Visa Info

Where to Apply?

If you are a lawful permanent resident or a U.S. citizen, you can sponsor your relative to become a lawful permanent resident to live and work permanently in the United States. It usually is a multi-step process depending on where your relative is located and his/her relationship to you.  Some relatives are considered Immediate Relatives which means there is a visa immediately available for them. Other relatives may be subjected to a quota which means there are many others who have applied for the visa also waiting in line to get one. Only a certain number of visas are given out each year.  If your relative is a “preference” category alien (meaning they fall into a category subject to a quota), the process differs from the immediate relative.

WHO ARE IMMEDIATE RELATIVES?     The spouse, minor children and parents of a U.S. citizen

WHO ARE PREFERENCE ALIENS? There are 5 preference categories, each with different waiting periods for a visa,  all subject to a quota,  as follows:

          1st preference: Unmarried Sons and Daughters of Citizens

          2nd preference A: Spouses and Minor Children of Permanent Residents (77% of 2nd preference)  

          2nd preference B: Unmarried Sons and Daughters (21 years of age or older

          3rd preference: Married Sons and Daughters of Citizens

          4th preference: Brothers and Sisters of Adult Citizens

Note: If there is a long waiting period, an alien may be eligible for a K or V visa under the LIFE Act which will allow the alien to wait with their family member in the U.S.             Back to Top                                                                                                                               


To be eligible to sponsor a relative to immigrate to the United States, you must meet the following criteria:

  • You must be a citizen or a lawful permanent resident of the United States and be able to provide documentation proving your status.

  • You must prove that you can support your relative at 125% above the mandated poverty line. Click here to find out more information about meeting this criteria and filing the Affidavit of Support.

  • A U.S. Citizen at least 21 years old can petition for spouse, single or married child, brother or sister, and parent.
  • A lawful permanent resident can petition for spouse or unmarried child and is always subject to a quota.

In both cases, you must prove the relationships.                  Back to Top                                             


Initially, the CIS must approve an immigrant visa petition,  I-130 Petition for Alien Relative.  You must submit proof of your relationship to the requesting relative. In some instances, the filing of this petition is combined with the I-485 Application for Permanent Residence, called Adjustment of Status. In some instances, the Relative Petition is filed with the Service Center having jurisdiction over your residence. The petition will be adjudicated immediately if the visa is immediately available.  Otherwise, the file is maintained at the Service Center until a visa does become available which could be as long as 15 years in 4th preference cases.  You will receive only a Receipt Notice to indicate that the fees have been paid and the case has been given a File Number with which all references will be made in future communication. You can check the availability of a visa in the Department of State's Visa Bulletin.

If the relative is not in the U.S., he/she must apply at the U.S. consulate servicing the area in which your relative resides to complete his/her processing. This process is initiated by the Service Center once it approves the visa petition (I-130).  If you made it clear that the relative will consular process, the Service Center will send the approved visa petition to the National Visa Center in Portsmouth, NH.  The NVC will then create a consular file, collect the consular fees, and send you the forms (DS-230 I and II, I-864 Affidavit of Support) you need to complete to continue the process. Once the file is complete, the NVC will send the file to the appropriate consulate and your relative will be notified to come in for fingerprinting, a medical exam and an interview.

In some cases where there is a long wait for the visa, relatives can sometimes qualify for the new K (advance admission for the spouse and children of a U.S. citizen) and new V (advance admission for the spouse and the minor children of a lawful permanent resident) nonimmigrant categories is available.    Back to Top      


The relative you wish to immigrate must obtain an immigrant visa number that is based on the preference category in which they fall.

People who want to become immigrants are classified into categories based on a preference system. The immediate relatives of U.S. citizens, which includes parents, spouses and unmarried children under the age of 21, do not have to wait for an immigrant visa number to become available once the visa petition filed for them is approved by the USCIS. An immigrant visa number will be immediately available for immediate relatives of U.S. citizens.

The relatives in the remaining categories must wait for an immigrant visa number to become available according to the following preferences:

  • First Preference: Unmarried, adult sons and daughters of U.S. citizens. Adult means 21 years of age or older.
  • Second Preference: Spouses of lawful permanent residents, their unmarried children (under twenty-one), and the unmarried sons and daughters of lawful permanent residents.
  • Third Preference: Married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens.
  • Fourth Preference: Brothers and sisters of adult U.S. citizens.  

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The Department of State is responsible for providing visa numbers to foreign nationals interested in immigrating to the United States. To check the status of a visa number you can review the Department of State Visa Bulletin.    Back to Top       

Application Procedures  

If you are applying for lawful permanent residence from inside the borders of the United States, apply at the CIS field office serving your area. Find the office. 

If you are applying for lawful permanent residence outside the United States contact the consulate office serving the area in which you live for application filing instructions.  


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