permanent residents to bring certain family members to the United States. Moreover, family unification is an important principle governing the United States immigration policy. The family-based immigration system means that the foreign national will be joining a close family who is either a US citizen or permanent resident.
In other words, you are eligible for this immigration category if you have a family in the United States, or you become engaged or married to a US citizen. However, prospective immigrants in this immigration category must meet certain standard eligibility criteria. Also, the petitioners must meet certain age and financial requirements. But these requirements and other rules may vary. This depends on whether the sponsor or petitioner is a US citizen or a green cardholder and also how close the immigrant’s relationship is to the sponsor.
This is the common way most foreigners choose to get a visa to immigrate to the USA. Employment-based visas are immigrant visas that allow the holders to live and work permanently in the United States. However, most immigrants come to the United States through employment-sponsored green cards. Immigrants get visas in five different categories depending on their skills or other benefits they can bring to the country’s economy.
Meanwhile, the five categories of the employment-based immigration system are as follows: EB-1 (first priority worker), EB-2 (second priority worker), EB-3 (third priority worker), and EB-4 (fourth priority worker). These first four categories focus on the immigrant’s skill as an employee. In certain cases, you will need an employer in the United States to sponsor your visa application.
While the last of them which is the EB-5 (fifth priority worker) is for investors. Who invest at least $1,000,000 or $500,000 in high unemployment or rural area in the United States.
Humanitarian Green Cards/ Immigration
Humanitarian immigration issues green cards to new refugees and other immigrants for humanitarian and compassionate reasons. However, green cards are issued to as well as to victims of human trafficking, abuse, and crime.
Asylum is available to persons already in the United States who are seeking protection based on the same protected grounds upon which refugees rely. They may apply at a port of entry at the time they seek admission or within one year of arriving in the United States. Moreover, refugees and asylees are eligible to become LPRs. One year after admission to the United States as a refugee or one year after receiving asylum.
Diversity Visa Lottery Program
The Diversity Immigrant Visa program, also known as the green card lottery. This is a United States government lottery program created by the Immigration Act of 1990 for receiving the United States Permanent Resident Card. It makes available 55,000 immigrant visas to foreigners annually. It aims to diversify the immigrant population in the United States. This is by selecting applicants randomly through a computer-generated lottery from countries with low numbers of immigrants in the previous five years.
Immigrant Visa Requirements
Moreover, for most immigrant visa applications, you will need to provide the following:
However, you will need to submit a background check, for which you may have to submit police reports from places where you have previously lived and provide answers to questions about past convictions.
Moreover, a medical exam is also necessary, during which you will be asked questions about your mental health, use of drugs and alcohol, and history of communicable diseases.
Furthermore, other requirements may also be based on the specific visa for which you are applying.
Application Costs for Immigrant Visa
However, the total cost of applying for a family-based immigrant visa or green card is just about $1,960 for an applicant living in the United States or around $1,400 for an applicant living outside the country. Moreover, this includes mandatory U.S. government fees, which are nonrefundable, plus the typical cost of the required medical examination.
While the total cost of applying for an employment-based immigrant visa varies depending on the category under which you are applying. However, you can expect to pay $1,225 for your green card application, but your employer could face additional filing fees and labor certification costs, possibly driving the total cost to around $10,000.
Furthermore, note that your filing fees are non-refundable in either case. Therefore, it’s important to get your application right the first time.
Application Procedure for Getting a Visa to Immigrate to the USA
Furthermore, the application process for an immigrant visa also starts at a US embassy or consulate just like any other visa. Although immigrant visas have different types of visa application requirements. However, you can follow these guidelines below for an application to the US immigrant visa category. They are as follows:
File the petitions
Firstly, if you are applying for an immigrant visa based on family reunification or employment, the family member or employer in the United States must submit a petition for you at the USCIS. After that, you will have to wait for a response which will either be an approval or denial after the petition has been reviewed by the official authority.
Moreover, you cannot continue or take any further steps without the petition getting approval. This means you’re back to square one in case of denial of the petition. Then you will be directed to the National Visa Center upon approval. Which is where you will get important information to guide you through the application process. Moreover, you must formally and legally select an agent to be able to proceed with the immigration visa application. This agent serves as your point of contact for your visa matters.
Immigrant visa fees
Secondly, you will have to pay certain fees as you go through the process of getting a visa to immigrate to the USA. However, there are at least two fees you will have to pay when applying for a US immigrant visa. The fees are the immigrant visa application processing fee and affidavit of support fee.
Moreover, you can pay these fees by credit card or check and will need to complete this step in accordance with the guidance found in the letter from the National Visa Center (NVC).
Immigrant visa application form
Moreover, if you are applying for an immigrant visa, you will need to file Form DS-260 which is an application for an immigrant visa and alien registration. However, you should not complete the visa application until you receive an invitation for the interview. In order to file for the Form DS-260, you will need your NVC Case Number, Beneficiary ID Number, and Invoice ID Number. After everything you then submit it and get a confirmation page and number.
Furthermore, you will have to give your personal details and also answer a couple of questions on security and background which are related to medical and health information, criminal, security, immigration law violation information, etc.
Submit supporting documents for visa application
However, besides the standard required documents, you might be required to submit additional documents. Which totally depends on the type of immigrant visa you are applying for. Moreover, all the supporting documents must be in English, and those that are not in English must come with an official translation.
Attend your Interview
Finally, the National Visa Center will schedule your visa interview with you and any accompanying family member. Besides, the interview is usually done one month in advance. This is to give the applicants time to prepare the necessary documents and prepare for the interview as well. Meanwhile, you will be asked questions by an official at the interview. Which the official will target at determining if you are eligible and meet all the requirements for getting a visa to immigrate to the USA.
Waiting Times for Immigrant Visa
However, the wait times for getting a visa to immigrate to the USA can vary significantly depending on the specifics of your case. If you’re applying for a marriage green card, you can expect to get your green card within 10 to 17 months if you’re married to a U.S. citizen, or within 23 to 38 months if you’re married to a green cardholder. For other family green cards, the wait time can be significantly longer.
On the other hand, if you’re applying for an employment-based green card, your expected wait will depend on the EB category you’re using. Historically, USCIS has processed employment-based petitions in less than a month, and employment-based green card applications in less than a year.
However, one way to keep your processing time to a minimum is to ensure you file your application and supporting documents correctly on your first try.
How to Apply for the Diversity Visa Lottery Program
Step by step guide for the diversity visa lottery application
1. Read the instructions provided by the Department of State for the year in which you want to apply
The submission of entry for the Green Card lottery is online through dvlottery.state.gov. No paper submissions will be accepted. The schedule for application is only within one month which starts on October 1 and ends in November of the same year. Please submit in the first week of October to avoid delays or any electronic error on the website. In addition, if you want a Green Card as if the fulfillment of your dream depends on it then you must not submit a late entry. To eliminate the possibility of late submission, we can help you set up your entry via our website.
2. Accomplish the online entry form completely and with absolute caution Visa the American
It is important that you have a copy of the required information by your side as you fill out the electronic form on the website.
3. You should submit the entry within the allowed schedule
The US government permits only one entry for each individual per fiscal year. Multiple entries can easily be detected by the system and will automatically disqualify the entrant.
After submitting the entry, you will see your name and a unique confirmation number on the computer screen. Save the confirmation number and write it down on a piece of paper. It is the only way for you to find out if you have been selected by the DV lottery as a qualified person to get a diversity visa.
4. Check your entry status online at www.dvlottery.state.gov on May 5 of the next year
The time has come to find out if you have won the green card lottery! Encode your confirmation number on the allocated space on the website. The results will be available until at least June 30 of that year. Please check from time to time if your entry has been selected so that you can proceed to the interview for your diversity visa. The issuance of the DV will ONLY be until September 30 of that year. The Department of State does not mail any notification so it is best to keep an eye on your status regularly.
Please note that if you are selected as a winner of the lottery and you happen to be in the US. You can adjust your status in order to gain a permanent resident status through this Diversity Immigration Program.
5. Submit Form DS-260
Once selected you should submit the form online to update your personal information and that of your immediate family. If you have a newborn child after the time of your original entry in the lottery, then you can use this FORM DS-260 to include the details of your child. Please print the confirmation page after you submit as this is required in the DV interview. The Kentucky Consular Center (KCC) will be the agency to check your information and confirm if it is complete prior to your interview.
6. Prepare for the interview by gathering pertinent documents Visa to immigrate to the USA
You are nearing the culmination of your journey, the interview. It is recommended that you prepare the required documents early (original and certified copies as well as translations). So that you have complete information on the day of the interview. Examples of these documents are the appointment information, Form DS-260, passports, birth certificates, proof of employment, marriage certificates, police records, etc.
Review your schedule to avoid tardiness or missing your appointment. You are also required to undergo a medical checkup and bring the result during the interview. Please pay an interview and preparation fee of 330 US dollars prior to your interview to the appropriate payment office.
7. Show up ready for the consulate interview
The interview can be in the Consulate Office or the US Embassy. The person who will conduct the interview will be the consulate officer. Moreover, it is important that you and a family member required to be there should come on time.
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8. Wait for the result of the interview: Approved or Denied
The interviewer will inform you if your visa application is approved or denied right after the interview. If approved, your passport will be returned to you with a diversity visa attached on one page at a later time. In the event that your application is denied and that is final, the consular officer will let you know the reason for it. If however, you just need additional supporting documents. The consular officer will advise you to submit the lacking documents and review them until a decision is reached.
To avoid denial of the visa application. Make sure all relevant documents are complete and you are fully prepared for the interview. Your answers can make or break your chance of becoming an American citizen. Grab this opportunity and prepare well.
In conclusion, do not sell your house, car, or property, resign from your job, or make a non-refundable flight or other travel arrangements, until you have received your immigrant visa.
However, if your visa is approved. You will be informed how and when your passport and visa will be returned to you. On the other hand, if your visa is denied. You will be informed by the consular officer why you are ineligible to receive a visa. Based on U.S. law, not everyone who applies is eligible for a visa to come to the United States. Under U.S. law, many factors could make an applicant ineligible to receive a visa.
In some instances, the law might allow you to apply for a waiver of ineligibility. If you are able to apply for such a waiver. The consular officer will advise you on the steps to take.