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The Diversity Visa Process

1.       Part 1: Section 1:Entry

a.       This section of the website explains the entry process (also called “registration”) for the Diversity Immigrant Visa (DV) Program, which is the first step in pursuing a diversity immigrant visa. Additional steps are covered in subsequent pages, and are displayed on the visual flow chart above.

b.       Please view our video  for an introduction to the Diversity Visa program, and step-by-step guidance to help you submit an entry. (Note: minor changes have been made to the DV-2018 entry form, but the instructions provided in the video are still valid.)

c.       Section 203(c) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) provides for a class of immigrants known as “diversity immigrants,” from countries with historically low rates of immigration to the United States. A limited number of visas are available each fiscal year. The DVs are distributed among six geographic regions and no single country may receive more than seven percent of the available DVs in any one year.

d.       For a list of countries/areas by region whose natives are eligible for DV-2018 and DV-2017, please refer to the DV Instructions.

e.       The requirements for the DV program are established by U.S. immigration law. If you are planning to register for the DV program, be sure to look closely at the requirements for this type of visa.

f.        Note:  There is no cost to register for the DV Program

2.       Part 1 Section 2: Submit an Entry

a.       There is a limited period of time during which you can register for the Diversity Immigrant Visa (DV) Program during each fiscal year. Each year, the Department of State publishes detailed instructions for entering the DV Program. These instructions include the dates of the registration period during which you will be able to enter. 

b.       All entries must be submitted electronically on the Electronic Diversity Visa (E-DV) website at www.dvlottery.state.gov during the specified registration period. No late entries or paper entries are accepted. The law allows only one entry by or for each person during each registration period. The Department of State uses sophisticated technology to detect multiple entries. If you submit more than one entry you will be disqualified.

c.       Detailed guidance for completing the online entry form is included in the DV Instructions.

d.       Please view our video for an introduction to the Diversity Visa program, and step-by-step guidance to help you submit an entry. (Note: minor changes have been made to the DV-2018 entry form, but the instructions provided in the video are still valid.)

e.       After you submit a complete entry, you will see a confirmation screen containing your name and a unique confirmation number. Print this confirmation screen for your records. It is extremely important that you retain your confirmation number. It is the only way you can check the status of your entry, and you will need it to obtain further instructions or schedule an interview for a visa if you are selected.

f.        There is no cost to register for the DV Program. You are strongly encouraged to complete the entry form yourself, without a “Visa Consultant,” “Visa Agent,” or other facilitator who offers to help. If somebody else helps you, you should be present when your entry is prepared so that you can provide the correct answers to the questions and retain the confirmation page and your unique confirmation number.

3.       Part 1: Section 3: Selection of Applicants

a.       Each year, the Department of State conducts a random selection of Diversity Immigrant Visa (DV) applicants, based on allocations of available visas in each region and country, from all registered entries. On or about May 5, information on the Entrant Status Checkon the Electronic Diversity Visa (E-DV) website is updated to inform all entrants if their online registration was selected or not. You will need to enter your confirmation number, which you obtained when you filled out your entry form, to check your entry status. If you have lost your confirmation number, you will not be able to check the status of your entry. We will not be able to resend the confirmation number to you.

b.       Entrants in the Diversity Visa 2018 program may check the status of their entries on the E-DV website starting at noon (EDT) on May 2, 2017.

c.       Entrants in the Diversity Visa 2017 program may check the status of their entries on the E-DV website from May 3, 2016 through September 30, 2017.

d.       Have you checked your Diversity Visa (DV) 2017 status recently? Additional entrants have been added to “selected” status! Check your status using your unique confirmation number on the Entrant Status Check (ESC) www.dvlottery.state.gov.

e.       Selected entrants are encouraged to complete the online DS-260 application immediately to schedule an interview appointment at the appropriate U.S. Embassy or Consulate.

f.        If your entry is selected, you will be directed to a confirmation page that will provide further instructions, including information on fees connected with immigration to the United States. Entrant Status Check is the ONLY means by which selectees are notified of their selection. The Department of State does not mail out notification letters or notify selectees by email, and U.S. Embassies and Consulates will not provide a list of selectees. Individuals who have not been selected also will be notified ONLY through Entrant Status Check. You are strongly encouraged to access Entrant Status Check yourself and not to rely on someone else to check and inform you.

g.       See the Frequently Asked Questions at the end of the DV Instructionsfor further information about the selection process.

4.       Part 2: Section 1: If You Are Selected

a.       Have you checked your Diversity Visa (DV) 2018 status recently? Check your status using your unique confirmation number on the Entrant Status Check (ESC) website www.dvlottery.state.gov.

b.       Selected entrants are encouraged to complete the online DS-260 application immediately to schedule an interview appointment at the appropriate U.S. Embassy or Consulate.

c.       If you receive notification through the Electronic Diversity Visa (E-DV) website that you have been selected for further processing in the Diversity Immigrant Visa (DV) Program, you must successfully complete the steps on the following pages before a consular interview can be scheduled to determine if you will receive a visa. You should complete these steps as soon as possible.

d.       If you receive notification through the E-DV website that you have been selected for further processing in the DV Program, and you are physically present in the United States, you may be eligible to adjust status to obtain permanent residence through the DV Program. For more information, see Adjustment of Status.

e.       It is important to remember that selection does not guarantee you will receive a visa. In order to receive a DV to immigrate to the United States, selectees must still meet all eligibility requirements under U.S. law.

f.        Entrants in the Diversity Visa 2018 program may check the status of their entries on the E-DV website starting at noon (EDT) on May 2, 2017.

g.       Entrants in the Diversity Visa 2017 program may check the status of their entries on the E-DV website from May 3, 2016 through September 30, 2017

5.       Part 2: Section 2: Confirm Your Qualifications

a.       The Diversity Immigrant Visa (DV) Program requires the principal DV applicant to have a high school education, or its equivalent, or two years of qualifying work experience as defined under provisions of U.S. law.

b.       If you do not have either the required education or qualifying work experience, you are not qualified to be issued a diversity visa. (Only you, as the principal applicant, must meet this requirement. Your spouse and children do not have to meet this requirement.) You should not continue with your DV application if you do not meet the qualifying education or work experience requirements explained below. You will not be issued a visa, and any fees you pay will not be refunded.

c.       High School Education: A high school education means successful completion of a formal course of elementary and secondary education comparable to completion of a 12-year course in the United States.

d.       Work Experience: If you are qualifying with work experience, you must have two years of experience in the last five years, in an occupation which, by U.S. Department of Labor definitions, requires at least two years of training or experience that is designated as Job Zone 4 or 5, classified in a Specific Vocational Preparation (SVP) rating of 7.0 or higher.

e.       The U.S. Department of Labor provides information on job duties, knowledge and skills, education and training, and other occupational characteristics on their website http://www.onetonline.org/. The O*Net online database groups work experience into five "job zones." While many occupations are listed, only certain specified occupations qualify for the Diversity Visa Program.

f.        How To Find the Qualifying Occupations on the Department of Labor Website: Qualifying DV Occupations are shown on the Department of Labor O*Net Online Database. Follow these steps, when you are in O*Net Online to find out if your occupation qualifies:

                                                               i.      Under "Find Occupations" select "Job Family" from the pull down;

                                                             ii.      Then Browse by “Job Family”. (For example, select Architecture and Engineering) and click "GO";

                                                           iii.      Then click on the link for your specific occupation. (As an example, select Aerospace Engineers. At the bottom of this Summary Report for Aerospace Engineers, under the Job Zone section, you will find the designated Job Zone 4, SVP Range, 7.0 to < 8.0. This means using this example, Aerospace Engineering is a qualifying occupation.)

g.       Again, you should not continue with your DV application if you do not meet the qualifying education or work experience requirements explained above.  You will not be issued a visa, and any fees you pay will not be refunded.

h.       For more information, see the DV-2018 Instructions, Frequently Asked Questions #5-7, and the DV-2017 Instructions, Frequently Asked Questions #5-7.

6.       Part 2: Section 3: Submit a Visa Application

a.       DV-2018 and DV-2017 Program Applicants

b.       The principal applicant and all family members applying for a diversity visa in the DV-2017 and DV-2018 program must complete Form DS-260. You will need to enter your DV case number into the online DS-260 form to access and update the information about yourself and your family that you included in your DV entry.

c.       If your family circumstances have changed after you entered the lottery, for example, if you have gotten married or had a child, you will need to add your new family members to your case. (“Family member” refers to a spouse and/or unmarried children who had not reached age 21 before you entered the lottery.)

d.       Important note: If you had a spouse or children prior to submitting your original entry, but you did not include them on your original entry form, then your case will be disqualified at the time of your visa interview. Neither you nor any of your family members will receive visas. For more information, see the  DV Instructions.

e.       On the Sign and Submit page of the Form DS-260., you will need to re-enter your DV case number without the zeros (e.g. if the case number is 2018AF0000012345, enter ‘2018AF12345’). Entering the full case number with zeros will generate a validation error.

f.        After submitting the Form DS-260 online, print the confirmation page. You must bring the confirmation page to your visa interview.

g.       Please be aware that KCC can only tell you if your form has been processed. KCC cannot tell you whether or not you or your family members are qualified for diversity visas. Only the consular officer who interviews you can make that decision.

h.       Contacting KCC: If you need to contact the KCC, always include your name, birthdate and case number exactly as they appear in the Entrant Status Check (ESC)). Your case number should be clearly written in the upper right hand corner of your e-mail or in the subject line. KCC only receives inquiries by phone or email. Do not mail paper documents or correspondence to the Kentucky Consular Center. All paper documents or correspondence received will be destroyed. The KCC telephone number is 606-526-7500 :30 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. EST). The e-mail address is KCCDV@state.gov.

7.       Part 2: Section 4: Preparing Supporting Documents

a.       Prior to your interview with a consular officer, you must obtain all required documents, following the guidelines below. It is strongly recommended that you begin this process early.

b.       The applicant and each family member who will accompany the applicant to the United States will need to submit original documents or certified copies of the documents listed below from an appropriate office, authority, or issuing entity in your country. You will also need to bring a photocopy of each document. You will be required to bring these documents to your visa interview at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate, along with any translations required.

c.       Documents

                                                               i.      Review the information below to determine which documents you will need to obtain. You will take the documents with you to your interview at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate. Do not send any of these documents to the Kentucky Consular Center. All paper documents or correspondence mailed to KCC will be destroyed.

d.       Translation Requirements

                                                               i.      All documents not in English, or in the official language of the country in which application for a visa is being made, must be accompanied by certified translations. The translation must include a statement signed by the translator that states that the:

1.       Translation is accurate, and,

2.       Translator is competent to translate.

e.       Required DV Qualifying Education or Work Experience

                                                               i.      The principal diversity visa applicant must have a high school education, or its equivalent, OR two years of qualifying work experience in the last five years.

                                                             ii.      Education: Submit to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate at your interview, a certificate of completion equivalent to a U.S. diploma, school transcripts, or other evidence issued by the person or organization responsible for maintaining records, which specifies the completed course of study. The diversity visa selectee must have completed a 12-year course of elementary and secondary education in the U.S. or a comparable course of study in another country, sufficient in itself to qualify a student to apply for college admission. The following are not acceptable:

1.       Equivalency certificates (such as the G.E.D.) are not acceptable.

2.       Vocational degrees that are not considered a basis for further academic study will not be considered equivalent to U.S. high school education.

                                                           iii.      Work Experience: Submit documentation to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate at your interview demonstrating that you have two years of qualifying work experience in the last five years immediately prior to application. Qualifying work experience must be in an occupation that, by U.S. Department of Labor O*Net Online Database definitions, requires at least two years of training or experience that is designated as Job Zone 4 or 5, classified in a Specific Vocational Preparation (SVP) rating of 7.0 or higher. (See the section on Confirm Your Qualifications for information about using O*Net Online.)

f.        Birth Certificates

                                                               i.      Each applicant will need to obtain an original birth certificate issued by the official custodian of birth records in the country of birth, showing the date and place of birth and the parentage of the applicant, based upon the original registration of birth. Important Notice: You must submit a long form original birth certificate. Short form birth certificates will not be accepted.

                                                             ii.       The certificate must contain the:

1.       Person's date of birth;

2.       Person's place of birth;

3.       Names of both parents; and,

4.       Annotation by the appropriate authority indicating that it is an extract from the official records.

                                                           iii.      Unobtainable birth certificates: Some birth records may not be obtainable if, for example:

1.       The applicant's birth was never officially recorded.

2.       The applicant's birth records have been destroyed.

3.       The appropriate government authority will not issue one.

                                                           iv.      In these cases, please obtain a certified statement from the appropriate government authority stating the reason the applicant's birth record is not available. With the certified statement the applicant must submit secondary evidence. For example:

1.       A baptismal certificate that contains the date and place of birth, as well as both parents' names (providing the baptism took place shortly after birth).

2.       An adoption decree for an adopted child.

3.       An affidavit from a close relative, preferably the applicant's mother, stating the date and place of birth, both parents names, and the mother's maiden name. Note: An affidavit must be executed before an official authorized to take oaths or affirmations. 

g.       Court and Prison Records

                                                               i.      Applicants who have been convicted of a crime must obtain a certified copy of each court record and any prison record, regardless of the fact that he or she may have subsequently benefited from an amnesty, pardon or other act of clemency. Submit to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate at your interview. Court records should include:

1.       Complete information regarding the circumstance surrounding the crime of which the applicant was convicted

2.       The disposition of the case, including sentence or other penalty or fine imposed.

h.       Deportation Documentation

                                                               i.      Applicants who have previously been deported or removed at government expense from the United States must obtain Form I-212, Permission to Reapply after Deportation, from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), and follow the instructions included on that form.

i.         Marriage Certificate

                                                               i.      Married applicants must obtain an original marriage certificate, or a certified copy, bearing the appropriate seal or stamp of the issuing authority.  

                                                             ii.      Note: Marriage certificates from certain countries are unavailable. More specific information is available online on our Reciprocity by Country webpage.

j.         Marriage Termination Documentation

                                                               i.      Applicants who have been previously married must obtain evidence of the termination of EACH prior marriage. Evidence submitted to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate must be in the form of original documents issued by a competent authority, or certified copies bearing the appropriate seal or stamp of the issuing authority, such as:

1.       Final divorce decree

2.       Death certificate

3.       Annulment papers 

k.       Military Records

                                                               i.      Persons who have served in the military forces of any country must obtain a copy of their military record. Submit documentation to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate at your interview.

                                                             ii.      Note: Military records from certain countries are unavailable. More specific information is available online on our Reciprocity by Country webpage.

l.         Police Records

                                                               i.      Which Applicants Need to Submit a Police Certificate

1.       Each applicant aged 16 years or older must submit all required police certificates to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate at his or her interview.

                                                             ii.      What Does the Applicant Submit

1.       The applicant must submit police certificates that meet the following guidelines. The police certificate must:

a.       Cover the entire period of the applicant's residence in that area.

b.       Be issued by the appropriate police authority.

c.       Include all arrests, the reason for the arrest(s), and the disposition of each case of which there is a record.

                                                           iii.      How to obtain a police certificate

1.       Determine from which countries an applicant is required to obtain police certificates. The table below will assist in determining from where an applicant must obtain police certificates. Note: Present and former residents of the United States should NOT obtain any police certificates covering their residence in the United States.

2.       Contact the appropriate police authorities. Selecting the appropriate country from the Reciprocity by Country page will provide you with additional information on how to obtain a police certificate.

                                                           iv.      IMPORTANT NOTICE ABOUT POLICE CERTIFICATES: The Reciprocity by Country pages will indicate if a country's police authorities require the submission of a specific Police Certificate Request form. Some countries may require the submission of specific Police Certificate Request forms in order to properly request and obtain the applicable Police Certificate(s). Police certificates from certain countries are unavailable. More specific information is available online on our Reciprocity by Country webpage.

                                                             v.      If you are 16 years of age or older, you must submit a photocopy of a police certificate from the following locations:

 

From ...

AND...

THEN the applicant needs a police certificate from...

  • the country of nationality if they resided there for more than 6 months
  • is 16 years old or older
  • the police authorities of that locality.
  • the country of current residence (if different from nationality) if they resided there for more than 6 months
  • was 16 years or older at that time
  • the police authorities of that locality.
  • any previous country or countries of residence if residing there for more than 12 months
  • was 16 years or older at that time
  • the police authorities of that locality.
  • any country where arrested for any reason, regardless of how long they lived there
  • was any age at that time
  • the police authorities from place of arrest.

 

                                                           vi.      Note: Present and former residents of the United States do NOT need to submit any U.S. police certificates.

                                                          vii.      ImportantPolice certificates expire after one year, unless the certificate was issued from your country of previous residence and you have not returned there since the police certificate was issued. If at the time of your interview the following three items are all true, you must bring a new police certificate to your visa interview:

1.       You are more than 16 years old;

2.       The police certificate submitted to NVC was obtained more than one year ago; and

3.       You still live in the country that issued the certificate.

                                                        viii.      For country-specific guidelines on how to obtain a police certificate, review the Country Documents section at Reciprocity by Country.

                                                            ix.      Unobtainable police certificates

1.       If your police certificate is unavailable per the country-specific guidelines above, you do not need to submit one to the NVC. If you cannot obtain a police certificate for another reason, please submit a written explanation when you submit your other documents.

m.     Custody Documentation

                                                               i.      For adopted children, the adoptive parent must provide:

1.       A certified copy of the adoption decree;

2.       The legal custody decree, if custody occurred before the adoption;

3.       A statement showing dates and places where child resided with the parents; and

4.       If the child was adopted while aged 16 or 17 years, evidence that the child was adopted together with, or subsequent to the adoption of, a natural sibling under age 16 by the same adoptive parent(s).

n.       Additional Embassy or Consulate Instructions

                                                              i.      Civil and personal documents may differ from country to country, depending on availability. There may be either additional instructions for obtaining civil documents in a specific country or additional documents required, depending on the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where you will apply. Select the embassy or consulate where you will apply to learn what additional requirements there are, if any. Please note that some of the information included in these instructions may apply to immigrant visa classifications other than diversity visas. If you have questions about the country-specific information included here, please contact the embassy or consulate where you will apply for your visa.

8.       Part: 3: Section 1: Interview

a.       After the Kentucky Consular Center has reviewed your completed DS-260, you may receive an e-mail from KCC to let you know that an interview has been scheduled at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate you selected on your DS-260 form. The e-mail will instruct you to log into the Entrant Status Check on the Electronic Diversity Visa (E-DV) website, using your DV entry confirmation number, to view the date, time and location of your interview. Print this information to take with you to your interview. You will need to be present at the interview, as well as your spouse and children (as applicable) who are applying for a diversity immigrant visa.

b.       Note: You will only be scheduled for an interview when and if there is a visa number available for you. Visa number allocations are determined by provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) which determines the number of diversity immigrant visas available each year. The total number of diversity visas is allocated by visa category and region of the world. The allocations are revised monthly as available visas are issued. Each month the Department of State publishes the Visa Bulletin which contains important information about updated allocations and the likelihood of a diversity visa number being available. Anyone may view the most recent updated information by clicking Visa Bulletin.

c.       Your completed Form DS-260 will be accessible by the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where you will be interviewed. You do not need to fill out a new application.

d.       Important Applicant Notice

e.       Based on U.S. law, not everyone who applies for a visa will be found eligible to come to the United States. There are a number of possible reasons why someone might not qualify for a visa. The circumstances of each case are different. Approved visas generally are not available on the day of interview.

f.        It is important that you do not make arrangements such as selling your house, car or property, resigning from your job or making non-refundable flight or other travel arrangements until you have received your immigrant visa.

9.       Part 3: Section 2: Prepare for the Interview

a.       You should prepare for your interview thoroughly and carefully. Failure to be fully prepared for your interview at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate can result in delay or denial of your visa application.

b.       After you have been notified of your scheduled interview, you will need to take the following important steps in advance of the interview date:

                                                               i.      1. Carefully Review your s

1.       cheduling information in the Entrant Status Check on the E-DV website,, noting the date, time, and location of your immigrant visa interview.

                                                             ii.      2. Review U.S. Embassy or Consulate Interview Instructions

1.       There may be additional instructions provided by the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where you will be applying and be interviewed, so please review those instructions carefully. To see this information, select below the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where you will be interviewed. Please note that some of the information included in these instructions may apply to immigrant visa classifications other than diversity visas. If you have questions about the country-specific information included here, please contact the embassy or consulate where you will apply for your visa.

                                                           iii.      3. Schedule and Complete a Medical Examination

1.       You (and each family member applying for a visa with you) are required to schedule a medical appointment with an authorized physician in the country where you will be interviewed. You must complete your medical examination, along with any required vaccinations, before your scheduled visa interview date. When your medical exam is completed, if you are given a medical exam envelope, you must bring it sealed (not opened) to your visa interview. Some physicians will send the medical exam results directly to the embassy or consulate.

2.       A list of authorized physicians for the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where you will apply is provided in the dropdown list below. You must contact a physician and schedule your medical appointment. The embassy or consulate will not do this for you. Explain that the examination is for an immigrant visa application and give the physician the date of the interview appointment. The physician will tell you the cost of the examination and tests. Please note that some of the information included in these instructions may apply to immigrant visa classifications other than diversity visas. If you have questions about the country-specific information included here, please contact the embassy or consulate where you will apply for your visa.

3.       Note: You must have the current version of Adobe Reader to view the Medical Examination Instructions. You may receive a "file corrupted" error message if you are using an old version. To obtain a free current copy visit http://www.adobe.com.

                                                           iv.      4. Gather Photographs and All Remaining Required Documents

1.       Photographs

a.       Each DV applicant will need to bring two (2) identical photos to the interview. Please review the detailed information about photo requirements to ensure that your photos will be acceptable.

2.       Required Documentation

a.       Each applicant will be required to present the following:

                                                                                                                                       i.      Appointment information printed from the Entrant Status Check on the E-DV website.

                                                                                                                                     ii.      DS-260 confirmation page You can print this from the Consular Electronic Application Center any time after you complete your DS-260 application.

                                                                                                                                   iii.      Passport(s) valid for six months beyond the intended date of entry into the U.S. for you and each family member applying for a visa.

                                                                                                                                   iv.      Original documents or certified copies of all applicable civil documents, and one photocopy of each document.  Follow the instructions on the previous page, Prepare Supporting Documents.

                                                             v.      5. Review Additional Information - Visit the U.S. Embassy or Consulatewebsite where you will be interviewed for any additional information.

c.       Paying Fees

                                                               i.      Before being interviewed, each applicant must pay the Diversity Visa Lottery fee. For DV-2018 and DV-2017 applicants the fee is $330 per person. This fee is nonrefundable, whether a visa is issued or not. Learn more about Fees.  

                                                             ii.      Fee payment procedures vary between different U.S. Embassies and Consulates. At most locations, you should make arrangements to pay your fees before your interview date and time by following the instructions of the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where you will be interviewed. A few U.S. Embassies and Consulates collect fees in the consular section at the time of your interview. Be sure you have looked at the specific instructions for the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where you will be interviewed so that you can follow the appropriate procedures.

                                                           iii.      Other fees may apply to other parts of the process, such as medical exam fees, or local government fees to obtain certified copies of records.

10.   Part 3: Section 3: Visa Applicant Interview

a.       Prior to your interview, ensure you have followed the U.S. Embassy or Consulate interview preparation instructions. On the scheduled date and time of your interview appointment, go to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate. A consular officer will interview you (and accompanying family member beneficiaries) and determine whether or not you can receive an immigrant visa. As part of the interview process, ink-free, digital fingerprint scans will be taken.

b.       Who Must Attend the Interview?

                                                               i.      You, your spouse, and any qualified unmarried children immigrating with you must participate in the interview. If your spouse and/or qualified unmarried children will immigrate at a later date and travel separately from you, they are not required to participate in your interview. They will be scheduled for a separate interview appointment. You should contact the U.S. Embassy or Consulate directly to arrange separate interviews, if needed.

c.       What to Bring to the Interview

                                                               i.      Appointment Letter - Your appointment information from the Entrant Status Check on the Electronic Diversity Visa (E-DV) website
DS-260 Confirmation Page - You can print this from the Consular Electronic Application Center any time after you complete your DS-260 application.
Passport - For each applicant, an unexpired passport valid for six months beyond the intended date of entry into the United States
Photographs - Two identical color photographs for each applicant. Photos must meet the standards explained in the Photograph Requirements.
Medical Exam Results - If the panel physician gave you sealed envelopes containing each applicant’s medical examination results, please bring those unopened envelopes. Some physicians send the medical examination results directly to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate. For more information, review Prepare for the Interview.
Original and Supporting Documents - Original documents or certified copies, and one photocopy of each document (with the exception of your passport and photographs) are required for you and each family member applying for a visa. Your original documents will be returned to you when the interview has been completed. The photocopies will be kept. For more information, review Prepare Your Supporting Documents.
English Translations - If documents require English translation, you must obtain certified translations and present them on the day of your interview. For more information, review Prepare Your Supporting Documents.
Visa Fees - If you did not pay your visa fees prior to your interview, you will need to pay them before speaking with a consular officer. For more information, review Prepare for the Interview.

                                                             ii.      Important Notice

1.       You should not make permanent financial commitments, such as selling your house, car or property, resigning from your job or making non-refundable flight or other travel arrangements until you have received your immigrant visa.

d.       Additional Information

                                                               i.      I need to reschedule my appointment – 

1.       If you cannot appear at your scheduled interview, contact the U.S. Embassy or Consulate as soon as possible. Under U.S. law, all diversity visas for a fiscal year must be issued prior to September 30. Available visas for some countries and regions may be used up prior to that date. If you delay your appointment, you may lose your opportunity to immigrate on the basis of your DV application.

                                                             ii.      I would like my spouse and/or children to follow me to the United States after I immigrate. Can they do that? – 

1.       Yes, but remember that all diversity visas for a fiscal year must be issued by September 30. Available visas for some countries and regions may be used up prior to that date. If your spouse and children delay obtaining their visas, they may lose their opportunity to immigrate on the basis of their DV applications. If this happens, you will need to file a petition to bring your family to the United States at a later date. If they do not obtain diversity visas prior to September 30, your spouse and/or children may have to wait several years to join you.

                                                           iii.      Can my spouse or children receive diversity visas, even if they were not on my original entry? –

1.        If you were married, or your child was born or adopted after you submitted your entry to the DV program, you can add them to your case and they may be eligible to receive diversity visas. 

2.       If you were married or had children prior to entering the DV program, and you failed to include your family members on your original entry, your case will be disqualified.  Neither you nor your family members will receive visas.  Your fees will not be refunded.

                                                           iv.      My child will turn 21 years old soon – 

1.       Children generally must be unmarried and under age 21 to qualify as derivative applicants. Also, they generally must use their visas to enter the United States while still under age 21. 

2.       If you have a child who will be turning 21 soon, you should immediately contact the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where your interview is scheduled. The U.S. Embassy or Consulate will determine whether an earlier appointment is needed. If your child no longer qualifies to immigrate with you based on age, then a separate petition must be filed for the child after you immigrate. There may be a significant delay before your child becomes qualified for a visa.

11.   Part 3: Section 4: After the Interview

a.       At the end of your immigrant visa interview at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate, the consular officer will inform you whether your visa application is approved or denied.

b.       Visa approval –

                                                               i.      When approved, you will be informed how and when your passport and visa will be returned to you.

c.       Visa denial – 

                                                               i.      If denied, you will be informed why you are ineligible to receive a visa. There is additional information about visa denials at the bottom of this page, and detailed information is available on the Denials webpage.

d.       Note: Some visa applications are denied because they require further administrative processing, which takes additional time after the visa applicant’s interview by a consular officer. Applicants are advised of this requirement when they apply. Most administrative processing is resolved within 60 days of the visa interview. When administrative processing is required, the timing will vary based on individual circumstances of each case.

e.       Visa Approval - When You Receive Your Visa

                                                               i.      Passport with Visa – 

1.       Your diversity visa will be placed on a page in your passport. Please review the printed information right away to make sure there are no errors. If there are any spelling errors, contact the embassy or consulate promptly. 

                                                             ii.      Sealed Immigrant Packet – 

1.       You will also receive a sealed packet containing documents that you must present to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) at a port-of-entry (often an airport) upon your arrival in the United States. You must not open the sealed packet. 

                                                           iii.      When You Should Travel – 

1.       You must arrive and apply for admission in the United States no later than the visa expiration date printed on your visa. A diversity visa is usually valid for up to six months from the date of issuance unless your medical examination expires sooner, which may make your visa valid for less than six months. 

                                                           iv.      USCIS Immigrant Fee – 

1.       You must pay the USCIS Immigrant Fee to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) after you receive your immigrant visa and before you travel to the United States. Only children who enter the United States under the Orphan or Hague adoption programs, Iraqi and Afghan special immigrants, returning residents (SB-1s), and those issued K visas are exempt from this fee. Select USCIS Immigrant Fee on the USCIS website for more information. Important Notice: USCIS will not issue a Permanent Resident Card (Form I-551 or Green Card) until you have paid the fee.

                                                             v.      Vaccination Records – 

1.       Children are required to have certain vaccinations before they can enroll in school in the United States. Therefore, it is recommended that your child have complete vaccination records before immigrating. Learn about vaccination requirements by state on the Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website under State Vaccination Requirements.

                                                           vi.      X-rays –

1.        You must hand-carry your X-rays with you, not pack them in your luggage. 

f.        Entering the United States

                                                               i.      When traveling to the United States, the primary (or principal) applicant must enter before or at the same time as family members with visas. With your diversity visa (before it expires), and your sealed packet, you will travel to a U.S. port-of-entry (often an airport) and request permission to enter the United States. A visa does not guarantee entry into the United States.  The Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials have authority to grant or deny admission. Learn about admission and entry requirements on the CBP website under Travel.

                                                             ii.      If you are admitted, you will enter as a Lawful Permanent Resident, also called a green card holder, and will be permitted to work and live permanently in the United States.

                                                           iii.      When You are a Permanent Resident - Coming to the United States to live permanently, you will want to learn more about your status as a Lawful Permanent Resident. See Welcome to the United States: A Guide for New Immigrants to review information on the USCIS website about living in the United States.

                                                           iv.      Social Security Number - To learn about the U.S. Social Security Administration benefits available to Legal Permanent Residents, and how to apply for a social security number card, visit the Social Security Administration website.

g.       About Visa Denials

                                                               i.      In some situations the consular officer does not have sufficient information needed to process your application to conclusion, or you may be missing some supporting documentation. The consular officer will inform you if information or documents are missing and how to provide it. 

                                                             ii.      As noted above, some applications may require additional administrative processing after the interview before the application can be processed to conclusion. The consular officer will inform you if additional administrative processing is necessary.

                                                           iii.      Based on U.S. law, not everyone who applies is qualified or 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. See Ineligibilities for U.S. Visas. In some instances, the law might allow you to apply for a waiver for the ineligibility. If you are able to apply for such a waiver, the consular officer will advise you on the steps to take.

Employment-Based Immigrant Visa

a.       Overview

                                                               i.      Every fiscal year (October 1st – September 30th), approximately 140,000 employment-based immigrant visas are made available to qualified applicants under the provisions of U.S. immigration law. Employment based immigrant visas are divided into five preference categories. Certain spouses and children may accompany or follow-to-join employment-based immigrants.

 

b.      The First Steps toward an Immigrant Visa: Labor Certification and Filing a Petition

                                                               i.      To be considered for an immigrant visa under some of the employment-based categories below, the applicant's prospective employer or agent must first obtain a labor certification approval from the Department of Labor. Once received (if required), the employer then files an Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker, Form I-140, with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for the appropriate employment-based preference category. (NOTE: Persons with extraordinary abilities in the Employment First preference category are able to file their own petitions.) When filing the Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker, Form I-140, see the detailed form instructions, as well as more detailed requirements information on the USCIS Permanent Workers webpage.

 

c.       CATEGORIES

                                                               i.      Employment First Preference (E1): Priority Workers

1.       A First Preference applicant must be the beneficiary of an approved Immigrant Petition for Foreign Worker, Form I-140, filed with USCIS. Labor certification is not required for any of the Priority Worker subgroups. Priority Workers receive 28.6 percent of the yearly worldwide limit of employment-based immigrant visas.

2.       There are three sub-groups within this category:

a.       Persons with extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics. Applicants in this category must have extensive documentation showing sustained national or international acclaim and recognition in their fields of expertise. Such applicants do not have to have specific job offers, so long as they are entering the U.S. to continue work in the fields in which they have extraordinary ability. Such applicants can file their own Immigrant Petitions for Alien Worker, Form I-140, with the USCIS.

b.       Outstanding professors and researchers with at least three years experience in teaching or research, who are recognized internationally. Applicants in this category must be coming to the U.S. to pursue tenure, tenure track teaching, or a comparable research position at a university or other institution of higher education. The prospective employer must provide a job offer and file an Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker, Form I-140, with the USCIS.

c.       Multinational managers or executives who have been employed for at least one of the three preceding years by the overseas affiliate, parent, subsidiary, or branch of the U.S. employer. The applicant’s employment outside of the U.S. must have been in a managerial or executive capacity, and the applicant must be coming to work in a managerial or executive capacity. The prospective employer must provide a job offer and file an Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker, Form I-140, with the USCIS.

                                                             ii.      Employment Second Preference (E2): Professionals Holding Advanced Degrees and Persons of Exceptional Ability

1.       A Second Preference applicant must generally have a labor certification approved by the Department of Labor. A job offer is required and the U.S. employer must file an Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker, Form I-140, on behalf of the applicant. Applicants may apply for an exemption, known as a National Interest Waiver, from the job offer and labor certification if the exemption would be in the national interest. In this case, the applicant may self-petition by filing the Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker, Form I-140, along with evidence of the national interest. Professionals Holding Advanced Degrees and Persons of Exceptional Ability receive 28.6 percent of the yearly worldwide limit of employment-based immigrant visas, plus any unused visas from the Employment First Preference category.

2.       There are two subgroups within this category:

a.       Professionals holding an advanced degree (beyond a baccalaureate degree), or a baccalaureate degree and at least five years progressive experience in the profession.

b.       Persons with exceptional ability in the sciences, arts, or business. Exceptional ability means having a degree of expertise significantly above that ordinarily encountered in the sciences, arts, or business.

                                                           iii.      Employment Third Preference (E3): Skilled Workers, Professionals, and Unskilled Workers (Other Workers)

1.       A Third Preference applicant must have an approved Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker, Form I-140, filed by the prospective employer. All such workers generally require labor certification approved by the Department of Labor. Skilled Workers, Professionals, and Unskilled Workers (Other Workers) receive 28.6 percent of the yearly worldwide limit of employment-based immigrant visas, plus any unused visas from the Employment First Preference and Second Preference categories.

2.       There are three subgroups within this category:

a.       Skilled workers are persons whose jobs require a minimum of 2 years training or work experience that are not temporary or seasonal.

b.       Professionals are members of the professions whose jobs require at least a baccalaureate degree from a U.S. university or college or its foreign equivalent degree.

c.       Unskilled workers (Other workers) are persons capable of filling positions that require less than two years training or experience that are not temporary or seasonal.

                                                           iv.      Employment Fourth Preference (E4): Certain Special Immigrants

1.       A Fourth Preference applicant must be the beneficiary of an approved Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant, Form I-360, with the exception of Certain Employees or Former Employees of the U.S. Government Abroad (see number 3 below). Labor certification is not required for any of the Certain Special Immigrants subgroups. Special Immigrants receive 7.1 percent of the yearly worldwide limit of employment-based immigrant visas.

2.       There are many subgroups within this category:

a.       Broadcasters in the U.S. employed by the International Broadcasting Bureau of the Broadcasting Board of Governors or a grantee of such organization

b.       Ministers of Religion

c.       Certain Employees or Former Employees of the U.S. Government Abroad - Must use Form DS-1884, Petition To Classify Special Immigrant Under INA 203(b)(4) As An Employee Or Former Employee of the U.S. Government Abroad

d.       Certain Former Employees of the Panama Canal Company or Canal Zone Government

e.       Certain Former Employees of the U.S. Government in the Panama Canal Zone

f.        Certain Former Employees of the Panama Canal Company or Canal Zone Government on April 1st, 1979

g.       Iraqi and Afghan interpreters/translators who have worked directly with the United States armed forces or under Chief of Mission authority as a translator/interpreter for a period of at least 12 months and meet requirements. This classification has an annual numeric limitation of 50 visas. See Special Immigrant Visas for Iraqi and Afghan Translators/Interpreters for more information.

h.       Iraqi and Afghan nationals who have provided faithful and valuable service while employed by or on behalf of the U.S. government in Iraq for not less than one year on or after March 20th, 2003 and prior to September 30, 2013, or in Afghanistan for not less than one year after October 7th, 2001, and have experienced an ongoing serious threat as a consequence of that employment. See Special Immigrant Visas for Iraqis - Worked for/on behalf of the U.S. Government and Afghans - Worked for/on behalf of the U.S. Government for more information.

i.         Certain Foreign Medical Graduates (Adjustments Only)

j.         Certain Retired International Organization Employees

k.       Certain Unmarried Sons and Daughters of International Organization Employees

l.         Certain Surviving Spouses of deceased International Organization Employees

m.     Special Immigrant Juveniles (no family member derivatives; Adjustments Only)

n.       Persons Recruited Outside of the United States Who Have Served or are Enlisted to Serve in the U.S. Armed Forces

o.       Certain retired NATO-6 civilians

p.       Certain Unmarried Sons and Daughters of NATO-6 civilians

q.       Certain Surviving Spouses of deceased NATO-6 civilian employees

r.        Persons who are beneficiaries of petitions or labor certification applications filed prior to September 11th, 2001, if the petition or application was rendered void due to a terrorist act on September 11th, 2001

s.        Certain Religious Workers

                                                             v.      Employment Fifth Preference (E5): Immigrant Investors

1.       Immigrant Investor visa categories are for capital investment by foreign investors in new commercial enterprises in the United States which provide job creation. Select Immigrant Investor Visas to learn more about this employment-based category.

 

d.      Next Steps – Fees and Visa Application

                                                               i.      After USCIS approves the petition, it is sent to the National Visa Center (NVC). Once received, the NVC will assign a case number for the petition. When an applicant’s priority date meets the most recent qualifying date, the NVC will instruct the applicant to complete Form DS-261, Choice of Address and Agent. (NOTE: If you already have an attorney, the NVC will not instruct you to complete Form DS-261.) The NVC will begin pre-processing the applicant’s case by providing the applicant with instructions to submit the appropriate fees. After the appropriate fees are paid, the NVC will request that the applicant submit the necessary immigrant visa documents, including application forms, civil documents, and more. Learn more about National Visa Center visa case processing.

 

                                                             ii.      Can My Family Members also Receive Immigrant Visas?

1.       Based on your approved petition, your spouse and minor unmarried children, younger than 21, may apply for immigrant visas with you. Like you, they must also fill out required application forms, obtain required civil documents, pay the required fees, and undergo medical examinations. Same-sex spouses of U.S. citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents (LPRs), along with their minor children, are now eligible for the same immigration benefits as opposite-sex spouses. Consular officers at U.S. Embassies and Consulates will adjudicate their immigrant visa applications upon receipt of an approved I-130 or I-140  petition from USCIS. For further information, please see our FAQ’s.

 

                                                           iii.      Numerical Limitations

1.       All categories of employment-based immigrant visas are issued in the chronological order in which the petitions were filed until the annual 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.

 

                                                           iv.      Fees

1.       Fees are charged for the following services:

a.       Filing of Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker, Form I-140, or Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant, Form I-360 (this fee is charged by USCIS)

b.       Processing an immigrant visa application, Form DS-260 (see Note below)

c.       Medical examination and required vaccinations (costs vary)

d.       Other costs may include: translations; photocopying charges; fees for obtaining the documents you need for the immigrant visa application (such as passport, police certificates, birth certificates, etc.); and expenses for travel to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate for your visa interview. Costs vary from country to country and case to case.

2.       For current fees for Department of State services, see Fees for Visa Services. For current fees for USCIS services, see Check Filing Fees on the USCIS website.

3.       Note: Fees must be paid for each intending immigrant, regardless of age, and are not refundable.

4.       Fees should not be paid to the NVC or paid at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where you have your visa interview unless specifically requested. Applicants will be provided with instructions by the NVC on where and when to pay the appropriate fees. Do not send payments to the NVC’s address in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

 

e.       Required Documentation

                                                               i.      In general, the following documents are required:

1.       Passport(s) valid for six months beyond the intended date of entry into the United States, unless longer validity is specifically requested by the U.S. Embassy/Consulate in your country. Please review the instructions for guidance.

2.       Form DS-260, Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration Application.

3.       Preview a sample DS-260 (6.4MB).

4.       Two (2) 2x2 photographs. See the required photo format explained in Photograph Requirements.

5.       Civil Documents for the applicant. See Documents the Applicant Must Submit for more specific information about documentation requirements, including information on which documents may need to be translated. The consular officer may ask for more information during your visa interview. Bring your original civil documents (or certified copies) such as birth and marriage certificates, as well as legible photocopies of the original civil documents, and any required translations to your immigrant visa interview. Original documents and translations can then be returned to you.

6.       Financial Support – At your immigrant visa interview, you must demonstrate to the consular officer that you will not become a public charge in the United States. (NOTE: For applicants where a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident (LPR) relative filed the Form I-140 petition or where such a relative has a significant ownership interest in the entity that filed the petition, that relative must complete Form I-864, Affidavit of Support Under Section 213A of the Act, on behalf of the applicant.)

7.       Completed Medical Examination Forms – These are provided by the panel physician after you have completed your medical examination and vaccinations (see below).

 

f.        Visa Interview

                                                               i.      Once the NVC determines the file is complete with all the required documents, they schedule the applicant’s interview appointment. NVC then sends the file, containing the applicant’s petition and the documents listed above, to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where the applicant will be interviewed for a visa. The applicant, attorney, and third-party agent, if applicable, will receive appointment emails, or letters (if no email address is available), containing the date and time of the applicant's visa interview along with instructions, including guidance for obtaining a medical examination.

                                                             ii.      Each applicant should bring a valid passport to the interview, as well as any other documentation above not already provided to NVC. A consular officer will interview the applicant, and the consular officer will determine whether the applicant is eligible to receive an immigrant visa in accordance with U.S. immigration law. Ink-free, digital fingerprint scans will be taken on the day of the interview. Generally, an applicant receives original civil documents and original translations back at the time of interview.
 

g.       Medical Examinations and Vaccinations

                                                               i.      Important Notice: In preparing for your interview, you will need to schedule and complete your medical examination and any required vaccinations before your visa interview. Before an immigrant visa can be issued, every applicant, regardless of age, must undergo a medical examination which must be performed by an authorized panel physician. NVC provides applicants instructions regarding medical examinations, including information on authorized panel physicians. See Medical Examination for more information, including a list of panel physicians by country, and frequently asked questions.

 

h.      Vaccination Requirements

                                                               i.      U.S. immigration law requires immigrant visa applicants to obtain certain vaccinations prior to the issuance of immigrant visas. See Vaccination Requirements for IV Applicants for the list of required vaccinations and additional information.

 

i.        How Long Does It Take?

                                                               i.      Employment based immigrant visa cases take additional time because they are in numerically limited visa categories. The length of time varies from case to case and cannot be predicted for individual cases with any accuracy. Some cases are delayed because applicants do not follow instructions carefully. Some visa applications require further administrative processing, which takes additional time after the consular officer interviews the applicant.

 

j.        Visa Ineligibility

                                                               i.      Certain conditions and activities may make an applicant ineligible for a visa. Examples of these ineligibilities include: drug trafficking; overstaying a previous visa; and submitting fraudulent documents. If you are ineligible for a visa, you will be informed by the consular officer and advised whether there is a waiver of the ineligibility available to you and what the waiver process is. Ineligibilities and Waivers: Laws contains the complete list of ineligibilities.

 

k.       Misrepresentation of Material Facts or Fraud

                                                               i.      Attempting to obtain a visa by the willful misrepresentation of a material fact or fraud may result in you becoming permanently ineligible to receive a U.S. visa or enter the United States.

 

l.        When You Have Your Immigrant Visa - What You Should Know

                                                               i.      If you are issued an immigrant visa, the consular officer will give you your passport containing the immigrant visa and a sealed packet containing the documents which you provided. It is important that you do not open the sealed packet. Only the U.S. immigration official should open this packet when you enter the United States. You are required to enter the United Statesbefore the expiration date printed on your visa. When traveling, the primary (or principal) applicant must enter the United States before or at the same time as family members holding visas. 

                                                             ii.      USCIS Immigrant Fee -  You must pay the USCIS Immigrant Fee to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) after you receive your immigrant visa and before you travel to the United States. (SI-1, SI-2, SI-3, SQ-1, SQ-2, and SQ-3 visa holders will not pay the fee.) Select USCIS Immigrant Fee on the USCIS website for more information. 

                                                           iii.      Important Notice: USCIS will not issue a Permanent Resident Card (Form I-551 or Green Card) until you have paid the fee.

 

m.    Entering the United States: Port-of-Entry

                                                               i.      A visa allows a foreign citizen to travel to the U.S. port-of-entry and request permission to enter the United States. Applicants should be aware that a visa does not guarantee entry into the United States. The DHS, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials have authority to permit or deny admission to the United States. Travelers should review important information about admissions and entry requirements on the CBP website under Travel.

                                                             ii.      Once you have paid the USCIS immigrant fee and have been admitted to the U.S. as a permanent resident, your Permanent Resident Card, Form I-551 (formerly called Alien Registration Card, also known as a green card) will be mailed to you.

 

n.      How to Apply for a Social Security Number Card

                                                               i.      If you elected on your immigrant visa application form to receive your Social Security Number Card upon admission to the United States as an immigrant, your card will be sent by mail to the U.S. address you designated on your application form, and should arrive approximately six weeks following your admission. If you did not elect to receive your Social Security Number Card automatically, you will have to apply to be issued a card following your arrival in the United States. To learn about applying for a Social Security Number Card, visit the Social Security Administration website.

 

o.      When You Are a Permanent Resident

                                                               i.      Coming to the United States to live permanently, you will want to learn more about your status as a Lawful Permanent Resident. See Welcome to the United States: A Guide for New Immigrants to review information on the USCIS website about living in the United States.

 

p.      Additional Information

                                                               i.      Immigrant visa applicants should not make any final travel arrangements, dispose of property, or give up jobs until and unless visas are issued. Some visa applications require further administrative processing, which takes additional time after the visa applicant's interview. An immigrant visa is generally valid for six months from the issuance date.

 

q.      General Visa Questions

                                                               i.      Before submitting your inquiry, we request that you carefully review this website for answers to your questions. Because of the volume of inquiries, we cannot promise an immediate reply to your inquiry.

                                                             ii.      If your inquiry concerns a visa case in progress overseas, you should first contact the U.S. Embassy or Consulate handling your case for status information. Select U.S. Embassy or Consulate to find contact information.

                                                           iii.      You can find contact information for our Public Inquiries Division at Contact Us.

Immigrant Investor Visas

a.       Overview

                                                               i.      Every fiscal year (October 1st – September 30th), approximately 140,000 employment-based immigrant visas are made available to qualified applicants under the provisions of U.S. immigration law. Employment based immigrant visas are divided into five preference categories.

                                                             ii.      This webpage explains the visa application process for Employment Fifth Preference (E5) Immigrant Investors, also called Immigrant Entrepreneurs. Select Employment Based Immigrant Visas for additional employment based immigrant visa categories. U.S. immigration law makes visas available to immigrant investors seeking to enter the United States to engage in new commercial enterprises that benefit the U.S. economy through job creation and capital investment. E5 investors receive up to 7.1 percent of all employment based immigrant visas issued worldwide each year.

                                                           iii.      To qualify as an immigrant investor, a foreign national must invest, without borrowing, the following minimum qualifying capital dollar amounts in a qualifying commercial enterprise:

1.       $1,000,000 (U.S.); or

2.       $500,000 (U.S.) in a high-unemployment or rural area, considered a targeted employment area.  

                                                           iv.      A qualifying investment must, within two years, create full-time jobs for at least 10 U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residents, or other immigrants authorized to work in the United States, not including the investor and the investor’s spouse, sons, or daughters.

                                                             v.      Immigrant investor visa categories are:

1.       Employment creation outside a targeted area – C5

2.       Employment creation in a targeted rural/high unemployment area – T5

3.       Investor Pilot Program not in a targeted area – R5

4.       Investor Pilot Program in a targeted area – I5

 

b.      The First Step: File a Petition

                                                               i.      To be considered for an E5 immigrant investor visa, an applicant must file Form I-526, Immigrant Petition by Alien Entrepreneur, with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).  For more information on qualifying as an immigrant investor and filing the Form I-526 petition, see EB-5 Immigrant InvestorEB-5 Immigrant Investor ProcessEB-5 Regional Centers, and Permanent Workers on the USCIS website.

                                                             ii.      Labor certification is not required for immigrant investors.

                                                           iii.      The Form I-526 petition must be approved by the USCIS before applying for an immigrant visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate outside the United States.

 

c.       Next Steps: Fees and Visa Application

                                                               i.      After USCIS approves the petition, it is sent to the National Visa Center (NVC). Once received, NVC will assign a case number for the petition. When an applicant’s priority date meets the most recent qualifying date, NVC will instruct the applicant to complete Form DS-261, Choice of Address and Agent. (NOTE: If you already have an attorney, NVC will not instruct you to complete Form DS-261). NVC will begin pre-processing the applicant’s case by providing the applicant with instructions to submit the appropriate fees. After the appropriate fees are paid, NVC will request that the applicant submit the necessary immigrant visa documents, including application forms, civil documents, and more. Learn more about National Visa Center visa case processing and NVC's EB-5 Investor Assistance Desk.

 

d.      Can My Family Members also Receive Immigrant Visas?

                                                               i.      Based on your approved petition, your spouse and minor unmarried children, younger than 21, may apply for immigrant visas with you. Like you, they must also fill out required application forms, obtain required civil documents, pay the required fees, and undergo medical examinations. Same-sex spouses of U.S. citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents (LPRs), along with their minor children, are now eligible for the same immigration benefits as opposite-sex spouses. Consular officers at U.S. Embassies and Consulates will adjudicate their immigrant visa applications upon receipt of an approved I-130 or I-140 petition from USCIS. For further information, please see our FAQ’s.

 

e.       Numerical Limitations

                                                               i.      Immigrant investor visas are issued in the chronological order in which the petitions were filed until the annual 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.

 

f.        Fees

                                                               i.      Fees are charged for the following services:

1.       Filing of Form I-526, Immigrant Petition by Alien Entrepreneur (this fee is charged by USCIS)

2.       Processing an immigrant visa application, Form DS-260 (see Note below)

3.       Medical examination and required vaccinations (costs vary)

4.       Other costs may include: translations; photocopying charges; fees for obtaining the documents you need for the immigrant visa application (such as passport, police certificates, birth certificates, etc.); and expenses for travel to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate for your visa interview. Costs vary from country to country and case to case.

                                                             ii.      For current fees for Department of State services, see Fees for Visa Services. For current fees for USCIS services, see Check Filing Fees on the USCIS website.

                                                           iii.      Note: Fees must be paid for each intending immigrant, regardless of age, and are not refundable.

                                                           iv.      Fees should not be paid to the NVC or paid at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where you have your visa interview unless specifically requested. Applicants will be provided with instructions by the NVC on where and when to pay the appropriate fees. Do not send payments to the NVC’s address in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

 

g.       Required Documentation

                                                               i.      In general, the following documents are required:

1.       Passport(s) valid for six months beyond the intended date of entry into the United States, unless longer validity is specifically requested by the U.S. Embassy/Consulate in your country. Please review the instructions for guidance.

2.       Form DS-260, Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration Application.

a.       Preview a sample DS-260 (6.4MB).

3.       Two (2) 2x2 photographs. See the required photo format explained in Photograph Requirements.

4.       Civil Documents for the applicant. See Documents the Applicant Must Submit for more specific information about documentation requirements, including information on which documents may need to be translated. The consular officer may ask for more information during your visa interview. Bring your original civil documents (or certified copies) such as birth and marriage certificates, as well as legible photocopies of the original civil documents, and any required translations to your immigrant visa interview. Original documents and translations can then be returned to you.

5.       Financial Support – At your immigrant visa interview, you must demonstrate to the consular officer that you will not become a public charge in the United States.

6.       Completed Medical Examination Forms – These are provided by the panel physician after you have completed your medical examination and vaccinations (see below). 

 

h.      Visa Interview

                                                               i.      Once the NVC determines the file is complete with all the required documents, they schedule the applicant’s interview appointment. NVC then sends the file, containing the applicant’s petition and the documents listed above, to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where the applicant will be interviewed for a visa. The applicant, attorney, and third-party agent, if applicable, will receive appointment emails, or letters (if no email address is available), containing the date and time of the applicant's visa interview along with instructions, including guidance for obtaining a medical examination. 

                                                             ii.      Each applicant should bring a valid passport to the interview, as well as any other documentation above not already provided to the NVC. A consular officer will interview the applicant, and the consular officer will determine whether the applicant is eligible to receive an immigrant visa in accordance with U.S. immigration law. Ink-free, digital fingerprint scans will be taken on the day of the interview. Generally, an applicant receives original civil documents and original translations back at the time of interview.

 

i.        Medical Examinations and Vaccinations

                                                               i.      Important Notice: In preparing for your interview, you will need to schedule and complete your medical examination and any required vaccinations before your visa interview. Before an immigrant visa can be issued, every applicant, regardless of age, must undergo a medical examination which must be performed by an authorized panel physician. NVC provides applicants instructions regarding medical examinations, including information on authorized panel physicians. See Medical Examination for more information, including a list of panel physicians by country, and frequently asked questions.

 

j.        Vaccination Requirements

                                                               i.      U.S. immigration law requires immigrant visa applicants to obtain certain vaccinations prior to the issuance of immigrant visas. See Vaccination Requirements for IV Applicants for the list of required vaccinations and additional information.

 

k.       How Long Does It Take?

                                                               i.      Employment based immigrant investor visa cases take additional time because they are in numerically limited visa categories. The length of time varies from case to case and cannot be predicted for individual cases with any accuracy. Some cases are delayed because applicants do not follow instructions carefully. Some visa applications require further administrative processing, which takes additional time after the consular officer interviews the applicant. 

 

l.        Visa Ineligibility

                                                               i.      Certain conditions and activities may make an applicant ineligible for a visa. Examples of these ineligibilities include: drug trafficking; overstaying a previous visa; and submitting fraudulent documents. If you are ineligible for a visa, you will be informed by the consular officer and advised whether there is a waiver of the ineligibility available to you and what the waiver process is. Ineligibilities and Waivers: Laws contains the complete list of ineligibilities. 

 

m.    Misrepresentation of Material Facts or Fraud

                                                               i.      Attempting to obtain a visa by the willful misrepresentation of a material fact or fraud may result in you becoming permanently ineligible to receive a U.S. visa or enter the United States.

 

n.      When You Have Your Immigrant Visa: What You Should Know

                                                               i.      If you are issued an immigrant visa, the consular officer will give you your passport containing the immigrant visa and a sealed packet containing the documents which you provided. It is important that you do not open the sealed packet. Only the U.S. immigration official should open this packet when you enter the United States. You are required to enter the U.S. before the expiration date printed on your visa. When traveling, the primary (or principal) applicant must enter the United States before or at the same time as family members holding visas. 

                                                             ii.      USCIS Immigrant Fee -  You must pay the USCIS Immigrant Fee to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) after you receive your immigrant visa and before you travel to the United States. Select USCIS Immigrant Fee on the USCIS website for more information. 

                                                           iii.      Important Notice: USCIS will not issue a Permanent Resident Card (Form I-551 or Green Card) until you have paid the fee.

 

o.      Entering the United States: Port-of-Entry

                                                               i.      A visa allows a foreign citizen to travel to the U.S. port-of-entry and request permission to enter the United States. Applicants should be aware that a visa does not guarantee entry into the United States. The DHS, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials have authority to permit or deny admission to the United States. Travelers should review important information about admissions and entry requirements on the CBP website under Travel.

                                                             ii.      Once you have paid the USCIS Immigrant Fee (explained above) and have been admitted to the United States as a permanent resident, your Permanent Resident Card, Form I-551 (formerly called Alien Registration Card, also known as a green card) will be mailed to you.

 

p.      How to Apply for a Social Security Number Card

                                                               i.      If you elected on your immigrant visa application form to receive your Social Security Number Card upon admission to the United States as an immigrant, your card will be sent by mail to the U.S. address you designated on your application form and should arrive approximately six weeks following your admission. If you did not elect to receive your Social Security Number Card automatically, you will have to apply to be issued a card following your arrival in the United States. Learn about on the Social Security Administration website. 

 

q.      When You Are a Permanent Resident

                                                               i.      Coming to the United States to live permanently, you will want to learn more about your status as a Lawful Permanent Resident. See Welcome to the United States: A Guide for New Immigrants to review information on the USCIS website about living in the United States.

 

r.        Additional Information

                                                               i.      Immigrant visa applicants should not make any final travel arrangements, dispose of property, or give up jobs until and unless visas are issued. Some visa applications require further administrative processing, which takes additional time after the visa applicant's interview. An immigrant visa is generally valid for six months from the issuance date. 

 

s.       General Visa Questions

                                                               i.      Before submitting your inquiry, we request that you carefully review this website for answers to your questions. Because of the volume of inquiries, we cannot promise an immediate reply to your inquiry.

                                                             ii.      If your inquiry concerns a visa case in progress overseas, you should first contact the U.S. Embassy or Consulate handling your case for status information. Select U.S. Embassy or Consulate to find contact information.

                                                           iii.      You can find contact information for our Public Inquiries Division at Contact Us.

1.       Family Based Immigrants

a.       Overview - Family-Based Immigrant Visas

                                                               i.      Two groups of family based immigrant visa categories, including immediate relatives and family preference categories, are provided under the provisions of United States immigration law, specifically the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).

b.       Immediate Relative Immigrant Visas (Unlimited):

                                                               i.      These visa types are based on a close family relationship with a United States (U.S.) citizen described as an Immediate Relative (IR). The number of immigrants in these categories is not limited each fiscal year. Immediate relative visa types include:

1.       IR-1: Spouse of a U.S. Citizen - Learn More

2.       IR-2: Unmarried Child Under 21 Years of Age of a U.S. Citizen

3.       IR-3: Orphan adopted abroad by a U.S. Citizen - Learn More

4.       IR-4: Orphan to be adopted in the U.S. by a U.S. citizen - Learn More

5.       IR-5: Parent of a U.S. Citizen who is at least 21 years old

c.       Family Preference Immigrant Visas (Limited): 

                                                               i.      These visa types are for specific, more distant, family relationships with a U.S. citizen and some specified relationships with a Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR). There are fiscal year numerical limitations on family preference immigrants, shown at the end of each category. The family preference categories are:

d.       Family First Preference (F1):

                                                               i.      Unmarried sons and daughters of U.S. citizens, and their minor children, if any. (23,400)

e.       Family Second Preference (F2):

                                                               i.      Spouses, minor children, and unmarried sons and daughters (age 21 and over) of LPRs. At least seventy-seven percent of all visas available for this category will go to the spouses and children; the remainder is allocated to unmarried sons and daughters. (114,200)

f.        Family Third Preference (F3):

                                                               i.      Married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens, and their spouses and minor children. (23,400)

g.       Family Fourth Preference (F4):

                                                               i.      Brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens, and their spouses and minor children, provided the U.S. citizens are at least 21 years of age. (65,000)

h.       Note: Grandparents, aunts, uncles, in-laws, and cousins cannot sponsor a relative for immigration.

i.        Numerical Limitations for Limited Family-Based Preference Categories

                                                               i.      Whenever the number of qualified applicants for a category exceeds the available immigrant visas, there will be an immigration wait. In this situation, the available immigrant visas will be issued in the chronological order in which the petitions were filed using their priority date. The filing date of a petition becomes what is called the applicant's priority date. Immigrant visas cannot be issued until an applicant's priority date is reached. In certain categories with many approved petitions compared to available visas, there may be a waiting period of several years, or more, before a priority date is reached. Check the Visa Bulletin for the latest priority dates.

j.         Returning Resident Immigrant Visas (SB) –

                                                               i.       A lawful permanent resident (LPR) who has remained outside the United States, for longer than twelve months, or beyond the validity period of a re-entry permit, will require a new immigrant visa to enter the United States and resume permanent residence. A provision exists under U.S. visa law for the issuance of a returning resident special immigrant visa to an LPR who remained outside the United States due to circumstances beyond his/her control. For more information about international travel as a LPR, and returning resident immigrant visas, visit our Returning Resident webpage.

2.       The First Step toward an Immigrant Visa: Filing a Petition

a.       As the first step, a sponsoring relative must file a Petition for Alien Relative, Form I-130 with the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

b.       In certain circumstances, a U.S. citizen living abroad can file an immigrant visa petition outside the United States. Review Filing Immigrant Petitions Outside the United States to learn more.

c.       U.S. Sponsor Minimum Age Requirement

                                                               i.      U.S. citizens must be age 21 or older to file petitions for siblings or parents. There is no minimum age for a sponsor to file petitions for all other categories of family based immigrant visas. However, a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident (LPR) must be at least 18 years of age and have a residence (domicile) in the United States before he or she can sign an Affidavit of Support, Form I-864 or I-864-EZ. This form is required for an immigrant visa for a spouse and other relatives of U.S. sponsors.

d.      Is Residence in the U.S. Required for the U.S. Sponsor?

                                                               i.      Yes. As a U.S. sponsor/petitioner, you must maintain your principal residence (also called domicile) in the United States, which is where you plan to live for the foreseeable future. Living in the U.S. is required for a U.S. sponsor to file the Affidavit of Support, with few exceptions. To learn more, review the Affidavit of Support (I-864 or I-864EZ) Instructions.

e.       If You Were an LPR and Are Now a U.S. Citizen: Upgrading a Petition

                                                               i.      If you filed a petition for your spouse and/or minor children when you were a lawful permanent resident (LPR), and you are now a U.S. citizen, you must upgrade the petition from family second preference (F2) to immediate relative (IR). You can do this by sending proof of your U.S. citizenship to the National Visa Center (NVC). You should send:

1.       A copy of the biodata page of your U.S. passport; or

2.       A copy of your certificate of naturalization

                                                             ii.      Important Notice: If you upgrade a family second preference (F2) petition for your spouse and you did not file separate petitions for your minor children when you were a LPR, you must do so now. A child is not included in an immediate relative (IR) petition. (This is different from the family second preference (F2) petition, which includes minor children in their parent's F2 petition.)

                                                           iii.      Children born abroad after you became a U.S. citizen may qualify for U.S. citizenship. They should apply for U.S. passports. The consular officer will determine whether your child is a U.S. citizen and can have a passport. If the consular officer determines your child is not a U.S. citizen, the child must apply for an immigrant visa if he/she wants to live in the United States.

3.       Next Steps - Fees, Affidavit of Support, and Visa Application

a.       After USCIS approves the petition, it is sent to the National Visa Center (NVC). Once received, the NVC will assign a case number for the petition. For family preference immigrant visa cases, when an applicant’s priority date meets the most recent qualifying date, the NVC will instruct the applicant to complete Form DS-261, Choice of Address and Agent. (NOTE: If you already have an attorney, the NVC will not instruct you to complete Form DS-261.) The NVC will begin pre-processing the applicant’s case by providing the applicant and petitioner with instructions to submit the appropriate fees. After the appropriate fees are paid, the NVC will request that the applicant submit the necessary immigrant visa documents, including the Affidavit of Support, application forms, civil documents, and more. Learn more about National Visa Center visa case processing.

b.      Can My Family Members also Receive Immigrant Visas?

c.       Based on your approved petition, your spouse and minor unmarried children, younger than 21, may apply for immigrant visas with you. Like you, they must also fill out required application forms, obtain required civil documents, pay the required fees, and undergo medical examinations. Same-sex spouses of U.S. citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents(LPRs), along with their minor children, are now eligible for the same immigration benefits as opposite-sex spouses. Consular officers at U.S. Embassies and Consulates will adjudicate their immigrant visa applications upon receipt of an approved I-130 or I-140 petition from USCIS. For further information, please see our FAQ’s.

d.      Numerical Limitations

                                                               i.      All categories of family preference 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.

e.       Fees

                                                               i.      Fees are charged for the following services:

1.       Filing an immigrant Petition for Alien Relative, Form I-130 (this fee is charged by USCIS). 

2.       Processing an immigrant visa application, Form DS-260 (see Note below)

3.       Medical examination and required vaccinations (costs vary)

4.       Other costs may include: translations; photocopying charges; fees for obtaining the documents you need for the immigrant visa application (such as passport, police certificates, birth certificates, etc.); and expenses for travel to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate for your visa interview. Costs vary from country to country and case to case.

                                                             ii.      For current fees for Department of State services, see Fees for Visa Services. For current fees for USCIS services, see Check Filing Fees on the USCIS website.

                                                           iii.      Note: Fees must be paid for each intending immigrant, regardless of age, and are not refundable.

                                                           iv.      Fees should not be paid to the NVC or paid at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where you have your visa interview unless specifically requested. Applicants will be provided with instructions by the NVC on where and when to pay the appropriate fees. Do not send payments to the NVC's address in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

f.        Required Documentation

                                                               i.      In general, the following documents are required:

1.       Passport(s) valid for six months beyond the intended date of entry into the United States, unless longer validity is specifically requested by the U.S. Embassy/Consulate in your country. Please review the instructions for guidance.

2.       Affidavit of Support (Form I-864I-864AI-864 EZ, or I-864W, as appropriate) from the petitioner/U.S. sponsor. In addition to this guidance, tips are available for completing the affidavit of support (tips for I-864tips for I-864Atips for I-864EZ, and tips for I-864W).  

3.       Form DS-260, Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration Application.

4.       Preview a sample DS-260 (6.4MB).

5.       Two (2) 2x2 photographs. See the required photo format explained in Photograph Requirements.

6.       Civil Documents for the applicant (and petitioner in F4 cases). See Documents the Applicant Must Submit for more specific information about documentation requirements, including information on which documents may need to be translated. The consular officer may ask for more information during your visa interview. Bring your original civil documents (or certified copies), such as birth and marriage certificates, as well as legible photocopies of the original civil documents, and any required translations to your immigrant visa interview. Original documents and translations can then be returned to you.

7.       Completed Medical Examination Forms – These are provided by the panel physician after you have completed your medical examination and vaccinations (see below).

g.       Visa Interview

                                                               i.      Once the NVC determines the file is complete with all the required documents, they schedule the applicant’s interview appointment. NVC then sends the file, containing the applicant’s petition and the documents listed above, to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where the applicant will be interviewed for a visa. The applicant, attorney, and third-party agent, if applicable, will receive appointment emails, or letters (if no email address is available), containing the date and time of the applicant's visa interview along with instructions, including guidance for obtaining a medical examination. 

                                                             ii.      Each applicant should bring a valid passport to the interview, as well as any other documentation above not already provided to NVC. A consular officer will interview the applicant, and the consular officer will determine whether the applicant is eligible to receive an immigrant visa in accordance with U.S. immigration law. Ink-free, digital fingerprint scans will be taken on the day of the interview. Generally, an applicant receives original civil documents and original translations back at the time of interview

h.      F2A Spouse of Lawful Permanent Resident Visa Applicants: Rights and Protections - Pamphlet

                                                               i.      You should read the Rights and Protections pamphlet before your visa interview to learn about your rights in the United States relating to domestic violence, sexual assault, and child abuse and protection available to you. The consular officer will verbally summarize the pamphlet to you during your interview.

i.        Medical Examination and Vaccinations

                                                               i.      Important Notice: In preparing for your interview, you will need to schedule and complete your medical examination and any required vaccinations before your visa interview. Before an immigrant visa can be issued, every applicant, regardless of age, must undergo a medical examination which must be performed by an authorized panel physician. NVC provides applicants instructions regarding medical examinations, including information on authorized panel physicians. See Medical Examination for more information, including a list of panel physicians by country, and frequently asked questions.

j.        Vaccination Requirements

                                                               i.      U.S. immigration law requires immigrant visa applicants to obtain certain vaccinations prior to the issuance of immigrant visas. See Vaccination Requirements for IV Applicants for the list of required vaccinations and additional information.

k.       How Long Does it Take?

                                                               i.      Family preference immigrant visa cases take additional time because they are in numerically limited visa categories. The length of time varies from case to case and cannot be predicted for individual cases with any accuracy. Some cases are delayed because applicants do not follow instructions carefully. Some visa applications require further administrative processing, which takes additional time after the consular officer interviews the applicant.

l.        Visa Ineligibility

                                                               i.      Certain conditions and activities may make an applicant ineligible for a visa. Examples of these ineligibilities include: drug trafficking; overstaying a previous visa; and submitting fraudulent documents. If you are ineligible for a visa, you will be informed by the consular officer and advised whether there is a waiver of the ineligibility available to you and what the waiver process is. Ineligibilities and Waiver: Laws contains the complete list of ineligibilities.

m.    Misrepresentation of Material Facts or Fraud

                                                               i.      Attempting to obtain a visa by the willful misrepresentation of a material fact or fraud may result in you becoming permanently ineligible to receive a U.S. visa or enter the United States.

n.      When You Have Your Immigrant Visa - What You Should Know

                                                               i.      If you are issued an immigrant visa, the consular officer will give you your passport containing the immigrant visa and a sealed packet containing the documents which you provided. It is important that you do not open the sealed packet. Only the U.S. immigration official should open this packet when you enter the United States. You are required to enter the United States before the expiration date printed on your visa. When traveling, the primary (or principal) applicant must enter the United States before or at the same time as family members holding visas.

o.       USCIS Immigrant Fee - You must pay the USCIS Immigrant Fee to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) after you receive your immigrant visa and before you travel to the United States. Only children who enter the United States under the Orphan or Hague adoption programs are exempt from this fee. Select USCIS Immigrant Fee on the USCIS website for more information. Important Notice: USCIS will not issue a Permanent Resident Card (Form I-551 or Green Card) until you have paid the fee.

4.       Entering the United States: Port-of-Entry

a.       A visa allows a foreign citizen to travel to the U.S. port-of-entry and request permission to enter the United States. Applicants should be aware that a visa does not guarantee entry into the United States. The DHS, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials have authority to permit or deny admission to the U.S. Travelers should review important information about admissions and entry requirements on the CBP website under Travel.

b.       Once you have paid the USCIS Immigrant Fee (explained above) and have been admitted to the United States as a permanent resident, your Permanent Resident Card, Form I-551 (formerly called Alien Registration Card, also known as a green card) will be mailed to you. (Intercountry adoption IR-3, IH-3, IR-4 and IH-4 visa holders do not pay the USCIS Immigrant fee.)

5.       How to Apply for a Social Security Number Card

a.       If you elected on your immigrant visa application form to receive your Social Security Number Card upon admission to the United States as an immigrant, your card will be sent by mail to the U.S. address you designated on your application form, and should arrive approximately six weeks following your admission. If you did not elect to receive your Social Security Number Card automatically, you will have to apply to be issued a card following your arrival in the United States. Learn more on Social Security Administration website.

6.       When You Are a Permanent Resident

a.       Coming to the United States to live permanently, you will want to learn more about your status as a Lawful Permanent Resident. See Welcome to the United States: A Guide for New Immigrants to review information on the USCIS website about living in the United States.

7.       Additional Information

a.       Immigrant visa applicants should not make any final travel arrangements, dispose of property, or give up jobs until and unless visas are issued. Some visa applications require further administrative processing, which takes additional time after the visa applicant's interview. An immigrant visa is generally valid for six months from the issuance date.

8.       General Visa Questions

a.       Before submitting your inquiry, we request that you carefully review this website for answers to your questions. Because of the volume of inquiries, we cannot promise an immediate reply to your inquiry.

b.       If your inquiry concerns a visa case in progress overseas, you should first contact the U.S. Embassy or Consulate handling your case for status information. Select U.S. Embassy or Consulate to find contact information.

c.       You can find contact information for our Public Inquiries Division at Contact Us.

1.       Immigrant Visa for a Spouse or Fiancé(e) of a U.S. Citizen

a.       Spouse

                                                               i.      If you are a U.S. citizen you have two ways to bring your foreign spouse (husband or wife) to the United States to live. They are

1.       Immigrant visa for a Spouse of a U.S. Citizen (IR1 or CR1) - An immigrant Petition for Alien Relative, Form I-130 is required. Learn more.

2.       Nonimmigrant visa for spouse (K-3) - It is important to note that application for the nonimmigrant visa for spouse (K-3) who married a U.S. citizen must be filed and the visa must be issued in the country where the marriage took place. After the visa process has been completed, and the visa is issued, the spouse can travel to the United States to wait for the processing of the immigrant visa case. Two petitions are required:  Petition for Alien Relative, Form I-130, and Petition for Alien Fiancé(e), Form I-129F.  Learn more.

b.      Fiancé(e)

                                                               i.      If you are a U.S. citizen, you may bring your fiancé(e) to the United States to marry and live here, with a nonimmigrant visa for a fiancé(e) (K-1). An I-129F fiancé(e) petition is required. Learn more

c.       Important Notice: Same-sex Marriage

                                                               i.      Same-sex spouses of U.S. citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents (LPRs), along with their minor children, are now eligible for the same immigration benefits as opposite-sex spouses. Consular officers at U.S. Embassies and Consulates will adjudicate their immigrant visa applications upon receipt of an approved I-130 or I-140 petition from USCIS. For further information, please see our FAQ’s.

The Immigrant Visa Process

1.       Petition

a.       This section of the website provides step-by-step webpages explaining the process for family and employment-based immigration, and describes what you will need to do. You may want to use this in combination with the visual, Immigrant Visa Process Overview flow diagram.

b.       The family relationships and specific types of employment that can be sponsored for immigration purposes are based on U.S. immigration laws, which establish both the allowable immigrant visa categories, requirements for eligibility, and procedures. While many family relationships can be sponsored, some family relationships cannot be sponsored to immigrate to the United States. To immigrate based on employment, both employer and prospective employee must meet certain requirements. 

c.       The petition filed by the U.S. sponsor must be approved by USCIS before you can begin the steps in immigrant visa application process. Learn more about filing a petition.

 

d.       Section 1: Submit a Petition

                                                               i.      About Submitting a Petition

1.       To apply for an immigrant visa, a foreign citizen must be sponsored by a U.S. citizen relative(s), U.S. lawful permanent resident, or by a prospective employer, and be the beneficiary of an approved petition. A first step in the process is the sponsor filing a petition with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). 

a.       A U.S. citizen can file an immigrant visa petition for:

                                                                                                                                       i.      Spouse

                                                                                                                                     ii.      Son or daughter

                                                                                                                                   iii.      Parent

                                                                                                                                   iv.      Brother or sister

b.       A U.S. lawful permanent resident (that is, a green-card holder) can file an immigrant visa petition for:

                                                                                                                                       i.      Spouse

                                                                                                                                     ii.      Unmarried son or daughter
 

                                                             ii.      Petitions Required to be Filed in the United States

1.       U.S. citizens and lawful permanent resident sponsors residing in the United States file Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, with the USCIS Chicago Lockbox facility, following instructions on the USCIS website. U.S. employers file Form I-140, Petition for Alien Worker, as instructed on the USCIS website. 

 

                                                           iii.      Filing Petitions Outside the United States

1.       While most immigrant visa petitions are filed in the United States, filing certain types of petition forms outside the United States is limited. Learn about filing petitions outside of the United States.

                                                           iv.      Petition Approval

1.       Your immigrant petition must be approved by USCIS before you can begin the immigrant visa application process.  

2.       After Your Petition is Approved

a.       Petitions (Forms I-130 and Forms I-140) approved by USCIS in the United States are sent to the Department of State's National Visa Center (NVC) for pre-processing. When your petition becomes current, or is likely to become current within one year, the NVC initiates immigrant visa pre-processing, including collecting visa fees, forms, and documents from sponsors (petitioners) and immigrant visa applicant(s).

b.      Number of Visas Each Year is Limited in Some Categories

                                                               i.      United States laws limit the number of immigrant visa numbers available each year in certain visa categories. This means that even if USCIS approves an immigrant visa petition for you, you may not get an immigrant visa number immediately. In addition, U.S. law also limits the number of visas available in certain categories by country. For limited categories, the availability of immigrant visa numbers depends on the date your petition was filed. This is called your priority date. 

c.       Next Steps

                                                               i.      The next steps in the process for family and employment based petitions varies by immigrant category, as explained below:

If a petition was filed on your behalf as:

Then:

  • Spouse of a U.S. citizen
  • Number is not limited. Next:Begin NVC Processing
  • Unmarried child (under age 21) of a U.S. citizen
  • Parent of a U.S. citizen who is age 21 or older
  • Adult sons and daughters of U.S. citizens
  • Number is limited each year. Next: Check Priority Dates
  • Brothers and sisters of adult U.S. citizens
  • Spouses and children of U.S. lawful permanent residents
  • Employment based, except for certain special immigrants

 

d.      The NVC performs immigrant visa pre-processing, including collecting visa fees, forms, and documents from sponsors (petitioners) and immigrant visa applicant(s). Therefore, it is important to await contact from the NVC for next step instructions before you pay fees or submit any forms or documents.

e.       NVC will notify you when your case becomes current or is likely to become current within a year, and will ask you to begin next steps in processing your approved petition.

 

f.        Section 1: Check Priority Date

                                                               i.      Visa Bulletin

1.       USCIS, in coordination with Department of State (DOS), is revising the procedures for determining visa availability for applicants waiting to file for employment-based or family-sponsored preference adjustment of status. The revised process will better align with procedures DOS uses for foreign nationals who seek to become U.S. permanent residents by applying for immigrant visas at U.S. consulates and embassies abroad.

2.       See more information on the changes here: USCIS Announces Revised Procedures for Determining Visa Availability for Applicants Waiting to File for Adjustment of Status.

3.       Archived Visa Bulletins: Online versions of the Visa Bulletin are for informational purposes only and every effort has been made to ensure their accuracy. Any questions regarding a cut-off date for a specific month can often be confirmed by consulting an official copy of the Visa Bulletin, available upon request from the Visa Office.

                                                             ii.      Fiscal Year 2017

                                                           iii.      Comprehensive Lists of Final Action Dates:

1.       The lists below are updated annually. Please refer to the Visa Bulletins above for final action dates established during the current fiscal year.

2.       Please refer to the Visa Bulletins above for specific Employment Fourth (E4) Preference final action dates for El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras (beginning with the May 2016 Visa Bulletin). 

                                                           iv.      Family Preference

                                                             v.      Employee Preference

 

g.       Section 2: Begin National Visa Center (NCV) Processing

                                                               i.      Welcome to the homepage of the National Visa Center (NVC). You have come to this page because you received a letter or email from NVC directing you here after NVC received your approved petition from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Please complete Steps 1-6 below to complete pre-processing of your immigrant visa application. These steps are necessary before NVC can schedule your visa interview at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate overseas. If you have not been directed to this page by letter or email from NVC, you will find general information about the immigrant visa process here.

                                                             ii.      IMPORTANT: Frequently Asked Questions on Immigrant Visa Processing for Citizens of Iran, Syria, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen (updated March 13, 2017)

                                                           iii.      Please make sure NVC has a working e-mail address for at least one party on your case. (A case party is the petitioner, beneficiary, or agent/attorney.) This allows NVC to e-mail you information and instructions rather than send them via traditional mail, which means you will receive items like NVC’s responses to submitted documents and notice of your visa interview appointment more quickly. If you need to add, update, or change your contact information at any time, please call 1-603-334-0700 or use our online inquiry form. Remember that each time you contact NVC, you’ll need to provide your case number, petitioner’s full name, and the beneficiary’s full name and date of birth.

h.      If You Are Filing an Adjustment of Status

                                                               i.      If you are physically present in the United States and will apply for adjustment of status with USCIS, then your case will not be processed by the NVC. (You will not apply for an immigrant visa.) Do not pay any fees or submit any forms to the NVC. Notify the NVC by email or mail as soon as you decide to pursue adjustment of status.

i.        If You Are Applying for a Provisional Unlawful Presence Waiver

                                                               i.      If you plan to apply for a Provisional Unlawful Presence Waiver, you must submit proof of payment of your IV application fee with your provisional waiver Form I-601A application to USCIS. After you pay the IV application fee online, you can print your payment confirmation from the  Consular Electronic Application Center  (CEAC). Visit the webpage,  Provisional Waiver–NVC FAQs (PDF - 196 KB)  for more information. A Spanish translation is availablehere (PDF - 203 KB). USCIS will notify the NVC that you have applied for a provisional unlawful presence waiver.

j.        Important Notice: Termination of Registration

                                                               i.      Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) section 203(g) provides that the Secretary of State shall terminate the registration (petition) of any alien who fails to apply for an immigrant visa within one year of notice of visa availability. The petition may be reinstated if, within two years of notice of visa availability, the alien establishes that the failure to apply was for reasons beyond the alien’s control. Therefore if you do not respond to notices from the NVC within one year you risk termination of your petition under this section of law and would lose the benefits of that petition, such as your priority date.

k.        

 

l.         Section 3; Step 1: Choose an agent

                                                               i.      Your first step is to choose an agent.

                                                             ii.      Your agent will receive communication from the NVC about your case. You may act as your own agent or you may choose your petitioner, a family member, friend, attorney, immigration professional, or any other person you trust. You may have an agent that represented you and the petitioner in the petition process with USCIS. However, you will need to formally select an agent to represent you for your visa processing.

                                                           iii.      To choose your agent, complete the Choice of Address and Agent (DS-261) form in the e Consular Electronic Application Center.

1.       Please allow up to 3 weeks for the NVC to process your DS-261 before continuing to the next step.

 

m.     Section 4; Step 2: Pay Fees

                                                               i.      After you choose your agent, you need to pay your processing fees. There are two processing fees:

1.       Immigrant Visa Application Processing Fee

2.       Affidavit of Support Fee

                                                             ii.      You should pay these fees online at the Immigrant Visa Invoice Payment Center. You will need a bank routing number and a checking or savings account number from a U.S. bank. The image below shows the routing number, account number, and check number on a personal check. The order of these numbers may differ on your check and may include some special symbols different from those shown. You can contact your financial institution for specific details.

                                                           iii.      You will also need your NVC Case Number and Invoice ID Number (located on the NVC Welcome Letter you received from us). Once you obtain this information, log into the Immigrant Visa Invoice Payment Center and pay your fees. Please note you cannot pay these two fees simultaneously; the online system will ask you to pay them one at a time.

1.       After submitting your payment online, please allow up to 1 week for NVC to process your fee payments before continuing to the next step. You will not be able to access Form DS-260 until NVC has processed your payments.

3.       Collect and Submit Forms and Documents

a.       After you have completed Step 1 (Choose an agent) and Step 2 (Pay fees), you will submit your visa application form, and collect and submit the required documents to the the National Visa Center (NVC). This process will be explained in Steps 3 through 6.

b.       After the necessary forms and documents have been collected, and when your priority date is current (if applicable), the NVC will schedule your interview at the appropriate U.S. Embassy or Consulate. The NVC will then transfer your case file to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate.

 

c.       Section 1; Step 3: Submit Visa Application Form

                                                               i.      After you pay your fees, you and each qualified family member immigrating with you must complete the Application for Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration (Form DS-260) in the Consular Electronic Application Center (CEAC). You may wish to preview a sample  DS-260 (PDF - 6.4MB) before beginning.

                                                             ii.      Submitting Form DS-260 does not formally execute a visa application.  The visa application is not formally made until the visa applicant(s) is interviewed by a U.S. consular officer.

                                                           iii.      Note: You will need your NVC Case Number, Beneficiary ID Number, and Invoice ID Number from your NVC Welcome Letter, to access CEAC.

                                                           iv.      After submitting Form DS-260 online, you must print the confirmation page and bring it to your interview. You can print this from CEAC any time after you complete your DS-260 application.

 

d.       Section 2; Step 4: Collect Financial Documents

                                                               i.      After you submit your visa application, you may need to collect documents showing your petitioner has the ability to financially support you in the United States. You will submit these documents to NVC in Step 6.

                                                             ii.      Petitioners are required to submit an Affidavit of Support form and evidence of their income. The Affidavit of Support form, also called the I-864, is legally required for most family-based and some employment-based immigrants. It is a legal contract between the petitioner (sponsor) of an immigrant visa applicant and the U.S. government. Generally, the following intending immigrants need an Affidavit of Support:

1.       Applicants for family-based immigrant visas, including certain orphans.

2.       Applicants for employment-based immigrant visas where a relative filed the immigrant visa petition or has a five percent or greater ownership interest in the business that filed the petition.

3.       There is a detailed explanation of who needs an Affidavit of Support and who is exempt below. You can also review the instructions for each form (I-864EZ, I-864, I-864A, and I-864W) on USCIS’s website

                                                           iii.      To gather the required financial documents, your petitioner (the person who filed the petition on your behalf) must do the following:

1.       Complete an Affidavit of Support form

a.       There are several Affidavit of Support forms. Each form applies to different people – and in some cases, the immigrant visa applicant will complete a form. The table below will help your petitioner determine which Affidavit of Support form to complete.

b.       For more information about Affidavit of Support requirements and forms, review Affidavit of Support on the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website. You can also find answers to frequently asked questions on this website. Use the information in these FAQs and on this website with, not instead of, the detailed instructions for the Affidavit of Support forms on USCIS’s website.

If...  

Then…

You filed an employment petition (Form I-140 or I-526) and you own five percent or more of the business entity that filed the petition.

Complete Form I-864, and bring it to the interview. You do not need to submit it to the NVC.

See tips for completing I-864

You filed an employment petition (Form I-140 or I-526) and you own less than five percent of the business entity that filed the petition.

You do not need to complete an Affidavit of Support form.

Continue to the next step.

The applicant you are sponsoring has earned or can be credited with at least 40 eligible quarters under the Social Security Act.

Complete Form I-864W
See tips for completing I-864W

You are a U.S. citizen and you are sponsoring a natural or adopted child, other than a stepchild, who is under 18 years old.

All three of the following are true:

1.       You filed a Form I-130 petition for your relative;

2.       There is only one applicant on the Form I-130 petition; and

3.       The income you are using to qualify is based entirely on your salary or pension and is shown on one or more Forms W-2 provided by your employer(s) or former employer(s).

Complete Form I-864EZ
See tips for completing I-864EZ

If none of the above apply and you meet the minimum income requirement.

Complete Form I-864
See tips for completing I-864

If none of the above apply and you are using the income of other household members to meet the minimum income requirement.

The sponsor must complete Form I-864 and each household member must complete Form I-864A

See tips for completing I-864 and tips for completing I-864A

If none of the above apply and:

You do not meet the minimum income requirement and are using a joint sponsor, and

You are not using the income of other household members to qualify.

The sponsor and the joint sponsor must each complete Form I-864

See tips for completing I-864

2.       Obtain financial evidence

a.       After your financial sponsor(s) complete the Affidavit of Support form, they should gather supporting evidence of their income. This will be submitted to NVC in Step 6. Additional supporting evidence may be requested by the consular officer at the visa interview.  Review the table below to determine what supporting financial evidence to collect with the Affidavit of Support. Remember that each financial sponsor – your petitioner, any joint sponsors, and any household members – must submit an Affidavit of Support, proof of income, and proof of their legal status and domicile in the United States.

Financial Evidence

Description

IRS Tax Transcript

If you completed Form I-864I-864A, or I-864EZ submit an IRS tax transcript from the most recent tax year.

 

Extensions: If you filed an extension for the most recent tax year, submit a photocopy of your IRS Form 4868  (PDF - 509 KB) or write and sign a statement indicating you filed an extension.

If you did not file taxes: If you did not file Federal Income Tax Returns for the most recent tax year, write and sign a statement indicating why you did not file taxes.

If you cannot obtain an IRS tax transcript: If you are unable to obtain an IRS tax transcript, submit a photocopy of your IRS Federal Income Tax Returns and Form(s) W-2 or schedule(s) from the most recent tax year.

Evidence of income

If you completed Form I-864I-864A, or I-864EZ and the income reported on this form or your tax return reflects income below the poverty guidelines for the year the form was submitted, submit evidence of your income. This can include the following documents:

  • ·         For those who are employed by an individual or company, submit a photocopy of an employment letter, pay stub, or pay advance (direct-deposit receipt) that meets the criteria below:
  • o   Includes your name and the company’s name;
  • o   Is on signed, business letterhead (you cannot sign the letter yourself); and
  • o   Is issued within the last three months.
  • ·         For those who are self-employed, obtain a photocopy of one of the following:
  • o   Your business license.
  • o   A signed letter on business letterhead that was written within in the last three months.
  • o   A contract between you as an independent contractor and a company.
  • ·         For those who are unemployed or retired, submit a photocopy of ongoing income from other means, such as:
  • o   retirement benefits;
  • o   other household members' income; or
  • o   other significant assets.
  • ·         If you are currently self-employed in any of the following ways, you do not need to obtain submit evidence of income:
  • o   Babysitter, elderly caretaker, construction worker, handyperson, housekeeper, landlord, musician, nanny, seamstress, tailor, artist, or writer.

Proof of relationship

·         If you completed Form I-864A, submit evidence that proves your relationship to the sponsor (the person who filed Form I-864). You can prove your relationship by submitting a photocopy of one of the documents below:

o   Birth certificate;

o   Marriage certificate;

o   Adoption certificate;

o   The petitioner or joint sponsor’s most recent Federal Income Tax Returns, if you are listed as a dependent; or

o   A signed, written statement describing the relationship.

Proof of domicile

·         If you completed Form I-864I-864A, or I-864EZ and your mailing address and/or place of residence is not in the United States, but your country of domicile is the United States, write an explanation and provide documentary evidence indicating how you meet the domicile requirement. Review our FAQs to learn more about domicile.

Proof of U.S. status

·         If you completed Form I-864 as a joint sponsor, submit proof that you are a U.S. citizen, U.S. national, or Lawful Permanent Resident. You can do this by submitting a photocopy of one of the following documents:

o   Birth certificate showing birth in the United States;

o   U.S. Naturalization Certificate;

o   U.S. passport/passport card;

o   Form I-551 “green card;” or

o   Foreign passport containing Form I-94 with I-551 stamp (if you entered the United States by land) or an electronic Form I-94 record (if you entered the United States by air or sea).  You can request an electronic Form I-94 recordfrom USCIS online.  

Social Security Administration (SSA) Earnings Statement

If the principal applicant completed Form I-864W because he or she can be credited with 40 eligible quarters under the Social Security Act, submit his or her SSA Earnings Statement showing the coverage.

You can obtain an SSA Earnings Statement online at http://ssa.gov/myaccount. You can also call the Social Security Administration at 1-800-772-1213 for more information. 

Proof of Assets

If you submitted Form I-864 or I-864A and you used assets to meet the minimum income requirements, submit a photocopy of proof you own your assets. Proof can take any form as long as it:

·         lists your name as the owner; and

·         Includes the value of the asset expressed in currency.

 

e.       Section 3; Step 5: Collect Supporting Documents

                                                               i.      After you collect your financial forms and supporting financial evidence, you and each family member immigrating with you to the United States should collect the civil documents that are required to support your visa application. You need to: 

1.       Gather the documents that apply to you using the information below.

2.       Send a photocopy of all required civil documents to NVC. (see submission instructions in Step 6).

3.       Bring the original documents (or certified copies) plus a photocopy to your visa interview at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate.

                                                             ii.      All documents not written in English, or in the official language of the country in which you are applying for a visa, must be accompanied by certified translations. The translation must include a statement signed by the translator stating that:

1.       The translation is accurate, and

2.       The translator is competent to translate.

                                                           iii.      Your civil documents must be issued by an appropriate authority in your country. Use the Document Finder tool below to learn about the requirements for each country.

                                                           iv.      Then review each category of civil documents listed below, and obtain any that apply to you or your immigrating family members. You will submit photocopies of these documents to NVC in Step 6.

                                                             v.      Important Notice on Missing Documents: If a required document is unavailable per the country-specific guidelines in the Document Finder tool, you do not need to submit them to NVC. However, if you cannot obtain a required document for another reason, you must submit a detailed written explanation to NVC when you submit your other documents. The consular officer will then determine at the time of the visa interview whether you must obtain the missing document before a visa can be issued. As a general rule, any document that is listed as “available” on the Document Finder tool must be reviewed by a consular officer. Failure to obtain all required documents will delay your case.

1.       Adoption Documentation

a.       If an intending immigrant child was adopted and if the child’s application to immigrate is based upon a parent-child relationship, then you must submit the below custody documents.

b.       If you are the adoptive parent and/or petitioner, you must provide:

                                                                                                                                       i.      A certified copy of the adoption decree.

                                                                                                                                     ii.      The legal custody decree if custody occurred before the adoption.

                                                                                                                                   iii.      A statement showing dates and places where the child resided with the adoptive parents.

                                                                                                                                   iv.      If the child was adopted when aged 16 or 17 years old, you must submit evidence that the child was adopted with, or subsequent to, the adoption of a natural sibling under age 16 by the same adoptive parent(s).

c.       Send a photocopy of the above documents to NVC.

d.       Bring the original documents (or certified copies) plus a photocopy to your visa interview at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate.

e.       For country-specific guidelines on how to obtain acceptable adoption and custody documents, use the Document Finder above.

2.       Birth Certificates

a.       You and each family member immigrating with you must obtain an original birth certificate or certified copy.

                                                                                                                                       i.      Send a photocopy of each birth certificate to NVC.

                                                                                                                                     ii.      Bring the original birth certificate plus a photocopy to your visa interview at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate.

b.       For country-specific guidelines on how to obtain acceptable birth certificates, use the Document Finder above.

3.       Court and Prison Records

a.       If you were convicted of a crime, you must obtain a certified copy of each court and prison record, even if you were later granted amnesty, a pardon, or other act of clemency.

                                                                                                                                       i.      Send a photocopy of each court and prison record to NVC.

                                                                                                                                     ii.      Bring the certified copy of each court and prison record plus a photocopy to your visa interview at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate.

b.       For country-specific guidelines on how to obtain acceptable court and prison records, use the Document Finder above.

4.       Marriage Certificates

a.       If you are married, you must obtain an original marriage certificate or certified copy.

                                                                                                                                       i.      Send a photocopy of your marriage certificate to NVC.

                                                                                                                                     ii.      Bring the original marriage certificate plus a photocopy to your visa interview at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate.

b.       For country-specific guidelines on how to obtain acceptable marriage certificates, use the Document Finder above.

5.       Marriage Termination Documentation

a.       If you were previously married, you must obtain evidence of the termination of EVERY prior marriage you have had. Your evidence must be an original or certified copy of one of the following documents:  FINAL legal divorce decree, death certificate, or annulment papers.

                                                                                                                                       i.      Send a photocopy of your marriage termination document(s) to NVC.

                                                                                                                                     ii.      Bring the original termination document(s) plus a photocopy to your visa interview at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate.

b.       For country-specific guidelines on how to obtain acceptable marriage termination documents, use the Document Finder above.

6.       Military Records

a.       If you served in the military of any country, you must obtain a photocopy of your military record.

                                                                                                                                       i.      Send a photocopy of your military records to NVC.

                                                                                                                                     ii.      Bring a photocopy of your military records to your visa interview at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate.

b.       For country-specific guidelines on how to obtain acceptable military records, use the Document Finder above.

7.       Petitioner Documents

a.       If you are applying for an IR5 visa as the parent of a U.S. citizen or for an F4 visa as the brother or sister of a U.S. citizen:  You must obtain an original birth certificate for your petitioner, or a certified copy.

                                                                                                                                       i.      Send a photocopy of your petitioner's birth certificate to NVC.

                                                                                                                                     ii.      Bring the original petitioner’s birth certificate plus a photocopy to your visa interview at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate.

b.       If you are applying for an IR1, CR1, or F2A visa as the spouse of a U.S. citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident and your petitioning spouse was previously married:  You must obtain evidence of the termination of EVERY prior marriage your petitioning spouse has had. This evidence must be an original or certified copy of one of the following documents:  FINAL legal divorce decree, death certificate, or annulment papers.

                                                                                                                                       i.      Send a photocopy of the petitioner’s marriage termination document(s) to NVC.

                                                                                                                                     ii.      Bring the original petitioner’s termination document(s) plus a photocopy to your visa interview at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate.

c.       For country-specific guidelines on how to obtain acceptable birth certificates and marriage termination documents, use the Document Finder above. 

8.       Photocopy of Valid Passport Biographic Data Page

a.       You and each family member immigrating with you must submit a photocopy of the biographic data page of a currently valid passport. The biographic data page is the page with your photograph, name, date, and place of birth.

                                                                                                                                       i.      Send a photocopy of your biographic data page to NVC.

                                                                                                                                     ii.      Bring your original passport plus one photocopy of the biographic data page to your visa interview at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate.

b.       Important: Do not send your original passport to NVC. You need this document to travel.

                                                                                                                                       i.       the Document Finder above.

9.       Police Certificates

a.       If you are 16 years of age or older, you must submit a photocopy of a police certificate from all countries you have lived in using below criteria:

If you ...

AND you...

THEN submit a police certificate from...

Are 16 years old or older

Lived in your country of nationality for more than 6 months at any time in your life

Your country of nationality

Are 16 years old or older

Have lived in your country of current residence (if different from nationality) for more than 6 months

Your country of current residence

Have ever lived in another country for 12 months or more

Were 16 years or older at the time you lived there

The country where you used to live.

Were arrested for any reason, regardless of how long you lived in that city or country, and no matter what age you were

 

The city and/or country where you were arrested.

                                                                                                                                       i.      Send a photocopy of your police certificate(s) to NVC.

                                                                                                                                     ii.      Bring the original police certificate(s) plus a photocopy to your visa interview at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate.

b.       Note: Present and former residents of the United States do NOT need to submit any U.S. police certificates.

c.       Important: Police certificates expire after one year, unless the certificate was issued from your country of previous residence and you have not returned there since the police certificate was issued. If at the time of your interview the following three items are all true, you must bring a new police certificate to your visa interview:

                                                                                                                                       i.      You are more than 16 years old;

                                                                                                                                     ii.      The police certificate submitted to NVC was obtained more than one year ago; and

                                                                                                                                   iii.      You still live in the country that issued the certificate.

d.       For country-specific guidelines on how to obtain acceptable police certificates, use the Document Finder above.

                                                           vi.      Review Embassy/Consulate Instructions

1.       Civil and personal documents may differ from country to country, depending on availability. There may be additional instructions for obtaining civil documents or additional documents you need to submit. These will be submitted to the NVC in Step 6. Select the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where you will apply for a visa to learn what additional requirements there are, if any.

 

f.        Section 4; Step 6 Submit Documents to the VC

                                                               i.      After you collect the financial evidence in Step 4, and supporting documents in Step 5, you must submit all of these items in ONE package to NVC. Your case may be significantly delayed if you don't submit all of your documents at the same time.

                                                             ii.      IMPORTANT: Do not send your original passport or original civil documents such as birth, and marriage certificates. Instead, submit a photocopy of these documents to NVC. However, you must bring these original documents to your visa interview. This is true no matter what method you use to submit documents to NVC. 

                                                           iii.      There are four ways to submit documents to NVC. The method you use depends on where you are interviewing. Look at your NVC case number and match it to the method below to find out how to submit your documents to NVC. 

                                                           iv.      Current case review time

1.        Please allow up to 11 weeks for NVC to review your forms and documents once we receive both the petitioner’s financial documents and the applicant’s civil documents. You must also have paid all required fees and submitted your visa application online. We will not review your file until we have received all of the above items. At that time, we will let you know if there are additional items required or if visa pre-processing is complete.

2.       Check our nvc.state.gov/status page to ensure you've taken all the steps necessary for NVC to review your case.

                                                             v.      Method 1: Email processing required

1.       If your NVC case number begins with one of the following prefixes:

a.       AKD

b.       AMM

c.       BGH (except I-730 petitions)

d.       DMS

e.       GZO

2.       Scan and save your financial forms and evidence, supporting civil documents, and translations as a PDF file. Then send them to NVCelectronic@state.gov as attachments to an email. Please type your case number in the subject line of the email. You can attach multiple PDFs to a single email, but each PDF can be no more than 5 MB (megabytes) in size. If you have more than one case number, use a different email message for each case. For more information, review our Document Scanning FAQs.

                                                           vi.      Method 2: Choice of processing

1.       **Exception: Any category below marked with an asterisk (**) may be required to process electronically. Please see Method #3 below to see if this applies to you.

2.       Important: Once you select a method, you cannot switch methods later in the process.

 

                                                          vii.      Method 3: Upload documents online using CEAC required

  • If Your NVC Case Number Begins With
  • And Your Visa Category Is
  • And you Received
  •  
  • BNS, FRN, HNK
  •  
  • MTL, RDJ, SYD
  •  
  • IR1, IR2, IR5, CR1, CR2,                                    
  • F1, F2A, F2B, F3, F4
  •  
  • A letter from NVC saying “You May Begin Online Processing”
  •  
  • (See sample letter below)

                                                        viii.       

1.       Scan and save your financial forms and evidence, civil documents, and translations. Then upload these documents to your CEAC account online. (CEAC is the Consular Electronic Application Center where you also pay fees and complete the Form DS-260 visa application.) Instructions and more information are on our Managing Your IV Case Online page. Please note this method is required for visa applicants who received this letter from NVC. If you didn’t receive this letter, please use Method #2 above.

                                                            ix.      Click here to see a sample of the letter NVC sends to applicants who are required to use online processing

 

                                                             x.      Method 4: Mail processing

1.       If neither of the above methods apply to your case, mail your financial forms and evidence, supporting documents, translations, and photocopies, along with the Document Cover Sheet included with your NVC Welcome Letter, to the following address:

a.       National Visa Center
Attn: DR
31 Rochester Ave. Suite 100
Portsmouth, NH03801-2914

2.       If your Document Cover Sheet is missing, you can print a new one online. Go to ceac.state.gov and click on “Fee Payment” under the “Immigrant” category. You will be asked to enter your NVC case number and Invoice ID number. After doing so, scroll to the bottom of the page and click on the “Print Document Cover Sheet” button. You can also choose to email yourself a copy of your document cover sheet for printing at a later time.

3.       NVC cannot accept documents saved on any form of electronic media, including CDs and memory cards.  If you send any electronic media to NVC, we will return it to you unopened.

                                                            xi.      IMPORTANT NOTICE:

1.       Immigrant visa (IV) applicants currently working with the National Visa Center (NVC) to complete their IV applications should make sure NVC has a working e-mail address for at least one party on their case.  (A case party is the petitioner, beneficiary, or agent/attorney.)  If you have not previously given NVC an e-mail address where you can be contacted, please call 1-603-334-0700 to provide your e-mail information.  When you call, have your case number, petitioner’s full name, and the beneficiary’s full name and date of birth available.  NVC will then be able to e-mail you information and instructions rather than send them via traditional mail, which means you will receive items like NVC’s responses to submitted documents and notice of your visa interview appointment more quickly.

4.       Interview

a.       After you have paid the necessary fees and submitted the required immigrant visa application, Affidavit of Support, and supporting documents to the National Visa Center (NVC), they will review your file for completeness. Once your case becomes qualified for an interview, NVC will work with the appropriate U.S. Embassy or Consulate to schedule an appointment for you.

b.       NVC schedules appointments one month in advance.  The U.S. Embassy or Consulate General tells NVC what dates they are holding interviews, and NVC fills these appointments in a first-in, first-out manner.  Most appointments are set within 60 days of NVC receipt of all requested documentation. However, we cannot predict when an interview appointment will be available.

c.       An interview appointment letter is sent to you (the applicant), as well as your petitioner (sponsor), and your agent/attorney (if applicable) to notify you and them of the date, time, and location of the interview once the embassy has an appointment available. There may be a wait of several months for an interview date to become available.

d.       Supporting documents are sent to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate.

                                                               i.      Once your interview appointment is scheduled, NVC sends the immigrant visa petition, visa application, and all related forms and documents which were submitted to NVC to the appropriate U.S. Embassy/Consulate.

e.       Important Next Steps

                                                               i.      After receiving notification that an interview has been scheduled, it is important that you (and any family members applying to immigrate with you) prepare for the visa interview. Review Interview FAQs. Each visa applicant will need to complete a number of important next steps in advance of the interview date, including (not a complete list):

1.       Gather original forms and documents - You must bring the required original forms and documents to your immigrant visa interview.

2.       Schedule and complete a medical examination with the authorized physician(s).

                                                             ii.      Select Prepare for the Interview above to learn about these important next steps.

f.        Important Applicant Notice

                                                               i.      Based on U.S. law, not everyone who applies for a visa will be found eligible to come to the United States. There are a number of possible reasons why someone might not qualify for a visa. The circumstances of each case are different. Approved visas generally are not available on the day of interview.

g.       It is important that you do not make arrangements, such as selling your house, car or property, resigning from your job or making non-refundable flight or other travel arrangements until you have received your immigrant visa.

  

h.      Section 1: Prepare for the Interview

                                                               i.      Important Notices

1.       All applicants - Read the below information carefully. If you do not bring all required documents to your appointment, your case will be delayed. You may need to return to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate at another date and your visa may be delayed or denied.

2.       Spouses of U.S. Citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents (IR-1/CR/1 and F2A visas) - You should read the Rights and Protections pamphlet before your visa interview to learn about your rights in the United States relating to domestic violence, sexual assault, and child abuse and protection available to you. The consular officer will verbally summarize the pamphlet to you during your interview.

                                                             ii.      After NVC schedules your visa interview appointment, they will send you, your petitioner, and your agent/attorney (if applicable) an email or letter noting the appointment date and time.  After you receive an interview appointment letter from NVC, you must take the following steps BEFORE the interview date.

 

                                                           iii.      Step 1: Schedule and Complete a Medical Examination

1.       You (and each family member or “derivative applicant” applying for a visa with you) are required to schedule a medical appointment with an authorized physician in the country where you will be interviewed. You must complete your medical examination, along with any required vaccinations, BEFORE your scheduled visa interview date. This exam must be with an embassy-approved doctor.  Exams conducted by other physicians will not be accepted.

2.       Read embassy-specific instructions and get a list of approved doctors on the Medical Examination page. After your exam, the doctor will either send the exam results directly to the embassy or give you a sealed envelope.  If the doctor gives you an envelope, do not open it.  Instead, bring it to your visa interview and give it to the consular officer.

 

                                                           iv.      Step 2: Register for Courier Service/Other Pre-Interview Instructions

1.       Many U.S. Embassies and Consulates require visa applicants to pre-register for courier services. This service is for returning applicant passports and visas to them after the interview. Each consular section also has unique entry and security requirements, including whether applicants can bring cell phones into the embassy or consulate. Before your interview, read the specific requirements for where you will be interviewed. Select the city of the U.S. Embassy or Consulate from the

This document may contain other requirements specific to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where your interview will be held, so please read these instructions carefully.

 

                                                               i.      Step 3: Gather Documents Required for the Interview

1.       Every visa applicant no matter their age must bring certain documents to the interview, including photographs, the original version of all civil documents submitted to NVC, copies of those documents, and financial documents from the petitioner and any other financial sponsors.  Please review Items Your Must Bring to Your Visa InterviewYou must bring the documents on this list even if you submitted a photocopy of them to NVC. 

2.       What happens if you forget to bring something on this list?  The consular officer will not be able to complete the processing of your visa. You will have to gather the missing items and provide them to the embassy, and may have to come for additional interviews. Failure to bring all items on the above list can delay visa issuance.

 

                                                             ii.      Step 4: Read and View Additional Information

1.       Watch our video, Preparing for Your U.S. Immigrant Video Interview, on YouTube. This instructional video is also available in SpanishPortugueseFrenchRussianChineseArabic, and Urdu. Read our Interview Preparation Notices and the U.S.& Embassy or Consulate website where you will be interviewed for additional information. You can also read our Frequently Asked Questions. Remember, failure to bring all required documents to the interview may cause delay or denial of the visa.

 

i.         Section 2; Visa Applicant Interview

                                                              i.      Attend Your Interview

1.       Prior to the interview, ensure you have followed the U.S. Embassy or Consulate interview preparation instructions. On the scheduled date and time of your interview appointment, go to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate. A consular officer will interview you (and accompanying family member beneficiaries) and determine whether or not you can receive an immigrant visa. As part of the interview process, ink-free, digital fingerprint scans will be taken.

                                                             ii.      Who Must Attend the Interview?

1.       You, your spouse, and any qualified unmarried children immigrating with you, must participate in the interview.  All applicants required to participate will be named on the interview appointment letter you receive from the NVC.

2.       If your spouse and/or qualified unmarried children will immigrate at a later date and travel separately from you, they are not required to participate in your interview. They will be scheduled for a separate interview appointment. You should contact the U.S. Embassy or Consulate directly to arrange separate interviews, if needed.

3.       Your sponsor/petitioner does not attend the visa interview.

                                                           iii.      What to Bring to the Interview

1.       The applicant is responsible to bring all required original civil documents, and photocopies of the original civil documents, to the visa interview. Failure to bring all required original civil documents and the photocopies to the interview may cause delay or denial of the visa.  The following documents must be available at the interview:

a.       Appointment Letter – The interview appointment letter you received from the NVC.

b.       Passport – For each applicant, an unexpired passport valid for six months beyond the intended date of entry into the United States

c.       Photographs – Two identical color photographs for each applicant, which must meet the general Photograph Requirements

d.       Medical Exam Results – If the panel physician gave you sealed envelopes containing each applicant’s medical examination results, please bring those unopened envelopes.  Some physicians send the medical examination results directly to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate.

e.       Original and Supporting Documents – Original documents (or certified copies) and a photocopy of each document (with the exception of your passport and photographs) are required for you and each family member applying for a visa. As explained in the Interview Preparation webpage, the NVC will forward your application and any other documents you sent to the NVC to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate prior to your interview. 

2.       You must bring all your original forms and documents with you.

3.       Your original documents will be returned to you when the interview has been completed. The photocopies will be kept.

a.       English Translations – If documents requiring English translation were not sent to the NVC, you must obtain them and present them on the day of your interview. For more information review Interview Preparation and Original Documents

b.       Visa Fees – If your visa application fees were collected by the NVC, you do not need to pay again. However, if you or any family member did not pay all the necessary fees, you will be asked to pay any unpaid fees at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate. 

                                                           iv.      Important Notice

1.       You should not make permanent financial commitments, such as selling your house, car or property, resigning from your job or making non-refundable flight or other travel arrangements until you have received your immigrant visa.

                                                             v.      Additional Information

1.       Failure to Appear for Interview - If you cannot appear at your scheduled interview, contact the U.S. Embassy or Consulate as soon as possible.  If you do not contact the U.S. Embassy or Consulate within one year of receiving your interview appointment letter, your case may be terminated and your immigrant visa petition cancelled, and any fees paid will not be refunded.

2.       Need to change the interview date and time - Review Interview Guidelines for the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where your interview is scheduled.

3.       My spouse and/or children were going to follow me to the United States after I immigrate. Can they accompany me instead? - Yes, you may change your spouse’s and/or children's status from follow-to-join to accompanying by directly contacting the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where your interview is scheduled.  This may be done prior to your immigrant visa interview, and additional forms and documents may need to be provided.

4.       Can my children also receive immigrant visas, even if they were not originally part of the case? - If the immigrant visa category in which you are applying includes derivative children, your qualified unmarried children under the age of 21 may be added as derivative applicants after your interview has been scheduled. Contact the U.S. Embassy or Consulate for specific instructions. At the interview, the additional applicant(s) will be required to pay the same fees and submit the same forms and supporting documents as you.

5.       Visa eligibility: My child will turn 21 years old soon - Children generally must be unmarried and under age 21 to qualify as derivative visa applicants, or to qualify for immigrant visas individually in the IR-2 or F-2A visa categories. Also, they generally must enter the United States with immigrant visas while still under age 21. 

6.       Under, the Child Status Protection Act, some children might continue to qualify for a visa and enter the United States after reaching the age of 21.  If you have a child who will be turning 21 soon, you should have already notified the NVC.  The NVC may be able to expedite your case.  If you did not notify the NVC, then you should immediately contact the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where your interview is scheduled.  The U.S. Embassy or Consulate will determine whether an earlier appointment is needed. If your child no longer qualifies to immigrate with you based on age, then a separate petition must be filed for the child. There may be a significant delay before your child becomes qualified for a visa.

 

j.         Section 3; After the Interview

                                                               i.      Important Notice

1.       Do not sell your house, car or property,  resign from your job or make non-refundable flight or other travel arrangements until you have received your immigrant visa.

2.       At the end of your immigrant visa interview at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate, the consular officer will inform you whether your visa application is approved or denied.

                                                             ii.      Visa approval - When approved, you will be informed how and when your passport and visa will be returned to you.

                                                           iii.      Visa denial - If denied, you will be informed why you are ineligible to receive a visa. Review About Visa Denials below and the Denials webpage for more detailed information.

                                                           iv.      Visa Approval - When You Receive Your Visa

1.       Passport with Visa – Your immigrant visa will be placed on a page in your passport. Please review the printed information right away to make sure there are no errors. If there are any spelling errors, contact the embassy or consulate promptly. 

2.       Sealed Immigrant Packet - You will also receive a sealed packet containing documents that you must present to U.S. Customs and Border Protection at a port-of-entry (often an airport) upon your arrival in the United States. You must not open the sealed packet. 

3.       When You Should Travel - You must arrive and apply for admission in the United States no later than the visa expiration date printed on your visa. An immigrant visa is usually valid for up to six months from the date of issuance unless your medical examination expires sooner, which may make your visa valid for less than six months.

4.       USCIS Immigrant Fee -  You must pay the USCIS Immigrant Fee to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) after you receive your immigrant visa and before you travel to the United States. Only children who enter the United States under the Orphan or Hague adoption programs, Iraqi and Afghan special immigrants, returning residents (SB-1s), and those issued K visas are exempt from this fee. Select USCIS Immigrant Fee on the USCIS website for more information. Important Notice: USCIS will not issue a Permanent Resident Card (Form I-551 or Green Card) until you have paid the fee.

5.       Vaccination Records - Children are required to have certain vaccinations before they can enroll in school in the United States. Therefore, it is recommended that your child have complete vaccination records before immigrating. Learn about vaccination requirements by state on the Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website under State Vaccination Requirements.

6.       X-rays – Must be hand-carried with you, not packed in your luggage. 

                                                             v.      Entering the United States

1.       When traveling to the United States, the primary (or principal) applicant must enter before or at the same time as family members with visas. With your immigrant visa (before it expires), and sealed packet, you will travel to a U.S. port-of-entry (often an airport) and request permission to enter the United States. A visa does not guarantee entry into the United States.  The Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials have authority to grant or deny admission. Learn about admission and entry requirements on the CBP website under Travel. When you are admitted, you will enter as a Lawful Permanent Resident, also called a green card holder, and will be permitted to work and live permanently in the United States.

a.       When You are a Permanent Resident - Coming to the United States to live permanently, you will want to learn more about your status as a Lawful Permanent Resident. See Welcome to the United States: A Guide for New Immigrants to review information on the USCIS website about living in the United States.

b.      Social Security Number – To learn about the U.S. Social Security Administration benefits available to Legal Permanent Residents, and how to apply for a social security number card, visit the Social Security Administration website.

                                                           vi.      About Visa Denials

1.       In some situations the consular officer does not have sufficient information needed to process your application to conclusion, or you may be missing some supporting documentation. The consular officer will inform you if information or documents are missing and how to provide it.

2.       Some applications may require additional administrative processing after the interview before the application can be processed to conclusion. The consular officer will inform you if additional administrative processing is necessary.

                                                         vii.      Based on U.S. law, not everyone who applies is qualified or 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. See Ineligibilities for U.S. Visas. In some instances, the law might allow you to apply for a waiver or the ineligibility. If you are able to apply for such a waiver, the consular will advise you on the steps to take.

1.       The Immigrant Visa Process

a.       Foreign citizens who want to live permanently in the United States must first obtain an immigrant visa. This is the first step to becoming a lawful permanent resident.  

b.      Immigrating to the United States is an important and complex decision. In this section, you will learn about who may immigrate to the United States, the different types of immigrant visas, the required forms, and the steps in the immigrant visa process. Because most immigrants receive visas in the family or employment based visa categories, they are a key focus of this section. To be eligible to apply for an immigrant visa, a foreign citizen must be sponsored by a U.S. citizen relative, U.S. lawful permanent resident, or a prospective employer, with a few exceptions, explained below. The sponsor begins the immigration process by filing a petition on the foreign citizen’s behalf with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). 

 

2.       Immigrating Based on Family

a.       A U.S. citizen can file an immigrant visa petition for:

  •                                                                i.      Spouse
  •                                                              ii.      Son or daughter
  •                                                            iii.      Parent
  •                                                            iv.      Brother or sister

b.       A U.S. lawful permanent resident (that is, a green-card holder) can file an immigrant visa petition for:

  •                                                                i.      Spouse
  •                                                              ii.      Unmarried son or daughter

c.       As you get started:

                                                               i.      Learn more about Family Categories.

                                                             ii.      To begin the immigration process, your sponsoring family member must file an I-130 Petition for Alien Relative with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

 

3.       Employment-Based Immigration

a.       A U.S. employer can sponsor certain skilled workers who will be hired into permanent jobs. In some specialized fields, U.S. law allows prospective immigrants to sponsor themselves. In addition, U.S. law provides a number of special immigrant categories, as well as an immigrant investor program.

b.        As you get started:

                                                               i.      Learn more about Employment Categories

                                                             ii.      To begin the immigration process, your sponsoring employer must file an I-140 Petition for Alien Worker with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). In some categories, you can file the I-140 petition yourself.

 

4.       Number of Visas Each Year is Limited in Some Categories

a.       Regarding some of the immmigrant visa categories, United States law limits the number of visas available each year, with certain limits by country. In these limited categories, whenever the number of qualified applicants exceeds the available immigrant visas, there will be a waiting list. In this situation, the available immigrant visas will be issued in the chronological order in which the petitions were filed. The date your petition was filed is called your priority date.  You can learn more about priority dates.

 

5.       Other Immigrant Visa Categories

a.       Many immigrants receive visas in the family or employment based visa categories; however there are other immigrant visa categories. A U.S. citizen can also petition for the immigration of a foreign fiancé(e) to be married in the United States, or an orphan adopted abroad/to be adopted in the United States. Several immigrant visa categories that cover special types of workers or special circumstances are established by U.S. laws. (Learn more about special immigrant categories.) The United States also conducts an annual program for Diversity Visas. For these other visa categories, the immigrant process flow chart above does not apply; therefore, select from the category webpages under More Information above to learn how to apply in these visa categories.

1.       Immigrant Visa Process

a.       Children adopted from other countries must first obtain a U.S. visa before they can travel or move to the United States. Visas are issued at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in the foreign country where a child resides. Since a child being adopted abroad by a U.S. citizen parent(s) will usually be brought to live in the United States, that child will need an immigrant visa.

b.      Child's Eligibility

                                                               i.      Children being adopted abroad must be found eligible to immigrate under the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) in order to reside in the United States. Because adoption laws vary from country to country, it is sometimes possible to adopt a child abroad who does not qualify for immigration under U.S. law; such children cannot immigrate to the United States.

                                                             ii.      Under the INA, a child who is adopted abroad while under the age of 16 and who has been in the legal custody, and has resided with, his or her adoptive parent(s) for at least two years may be the beneficiary of a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) I-130 petition (Petition for Alien Relative) and receive an immigrant visa in the IR-2 category.

                                                           iii.      Most U.S. citizen prospective adoptive parents, however, are unable to live abroad to satisfy the two-year requirement. In such cases, children being adopted obtain an immigrant visa in one of two ways: one process applies to children in Hague Adoption Convention countries, and a separate process applies to children in countries that are not party to the Hague Adoption Convention. To learn which process to follow, check the State Department's list of Convention countries.

c.       Visa Process Steps: Convention and Non-Convention Countries

                                                               i.      To review the immigrant visa process for adoption cases, select one of the following:

1.       Adoption from a member country of the Hague Adoption Convention

2.       Adoption from a non-Convention country

d.      Notes on the Immigrant Visa Process

                                                               i.      To begin the immigrant visa process, prospective adoptive parents submit forms and documents to USCIS. After USCIS reviews the paperwork, a case is assigned to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in the country where the child resides. All children adopted abroad require an immigrant visa interview at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate before coming to reside permanently in the United States. The Embassy or Consulate schedules the final visa interview once all required documents have been provided. The Department of State is committed to processing immigrant visas for adopted children expeditiously. Keep in mind, however, that the time required to issue your child's visa will depend on the specific circumstances in his or her country of residence. To learn more about the immigrant visa process, review our How to Adopt web page and overviews of the Convention and non-Conventionvisa processes.

e.       Getting Help

                                                               i.      The immigrant visa process is complicated, but you are not on your own. Your adoption agency or an immigration attorney can help. The Department of State also responds to public inquiries on obtaining immigrant visas for adopted children. Before making an inquiry, please review the visa section on travel.state.gov and the website of the relevant U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad. To ask a question about immigrant visas, contact the National Visa Center at (603) 334-0700 (7:00 a.m. EST to 12:00 a.m. EST) or e-mail: NVCINQUIRY@state.gov. Remember that information about a specific visa case is confidential and generally cannot be given to third parties.

                                                             ii.      For questions about other adoption matters, please contact the Office of Children's Issues

1.       Adoption Process

a.       This section provides an overview of the intercountry adoption process. The process varies greatly, as it is governed by the laws of the countries where the adoptive parents and the child reside (which in the case of the United States means both federal and state law), and also in which of these locations the legal adoption is finalized. Additionally, if the child's home country is a party to the Hague Adoption Convention, the Hague processes of both countries must be followed. Prospective adoptive parents should consider all of these factors when evaluating what to expect.

b.      Adoption Forms

                                                               i.      Hague Process

                                                             ii.      Non-Hague Process

                                                           iii.      Certificate of Citizenship

c.       Why Adopt?

                                                               i.      "The child, for the full and harmonious development of his or her personality, should grow up in a family environment, in an atmosphere of happiness, love and understanding. … [I]ntercountry adoption may offer the advantage of a permanent family to a child for whom a suitable family cannot be found in his or her State of origin."

                                                             ii.      -Hague Adoption Convention, Preamble

1.       Every child benefits from a loving home in deeply profound ways. Intercountry adoption has made this permanently possible for hundreds of thousands of children worldwide. When children cannot remain with a relative and new parents within their communities cannot be found, intercountry adoption opens another pathway to children to receive the care, security, and love that a permanent family can provide.

                                                           iii.      Some additional resources:

1.       Child Welfare Information Gateway - A service of the Children's Bureau, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

2.       Medline Plus - A service of the U.S. National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health

3.       A Healthy Beginning: Important Information for Parents of Internationally Adopted Children – a brochure from the American Academy of Pediatrics

d.       How to Adopt?

                                                               i.      Intercountry adoptions are governed by three sets of laws:  U.S. federal law, the laws of the child's country of residence, and the laws of your U.S. state of residence.

                                                             ii.      The time it takes to adopt a child from another country and bring that child to the United States varies widely.  Generally, it takes one to four years, though it can take longer.  The length of time depends on a number of factors, including the country of origin's procedures, the adoption service provider's process, the U.S. immigration process, and the specific circumstances of the adoption.  See our Country Information on the adoption process in over 175 countries.

                                                           iii.      Adoption service providers are to disclose all expected costs associated with your adoption before you sign an adoption services contract.  This is required of providers for adoptions under the Hague Convention.  This requirement will extend to all intercountry adoption service providers in July, 2014.  See Working with an Adoption Service Provider for more information.

                                                           iv.      Hague Adoption Convention

1.       The United States is part of an important treaty on intercountry adoption called the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption (Hague Adoption Convention).  The treaty governs adoptions between the United States and approximately 90 other countries.  The process of adopting a child from a Convention country differs in several key ways from adopting a child from a country not party to the Convention.  See Who Can be Adopted for more information about the Convention and Orphan adoption process.

                                                             v.      Support During the Process

1.       Adopting a child from abroad takes patience and determination.  Not only is the intercountry adoption process complex, but unexpected complications may arise.  Because the process can take so long, finding emotional support during this time can be helpful.  You may also find it beneficial to consult with other parents or support groups about issues and concerns associated with adoption.

2.       Here are some good places to start your support group search:

3.       NOTE: Inclusion of non-U.S. Government links does not imply endorsement of contents.

e.       Deciding Where to Adopt

                                                               i.      The Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption (Hague Adoption Convention) governs adoptions between the United States and approximately 90 other nations.

1.       The Hague Adoption Convention entered into force for the United States on April 1, 2008.

2.       The Department of State is the U.S. Central Authority for the Hague Convention, and oversees compliance with both the Convention and the Intercountry Adoption Act of 2000 (IAA). In this role, the Department of State also serves as U.S. liaison with other adoption Central Authorities around the world.

3.       The Hague Adoption Convention protects children and their families against the risks of unregulated adoptions abroad, and ensures that intercountry adoptions are in the best interests of the children involved. The Convention also serves to prevent the abduction, sale of, or traffic in children.

                                                             ii.      The protections extended under the Hague Adoption Convention to children and families are not necessarily available when adopting from countries outside the scope of the Convention.

                                                           iii.      The adoption of a foreign-born child does not automatically guarantee the child's eligibility to immigrate to the United States. It is imperative that all adoptive parents are aware of U.S. immigration law and legal regulatory procedures. For more information about immigration to the U.S., please visit the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website for more information.

                                                           iv.      Contact with Birth Parents

1.       The Hague Adoption Convention generally forbids prospective adoptive parents from having any contact with the child's birth parents, and/or the child's legal guardians before the country of birth determines the child is adoptable according to Convention principles and refers the child for adoption to a family.

                                                             v.      Some additional resources:

1.      FAQ: 

1.       Universal Accreditation Act of 2012

a.       The following information explains the impact of the Intercountry Adoption Universal Accreditation Act of 2012 (UAA). Under the UAA, adoption service providers working with prospective adoptive parents in non-Convention adoption cases need to comply with the same accreditation requirement and standards that apply in Convention adoption cases.

2.       UAA Frequently Asked Questions

a.       What is the purpose of the UAA?

                                                               i.      The Intercountry Adoption Universal Accreditation Act of 2012 (UAA) extends the safeguards provided by accreditation to orphans who are being adopted from countries that are not party to the Hague Adoption Convention, to their adoptive parents, and to their birth parents. This ensures that adoption service providers are all held to the same federal standards, no matter from which country a child is adopted.

                                                             ii.      Accredited and approved adoption service providers are subject to ongoing monitoring and oversight. This holds accredited providers accountable for failure to be in substantial compliance with the accreditation standards.

                                                           iii.      Safeguards under the UAA are universal because the UAA applies the same Hague Adoption Convention-compatible standards in the accreditation regulations to all intercountry adoptions.

 

b.       Why have federal standards in intercountry adoption? 

                                                               i.      Before the Intercountry Adoption Act of 2000 (IAA), adoption service providers in intercountry adoption were exclusively regulated by state law.

                                                             ii.      State licensing authorities in the 50 states have different standards; some have few specific standards governing intercountry adoptions, especially relating to agencies’ conduct abroad.

                                                           iii.      Many state licensing authorities have been unable to hold service providers accountable for illicit practices in intercountry adoption cases. State laws may not apply to the activities of licensed agencies outside the United States, and states often lack the resources to investigate and take action against agencies involved in such cases.

                                                           iv.      The UAA provides for uniform standards and accountability for service provider conduct in every country.

 

c.       What are the safeguards resulting from accreditation under the intercountry adoption accreditation regulations?

d.       The Intercountry Adoption Act of 2000 (IAA) and the regulations implementing the Hague Adoption Convention protect against the illicit activities and practices of the past that threatened the best interests of children. Key protections include:

                                                               i.      Children may not be obtained for adoption through sale, exploitation, abduction, and trafficking;

                                                             ii.      Parents receive training in advance of the adoption to understand what to expect when raising an adopted child and to prepare them for some of the challenges;

                                                           iii.      The agency or person must ensure that intercountry adoptions take place in the best interests of children;

                                                           iv.      Fees must be transparent for services performed both in the United States and abroad and may not result in improper gain for the service provider;

                                                             v.      U.S. Department of State-appointed accrediting entities monitor and assess accredited agency compliance with federal standards;

                                                           vi.      Accrediting entities ensure accountability when accredited agencies do not substantially comply with the standards by taking appropriate adverse actions against them, which may include suspension or cancellation of their accreditation;

                                                          vii.      Accrediting entities ensure that accredited agency personnel are qualified and appropriately trained and provide adoption services in an ethical manner;

                                                        viii.      Accredited agencies must respond to complaints about their services and activities and may not retaliate against clients who complain.

 

e.       On or after July 14, 2014, do I have to use an accredited or approved provider, or can I act on my own behalf in the intercountry adoption process? 

                                                               i.      As of July 14, 2014, the UAA applies to all non-Convention cases (also known as orphan cases) unless the case has been grandfathered under the transition provisions, which are explained on the USCIS website. If your case is not grandfathered, you will need to work with an accredited agency or approved person to act as the primary provider in your case. Under 22 CFR Part 96 (the accreditation regulations), a primary provider is responsible for:

1.       Ensuring that all six adoption services defined at 22 CFR 96.2 are provided ;

2.       Supervising and being responsible for supervised providers where used (see 22 CFR 96.14); and

3.       Developing and implementing a service plan in accordance with 22 CFR 96.44.

                                                             ii.      Only accredited agencies or approved persons can act as primary providers.

                                                           iii.      You may still act on your own behalf in your own adoption case if permitted under the laws of the state in which you reside and the laws of the country from which you seek to adopt. Although you do not need accreditation or approval to act on your own behalf, your actions need to comply with applicable law, and you will still need to work with an accredited agency or approved person to act as the primary provider in your case. A primary provider helps to ensure that non-Convention adoption services are provided reflecting the same standards of practice and ethical conduct as in Convention cases.

                                                           iv.     
The Department strongly recommends working with an accredited or approved adoption service provider that will act as primary provider from the outset of each intercountry adoption case. Proceeding with your intercountry adoption case without an accredited or approved primary provider may delay or impede the completion of the case and may increase the overall cost of the case. 
 

f.        Can I do an independent adoption? 

                                                               i.      The terms independent adoption, private adoption, or family adoption are not defined in U.S. law or regulation and may be used in different ways depending on the context. Please refer to our FAQ on the use of primary providers and prospective adoptive parents acting on their own behalf, above.

 

g.       How can I complete an adoption in a country of origin if the primary provider is precluded from acting in that non-Convention country, or if no accredited or approved adoption service provider is authorized to act in a Convention country?

                                                               i.      In all Convention cases and non-UAA grandfathered non-Convention cases the U.S. citizen prospective adoptive parent(s) needs to work with an accredited or approved adoption service provider who will act as "primary provider" in the case. Adoption service providers (ASPs) must act in accordance with the laws of the country of origin. Countries of origin (COOs) approach the use of accredited or approved ASPs differently; some do not permit any U.S. ASPs to provide services directly or to supervise providers in the COO; others permit only a limited role for primary providers.

                                                             ii.      Regardless of limitations placed upon them by the COO, under 22 CFR 96.44, primary providers are responsible for developing and executing a service plan for providing the six adoption services by providing services directly, or through arrangements with others. The service plan identifies which person or entity will provide each adoption service. Where the primary provider is prohibited by the country of origin's law or regulation from acting or from supervising foreign providers in the country of origin, the prospective adoptive parent(s) (PAPs) may be able to act on their own behalf in the case. In those cases, the ASP and PAPs work jointly to identify which foreign public authority or foreign provider will provide each service. Working cooperatively is especially important when the adoption process in the COO is not fully transparent and identifying responsible authorities to complete adoption services is challenging. A good place to start to learn about a country of origin's intercountry adoption process, and to identify for the service plan which person or entity will provide each adoption service, is the adoption country information sheet for the country where you seek to adopt. Click here to find the country information sheets on this website.

                                                           iii.      Once a service has been completed, the primary provider should obtain documentation concerning the completion of the service from the service provider directly if appropriate or in rare instances, indirectly from the PAPs. If consents were obtained or a home study or child background study was performed by a foreign provider, the primary provider would use this information to verify that these services were provided in accordance with local law and the Convention. For more information on the verification process as it relates to foreign (unsupervised) providers, see the FAQ on verification.

                                                           iv.      Note: The above does not address situations in which Convention countries have authorized at least one U.S. adoption service provider.

h.       For purposes of the UAA, what is a “foreign provider” and what does it mean for the primary provider to verify certain services performed by a foreign provider?

                                                               i.      The UAA requires that the same accreditation requirement and standards that apply in Convention cases apply in non-Convention cases. One aspect of this requirement is that an accredited or approved primary adoption service provider must be identified in each intercountry adoption case, unless an exception applies. The primary provider is responsible for ensuring that all adoption services are provided. Adoption services provided abroad may be provided by the primary provider directly or by certain other entities, including central authorities, competent authorities, public foreign authorities, foreign supervised providers (supervised by the primary provider in the case), or other foreign providers (an agency, person, or other non-governmental entity who is not supervised by a primary provider). (See 22 CFR 96.2 for definitions of some of these terms.) In incoming cases, foreign providers who are not supervised may only provide two services: obtaining necessary consents and performing and reporting on a child background study. If such adoption service is performed by a foreign provider who is not supervised, the primary provider must confirm that the foreign provider performed the adoption service in accordance with applicable foreign law and, to the extent possible, the relevant article of the Hague Adoption Convention. (See 22 CFR 96.14(c) and 22 CFR 96.46(c)(1) and (2) for details.) The primary provider verifies a foreign provider’s provision of these adoption services through review of the relevant documentation, and other appropriate steps.

 

i.         When a primary provider and an accredited or approved home study preparer are both active in a case and the primary provider withdraws from the case, does the accredited or approved home study preparer automatically become the primary provider? 

                                                               i.      An accredited or approved home study preparer acts as the primary provider if no other accredited agency or approved person is providing adoption services in the case. However, if both a primary provider and an accredited or approved home study preparer are providing adoption services in a case, and the primary provider subsequently withdraws before all adoption services are completed, the accredited or approved home study preparer does not automatically assume the responsibility of primary provider. In such circumstances, the prospective adoptive parents will need to hire a new accredited agency or approved person to act as the primary provider.

 

 

 

j.         Can I still adopt a child from a non-Convention country after July 14, 2014?

                                                               i.      Yes. The UAA extends accreditation and approval requirements to intercountry adoptions of children from non-Convention countries. U.S. citizens may still adopt eligible children from both Convention and non-Convention countries provided that intercountry adoption is permitted by the child's country of origin.

 

k.       Does the Universal Accreditation Act of 2012 apply to domestic adoptions in the United States?

                                                               i.      No. The UAA only applies to intercountry adoptions by U.S. citizens of children from other countries that are not parties to the Convention. It does not extend the accreditation or approval requirements to services provided in the United States associated with domestic adoptions.

 

l.         What is accreditation?

                                                               i.      In this context, accreditation is the evaluation and certification process of recognizing that an adoption service provider’s practice substantially complies with federal standards of practice. It is a transparent process involving assessment of the agency’s or person’s compliance with the accreditation standards, a site visit by the accrediting entity, and other input. More information on the accreditation process is available on the COA website.

                                                             ii.      The system used to make accreditation decisions is described in the Substantial Compliance System document available at the following link: Substantial Compliance System.

 

m.     What does it mean to accredit agencies and to approve persons?

                                                               i.      The Intercountry Adoption Act of 2000 (IAA) distinguishes between agencies and persons.

                                                             ii.      The U.S. accreditation regulations define an agency to mean:

1.       A private, nonprofit organization licensed to provide adoption services in at least one State.
See 22 CFR 96.2.
Agencies may be accredited.

                                                           iii.      The U.S. accreditation regulations define a person to mean:

1.       An individual or a private, for-profit entity (including a corporation, company, association, firm, partnership, society, or joint stock company) providing adoption services. It does not include public domestic authorities or public foreign authorities.
See 22 CFR 96.2.
Persons may be approved.

 

n.       Who needs to be accredited or approved?

                                                               i.      Starting July 14, 2014, the UAA effective date, any agency or person providing adoption services in intercountry adoption cases involving orphan children (as defined under INA 101(b)(1)(F) - scroll down to letter (F) in this link), and Convention adoptees (as defined under INA 101(b)(1)(G) - scroll down to letter (G) in this link) must be accredited or approved, or be a supervised or exempted provider. The only exception concerns cases covered by the grandfathering provisions of the UAA. See the guidance on grandfathering.

                                                             ii.      The definition of adoption services includes:

1.       Identifying a child for adoption and arranging an adoption;

2.       Securing the necessary consent to termination of parental rights and to adoption;

3.       Performing a background study on a child or a home study on a prospective adoptive parent(s), and reporting on such a study;

4.       Making non-judicial determinations of the best interests of a child and the appropriateness of an adoptive placement for the child;

5.       Monitoring a case after a child has been placed with prospective adoptive parent(s) until final adoption; or

6.       When necessary because of a disruption before final adoption, assuming custody and providing (including facilitating the provision of) child care or any other social service pending an alternative placement.
See 22 CFR 96.2 Definitions.

 

o.       What happens on or after July 14, 2014, the UAA effective date, if the adoption service provider is not accredited or approved? 

                                                               i.      Agencies or persons that continue to provide adoption services in non-UAA grandfathered cases without accreditation, supervision, or exemption, are subject to the civil and criminal penalties in the IAA. Civil penalties include fines up to $100,000 and criminal penalties include fines up to $250,000 or imprisonment up to 5 years or both. IAA Section 404.

 

p.       How much does it cost for agencies and persons to become accredited or approved?

                                                               i.      Accreditation is self-funded; the agency or person seeking accreditation pays for the cost of accreditation as well as ongoing monitoring and oversight.

                                                             ii.      The U.S. Department of State reviews and approves the schedule of fees charged by the accrediting entity. The total fees the AE expects to collect may not exceed the total cost of accreditation or approval.

                                                           iii.      The Council on Accreditation (COA), the Department of State-designated AE, publishes information on its policies and procedures including a fee schedule for accreditation services. For fee information follow this link to the COA website. (Scroll down to “Fee Information for Hague Accreditation and Approval”).

 

q.       Does every agency/person need to be accredited/approved? What if an agency only provides a small part of the adoption? Does it still need to be accredited?

                                                               i.      Consistent with the IAA and the UAA, the relevant accreditation regulation ( 22 CFR 96.12(a)), clarifies that in Convention adoption cases and in orphan process cases “an agency or person may not offer, provide, or facilitate the provision of any adoption service in the United States…unless it is

1.       An accredited agency or an approved person;

2.       A supervised provider; or

3.       An exempted provider, if the exempted provider’s home study or child background study will be reviewed and approved by an accredited agency pursuant to 22 CFR 96.47(c).

                                                             ii.      The provision of the following six specific adoption services require accreditation or approval:

1.       Identifying a child for adoption and arranging an adoption;

2.       Securing the necessary consent to termination of parental rights and to adoption;

3.       Performing a background study on a child or a home study on a prospective adoptive parent(s), and reporting on such a study;

4.       Making non-judicial determinations of the best interests of a child and the appropriateness of an adoptive placement for the child;

5.       Monitoring a case after a child has been placed with prospective adoptive parent(s) until final adoption; or

6.       When necessary because of a disruption before final adoption, assuming custody and providing (including facilitating the provision of) child care or any other social service pending an alternative placement. 22 CFR 96.2

                                                           iii.      22 CFR 96.13 lists circumstances in which accreditation or supervision is not required. Additionally, cases covered by the UAA transition rule (i.e., are UAA grandfathered) are exempted.

 

r.        What if an agency or person doesn't want to be accredited/approved but wants to keep helping families adopt abroad?

                                                               i.      The Intercountry Adoption Act of 2000 (IAA) permits non-accredited adoption service providers to provide Convention adoption services if supervised by an accredited agency. The UAA permits this practice in non-Convention cases.

                                                             ii.      Each U.S. supervised provider operates under a written agreement between the accredited provider and the supervised provider complying with 22 CFR 96.45.

                                                           iii.      The accredited agency supervising the non-accredited agency subjects itself to adverse action, which may include suspension or cancellation of its own accreditation, if it doesn’t appropriately supervise the actions of the supervised provider.

 

s.        Where can I find additional information about accreditation and approval?

                                                               i.      Extensive information on the accreditation of adoption service providers is available on this website, Adoption.State.gov, in the section entitled The Accreditation Process.

 

 

t.        Some organizations provide case management services for intercountry adoption cases. These organizations identify agencies or persons to provide adoption services but don't provide any adoption services themselves. Do these case management service organizations (CMSOs) require accreditation, approval, supervision, or exemption to provided coordination services?

                                                               i.      If the CMSO provides none of the six adoption services in the case, it does not need to be accredited, approved, supervised, or exempted. For example, if the CMSO locates a child placement agency to work with prospective adoptive families, but does not itself perform any of those child placement services that make up parts of the six adoption services it would not be required to be accredited, approved, or supervised. Likewise, if the CMSO locates an agency or person to provide post placement monitoring of the case before the adoption is final, but doesn’t itself provide any monitoring or other adoption services in the case, it does not need to be accredited, approved, or supervised.

                                                             ii.      Caveat: CMSOs are Not Primary Providers. A CMSO may not be the primary provider in an adoption case unless it is accredited or approved. Its coordination role must not be confused with the responsibility of the primary provider to ensure that all of the six adoption services are provided in accordance with applicable law and regulations.

 

u.       You published a new accreditation rule on July 14th. Can you help me understand the changes to the old accreditation and approval regulations found in 22 CFR Part 96? Can I provide comments to the rule for consideration by the Department of State?

                                                               i.      The new accreditation rule amends the Department’s regulation found at 22 CFR Part 96 to reflect the requirements of the Intercountry Adoption Universal Accreditation Act of 2012(UAA). A full description of the changes to the Hague accreditation rule is found at this link.

 

v.       UAA Grandfathering Guidance and Transition Case Guidance

                                                               i.      Grandfathering Guidance 
Transition Case Guidance

w.     Links to additional UAA information

1.       Intercountry Adoption

a.       Each year thousands of U.S. citizens adopt children from abroad and many families in other countries adopt U.S. children. Intercountry adoption is governed by both the laws of the country in which the child lives and the country in which the adoptive parents live. Under U.S. law, there are two distinct intercountry adoption processes: the Hague Convention process and the non-Hague Convention process. Which process you will follow will depend on whether or not the other country involved is also a party to the Hague Convention. In this website, we will guide you through and answer your questions about these processes.

2.       What is Intercountry Adoption? Last Updated: March 23, 2017

a.       Intercountry adoption is the process by which you:

                                                               i.      Adopt a child from a country other than your own through permanent legal means; and

                                                             ii.      Bring that child to your country of residence to live with you permanently.

b.       Intercountry adoption is similar to domestic adoption. Both consist of the legal transfer of parental rights and responsibilities from a child’s birth parent(s) or other guardian to a new parent or parents.

c.       Intercountry adoptions are different from domestic adoptions because of the laws that make it possible to bring the child to live where you live.  Generally speaking, to qualify as an adoption for immigration purposes into the United States, the adopted child must have the same status and relationship to the adoptive parents as a child by birth. What some countries call “adoptions” are more accurately described as guardianships under U.S. law and are not considered adoptions for U.S. immigration purposes.

d.       Although the process can be intimidating, families from the United States adopt thousands of children in need of permanent and loving homes from other countries each year. This website can provide you with valuable information on completing an intercountry adoption.

Special Immigrant Visas for Afghans - Who Were Employed by/on Behalf of the U.S. Government

1.       Afghan SIV Program Update

a.       The Consolidated Appropriations Act for FY 2017 as signed by President Trump on May 5, 2017 allocated 2,500 additional visas for Afghan principal applicants, for a total of 11,000 visas allocated since December 19, 2014.  The Department of State’s authority to issue Special Immigrant Visas (SIVs) to Afghan nationals under section 602(b) of the Afghan Allies Protection Act of 2009, as amended, will continue until all visa numbers allocated under the Act are used.

b.       The Department of State will resume full visa services for Afghan Special Immigrant Visa applicants, including scheduling visa interviews, as soon as possible. Please refer to the Visa Bulletin for updates on SIV availability.

                                                               i.      Overview

                                                             ii.      STEP 1 – Apply for Chief of Mission Approval

                                                           iii.      STEP 2 – File a Petition with USCIS

                                                           iv.      STEP 3 – Prepare for Your Visa Application

                                                             v.      STEP 4 – The Visa Interview

                                                           vi.      STEP 5 – Arrival in the United States

                                                          vii.      Contact Information

                                                        viii.      Quarterly Reports on Status of Afghan Program

                                                            ix.      References – U.S. Laws

c.       Note: You should NOT make any travel arrangements, sell property, or give up employment until and unless you are issued a U.S. visa.

 

2.       Overview

a.       What is this program?

                                                               i.      A special immigrant is a person who qualifies for lawful permanent residence under one of several programs.  Section 602(b) of the Afghan Allies Protection Act of 2009, as amended, is a special immigrant program which authorizes the issuance of Special Immigrant Visas (SIVs) to Afghan nationals who meet certain requirements and who were employed in Afghanistan:

1.       by or on behalf of the U.S. government in Afghanistan, or

2.       by the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), or a successor mission, in a capacity that required the applicant to serve as an interpreter or translator for U.S. military personnel while traveling off-base with U.S. military personnel stationed at ISAF or to perform sensitive and trusted activities for U.S. military personnel stationed at ISAF.

                                                             ii.      The SIV program requires applicants to have been employed for a minimum of two years, between October 7, 2001 and December 31, 2020. Applicants must also have experienced or be experiencing an ongoing serious threat as a consequence of their employment. For more information about the relevant U.S. laws, see References - U.S. Laws.

                                                           iii.      In addition to the information on this website, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has posted on its website a fact sheet and information on Form I-360 petitions for this program.

b.       This program is completely distinct from another program authorizing SIVs for certain Iraqi and Afghan translators/interpreters who worked directly with the United States Armed Forces or under COM authority, although some translators and interpreters may qualify under both programs. For information on that program, see Special Immigrant Visas for Iraqi and Afghan Translators/Interpreters.

 

c.       What is meant by fiscal year?

                                                               i.      The fiscal year begins on October 1 and ends September 30.

 

d.      What is meant by successor mission?

                                                               i.      The International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) mission ended on December 31, 2014, and the NATO-led Resolute Support Mission (RSM) began on January 1, 2015. Section 1227 of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for FY 2015 expanded the SIV program to certain Afghans who had been employed by ISAF, but did not provide for SIVs for Afghans employed by successor missions. Section 1216 of the NDAA for FY 2016 expands qualification to now include Afghans employed by ISAF successor missions. Certain Afghans employed by RSM, as well as any future successor missions to ISAF, may now qualify for the Afghan SIV program.  Applicants who were employed by ISAF, RSM, or a successor mission, or a combination of these entities, must meet all of the SIV program requirements explained in Step 1

 

e.       How many Special Immigrant Visas can be issued under this program?

                                                               i.      The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for FY 2017 authorized the issuance of 8,500 visas since December 19, 2014.  The program will end when all 8,500 visas have been issued. SIVs issued to a principal applicant’s spouse and children do not count toward the numerical limit.

 

f.        Who can apply for this program?

                                                               i.      You may apply for this program if you meet all of the following requirements:

1.       You must be a national of Afghanistan;

2.       You must have been employed in Afghanistan for a period of at least two years between October 7, 2001 and December 31, 2020: 

a.       by, or on behalf of, the U.S. government; in a capacity that required you to serve as an interpreter or translator for personnel of the Department of State or USAID; to serve as an interpreter or translator for U.S. military personnel; or to perform sensitive and trusted activities for the U.S. government; or

b.       by the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), or a successor mission, in a capacity that required you to serve as an interpreter or translator for U.S. military personnel while traveling off-base with U.S. military personnel stationed at ISAF, or a successor mission, or to perform sensitive and trusted activities for U.S. military personnel stationed at ISAF, or asuccessor mission;

3.       You must have provided faithful and valuable service to the U.S. government, or ISAF, or a successor mission, as applicable, which is documented in a letter of recommendation; and

4.       You must have experienced or be experiencing an ongoing serious threat as a consequence of such employment.

                                                             ii.      You must apply no later than December 31, 2020. Specific requirements for each step of the process are detailed below.

 

g.       What about my family? Can my family members immigrate with me?

                                                               i.      Your spouse, as well as unmarried children younger than age 21, may be granted SIVs, and may travel with you or may follow to join you after you have been admitted to the United States.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3.       STEP 1 - Apply for Chief of Mission Approval

a.       Click here   to view detailed Applicant Guidelines for Chief of Mission Approval in English (PDF - 246 KB)

 

b.      What documents are required for Chief of Mission (COM) approval?

                                                               i.      Follow the detailed Applicant Guidelines for Chief of Mission Approval.

                                                             ii.      The following documents are required from applicants who were employed by or on behalf of the U.S. government:

1.       Verification of at least two years of employment by or on behalf of the U.S. government in Afghanistan:  a letter from your employer’s Human Resources (HR) department confirming that you were employed by, or on behalf of, the U.S. government in Afghanistan between October 7, 2001 and December 31, 2020 for at least two years.

2.       Letter of Recommendation from your direct, U.S. citizen supervisor.

3.       Statement of threats you received as a consequence of your employment with the U.S. government.

4.       A completed  Form DS-157, Supplemental Nonimmigrant Visa Application (PDF - 278 KB).

5.       Evidence of Afghan nationality: A scanned copy of your passport or taskera (with English translation). (At the time of the visa interview, applicants must provide new Afghan machine-readable e-passports.)

6.       Your biographic data, and a scanned copy of your employee badge (if available).

                                                           iii.      The following documents are required from applicants who were employed by the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), or a successor mission:

1.       Verification of at least two years of employment with ISAF, or a successor mission:  a letter from the Human Resources (HR) department confirming that you were employed by ISAF, or a successor mission, for a period of two years or more between October 7, 2001 and December 31, 2020. If you were directly hired by ISAF, or a successor mission, this letter must be from ISAF Headquarters HR, or regardless of where you were stationed in Afghanistan.  If you were hired by an ISAF member nation, this letter must come from the department or agency that hired you.

2.       Letter of Recommendation from a member of the U.S. military who personally worked with you.

3.       Statement of threats you received as a consequence of your employment with the U.S. government.

4.       A completed Form DS-157, Supplemental Nonimmigrant Visa Application  (PDF - 278 KB).

5.       Evidence of Afghan nationality: A scanned copy of your passport or taskera (with English translation). (At the time of the visa interview, applicants must provide new Afghan machine-readable e-passports.)

6.       Your biographic data, and a scanned copy of your employee badge (if available).

 

c.       The National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2016 increased the required length of service to two years for Afghans submitting new applications after September 30, 2015. What required length of service must I demonstrate?

                                                               i.      Applicants who submit applications for Chief of Mission (COM) approval on or after October 1, 2015 must demonstrate two years of qualifying service. You are considered to have submitted an application for Chief of Mission (COM) approval if you sent an email to the National Visa Center indicating you are seeking COM approval and providing, at a minimum, your name, date of birth, evidence of Afghan nationality, and email address.  Applicants who submitted applications on or before September 30, 2015 must demonstrate one year of qualifying service.  

                                                             ii.      A complete application for COM approval requires all of the information and documents listed in the above Q/A and in the Applicant Guidelines for Chief of Mission Approval  (PDF - 291 KB), but an expression of interest, along with name, date of birth, evidence of Afghan nationality, and email address, is sufficient for determination of the date on which COM approval was sought.

 

d.      What is required in the HR letter from my employer?

                                                               i.      The HR letter should confirm that you were employed by, or on behalf of, the U.S. government, or by ISAF or a successor mission, for at least two years and must include the details outlined in the Applicant Guidelines for Chief of Mission Approval (PDF - 291 KB).

                                                             ii.      Afghans employed by an organization under a U.S. grant or cooperative agreement are not eligible for the SIV program; if you are unsure of whether this is the case, please inquire with your HR department before you apply for Chief of Mission approval. Afghans who were employed by contractors or subcontractors to work at ISAF, or a successor mission, do not qualify for the SIV program.

 

e.       Who may submit the letter of recommendation?

                                                               i.      If you were employed by or on behalf of the U.S. government: The letter of recommendation should normally be from the U.S. citizen who directly supervises you, or supervises the company for which you are employed and must include the details outlined the Applicant Guidelines for Chief of Mission Approval.

                                                             ii.      If you were employed by ISAF, or a successor mission:  The letter of recommendation should be from a member of the U.S. military who personally worked with you and must include the details outlined in the Applicant Guidelines for Chief of Mission Approval

 

 

f.        What if I am unable to locate or need assistance contacting my former U.S. military or Department of Defense supervisor?

                                                               i.      If your previous supervisor was U.S. military or an emploee of the U.S. Department of Defense and you are having trouble locating him or her, the Supervisor Locator can possibly help. Learn more.

 

g.       What if it is not possible for me, as a contract employee employed on behalf of the U.S. government, to obtain this recommendation from a U.S. citizen supervisor?

                                                               i.      You should provide a letter of recommendation signed by your non-U.S. citizen supervisor and co-signed by the U.S. citizen who is responsible for the contract. The letter must include the details outlined in the Applicant Guidelines for Chief of Mission Approval

                                                             ii.      Afghans who were employed by contractors or subcontractors to work at ISAF, or a successor mission, do not qualify for the SIV program.

 

h.      Why do applicants who were employed by contractors or subcontractors on behalf of the U.S. government qualify for the SIV program, but applicants who were employed by contractors or subcontractors on behalf of ISAF, or a successor mission, do not?

                                                               i.      Section 1227 of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for FY 2015, which expanded the program to include certain Afghans who were employed by the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and section 1216 of the NDAA for FY 2016, which expands the program to include Afghans who were employed by successor missions to ISAF, do not include contractors or subcontractors with ISAF, or successor missions.  Section 1227 of the FY 2015 NDAA states only that qualifying applicants must be employed “by the International Security Assistance Force,” interpreted to include direct hires by ISAF or ISAF member nations. While section 1216 of the FY 2016 NDAA expanded qualification for the SIV program to certain Afghans employed by successor missions to ISAF, the language did not include contractors and subcontractors.

 

i.        I began working for ISAF and I now work for Resolute Support Mission (RSM) following the transition from ISAF to RSM. Will I qualify for the program?

                                                               i.      You may qualify if you have a total of at least two years of employment between October 7, 2001 and December 31, 2016 with ISAF, or a successor mission, in a capacity that required you to serve as an interpreter or translator for U.S. military personnel while traveling off-base with U.S. military personnel stationed at ISAF, or a successor mission, or to perform sensitive and trusted activities for U.S. military personnel stationed at ISAF, or a successor mission.

 

j.        Is there a template or format for the letter of recommendation?

                                                               i.      There is no required format, but the letter must include the details outlined in the Applicant Guidelines for Chief of Mission Approval. Generic form letters from supervisors are not helpful to your application. All letters of recommendation should be proofread closely.  Letters of recommendation with significant spelling and grammar errors may delay processing. 

 

k.       How do I demonstrate an “ongoing serious threat”?

                                                               i.      You must write, sign, and date a brief statement describing the threat you face as a result of your employment with or on behalf of the U.S. government in Afghanistan. Although statements provided by other parties may be included, you must also provide your own statement. Please provide as many details as possible. 

                                                             ii.      Section 1219 of Public Law 113-66 provides that a credible sworn statement depicting dangerous country conditions, together with official evidence of such country conditions from the U.S government, should be considered as a factor in a determination of whether an applicant has experienced or is experiencing an ongoing serious threat as a consequence of employment by the U.S. government.

 

l.        If I have a record of disciplinary actions that have been taken against me, will I be automatically disqualified from receiving a visa under this program?

                                                               i.      The Chief of Mission, or his/her designee, will assess the gravity of the reasons for the disciplinary action and whether your record as a whole, notwithstanding the disciplinary actions, is one of faithful service. It will generally be more difficult for you to demonstrate faithful service if the record reflects that disciplinary action has been taken against you.

 

m.    How do I submit my documents for Chief of Mission approval?

                                                               i.      Send all required documents by email to the National Visa Center (NVC) at: AfghanSIVapplication@state.gov.

                                                             ii.      You will need an email address to facilitate communication with the NVC, both to submit documents and receive instructions.

 

n.      By what date may I apply for Chief of Mission approval?

                                                               i.      You must submit an application including, at a minimum, name, date of birth, evidence of Afghan nationality, and an email address, to the National Visa Center no later than December 31, 2020. However, only complete Chief of Mission applications containing all required documents and information will be forwarded to U.S. Embassy Kabul for a decision by the Chief of Mission designee. Applicants who meet the December 31, 2020 deadline may provide additional required information or documentation following that date.

 

o.      What happens after I submit my documents?

                                                               i.      The NVC will collect and review your documents. Once the NVC deems the application packet complete, it is forwarded to the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, where the Chief of Mission (COM) SIV approval designee and staff will review your case. If approved, a Chief of Mission Approval letter will be sent to you via email with instructions on how to send your application and a Form I-360 petition to the USCIS Nebraska Service Center. See Step 2 below.

 

p.      Who is the Chief of Mission (COM)?

                                                               i.      The Chief of Mission (COM) is the principal officer in charge of a diplomatic mission and is appointed by the President. For more information, visit the website of the U.S. Embassy in Kabul.

 

q.      What happens if my Chief of Mission application is denied?

                                                               i.      Applicants whose Chief of Mission (COM) applications are denied will receive a letter of denial by email which will provide an explanation of the basis for denial. You may file one appeal of a COM denial, and it must be filed within 120 days of receiving the denial letter by email. Your appeal should request that your denied COM application be reopened and should provide additional information pertinent to your application, clarify existing information in your original application, or explain any unfavorable information that was contained in the letter of denial.

 

r.        If I have already been scheduled for an interview or have been interviewed as a refugee, but am also eligible for a Special Immigrant Visa, which application should I pursue?

                                                               i.      You determine which route you choose to pursue. Both processes take several months to complete. Registration and application for either program is not a guarantee of eventual admission to the United States. You may pursue both applications simultaneously. The refugee and SIV programs differ in process and eligibility. Please consult the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration website for more information about accessing the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program.

                                                             ii.      You may apply for both the refugee and SIV programs at the same time. At the time of your interview with a U.S. government official for either refugee or SIV status, you should ask that your case in the other status be closed. You may be asked to submit a written request to close your other case.

 

s.       What if I have questions about the Chief of Mission Letter?

                                                               i.      If you have questions about your Chief of Mission letter, please contact the National Visa Center at AfghanSIVapplication@state.gov.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4.       STEP 2 - File a Petition with USCIS

a.       Who files the petition? What documents are required with the petition?

                                                               i.      You must submit the following package of documents directly to the USCIS Nebraska Service Center:

1.       A completed Form I-360, Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant. [NOTE: To be properly filed, the Form I-360 must include your original signature.]

2.       A copy of your passport or taskera showing that you are a national of Afghanistan, along with a certified English translation, if the document is not in English. (At the time of the visa interview, applicants must provide new Afghan machine-readable e-passports.)

3.       A copy of the letter of recommendation that you sent to NVC when you applied for Chief of Mission (COM) Approval.

4.       A copy of your COM approval, which should note that the COM or his/her designee:

a.       Has determined that you have been employed by, or on behalf of, the U.S. government or by ISAF, or a successor mission, on or after October 7, 2001, and prior to December 31, 2020, for a period of not less than two years;

b.       Has conducted an independent review of records maintained by the U.S. government or hiring organization or entity to confirm employment and determined that you have provided faithful and valuable service to the U.S. government; and

c.       Has determined that you have experienced or are experiencing an ongoing serious threat as a consequence of your employment by the U.S. government.

5.       If you are in the United States when you file the petition, a copy of the front and back of your paper Form I-94, Arrival/Departure Record.

 

b.      Where do I find the forms?

                                                               i.      Form I-360, Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant is available on the USCIS Forms webpage.

 

c.       How do I file the petition?

                                                               i.      There are no filing or biometric fees associated with this petition, you may scan and email your petition with the required documents (preferably in pdf format) to the following email address:

                                                             ii.      NSCI360SIVAPP@uscis.dhs.gov

                                                           iii.      Please note if you submit your I-360 by email, that you must bring the same original, signed Form I-360 that was submitted to NSC with you to the consular interview.

                                                           iv.      Or you may send the original I-360 and required documents by either regular mail or overnight delivery, to the appropriate address below.

1.       Regular Mail:
USCIS/ Nebraska Service Center (NSC)
P.O. Box 87485
Lincoln, NE 68501-7485

2.       Overnight Deliveries:
USCIS/ Nebraska Service Center (NSC)
850 “S” Street
Lincoln, NE 68508

 

d.      What return email or mailing address should I use on the Form I-360 petition?

                                                               i.      If you scan and email your Form I-360 petition, include the email address you want USCIS to use to send your electronic receipt (Form I-797). If no email address is submitted with the form, the receipt notice will be sent electronically to the email address from which the petition was submitted. 

                                                             ii.      USCIS cannot send mail outside the United States except to an APO address. If you have access to an APO address, USCIS will use this address. If you do not have access to an APO address, but you have family, friends, or an attorney with an address in the United States, you may list their address (with their permission). In Part 1, line 3, the family member’s, friend’s, or attorney’s name must be listed in the C/O (in care of) section; otherwise the post office will not deliver the mail. You should also list your email address as this is the best way for USCIS to reach you.

                                                           iii.      If you don’t have an APO address or an address in the United States, you should list your email address.

 

e.       Where will my petition be adjudicated? Who makes the decision?

                                                               i.      All petitions for this program are adjudicated at USCIS Nebraska Service Center. If approved, USCIS will forward your petition to NVC, which will then contact you by email to begin collecting the necessary documentation to support your visa application. NVC also will schedule your visa interview at a U.S. embassy or consulate overseas.

 

f.        When the numerical limit of visas is reached, will my petition be rejected and have to be refiled?

                                                               i.      USCIS will continue to process each petition, even after the numerical limit of visas has been reached. When your petition has been approved, it will be sent to NVC. If visas are available, NVC will contact you to schedule the visa interview. If visas are no longer available, NVC will hold the petition.

 

g.       What is the difference between Part 1 and Part 3 of the Form I-360? Should both parts be completed?

                                                               i.      Part 1 and Part 3 contain similar information, but Part 3 includes additional required information. Both parts should be completed.

 

h.      In Part 2, what box should be checked?

                                                               i.      You should check box “N” - Special Immigrant Afghan National who was employed by or on behalf of the U.S. Government or the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan.

 

i.        What are the fees associated with filing the petition?

                                                               i.      Under this particular program, there are no filing or biometric fees associated with filing the petition.

 

j.        If I am an Afghan refugee already in the United States, can I file Form I-485 with USCIS to apply for adjustment from refugee to SIV status?

                                                               i.      No. A refugee in the United States is not eligible to file Form I-485 and make an application to adjust from refugee to SIV status. Under U.S. law, an employment-based immigrant must be in valid nonimmigrant status in order to apply for adjustment. Instead, a refugee may adjust to lawful permanent resident (LPR) status one year after his or her refugee admission. (Note: there is no fee for applicants who are filing Form I-485 to adjust to LPR status based on having been admitted to the United States as a refugee.)

                                                             ii.       the USCIS website for further information.

 

k.       My question wasn’t answered here. Where can I get more information about filing a Form I-360 petition?

                                                               i.      If you need further information about the petition filing process, you may email the USCIS Nebraska Service Center at SIVTranslator.NSC@dhs.gov.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5.       STEP 3 - Prepare for Your Visa Application

a.       When will my case be ready for visa processing?

                                                               i.      Once NVC receives your approved petition from USCIS, NVC will contact you by email to advise you to begin collecting the appropriate documents to move ahead with your visa application. NVC will schedule your immigrant visa interview for you and your family at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate overseas. NVC will forward your SIV case to that U.S. Embassy or Consulate for your visa interview. NVC will work with you to schedule your appointment at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in the country in which you reside or to which you can easily travel.

                                                             ii.      You must provide an email address to facilitate communication with NVC. You may contact NVC by email at NVCSIV@state.gov.

 

b.      What documents do I need to send to NVC for visa processing?

                                                               i.      You must submit the following forms and documents for yourself and all family members also applying for visas. If you have previously submitted any of these documents to NVC, you do not need to submit them to NVC again.
 

1.       Form DS-260, Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration Application.

a.       Preview a sample DS-260  (PDF - 6.4MB);

2.       A copy of the biodata page from the passport of each applicant (Each passport must be valid for at least 12 months beyond the anticipated visa interview date, and applicants must provide new Afghan machine-readable e-passports.);

3.       Scanned copies of a birth certificate/taskera for each applicant, and any other civil documents showing the relationship between you and your spouse and/or minor children (e.g. marriage (Nikah Khet) and divorce certificates, adoption decrees, etc.);

4.       Police certificates are NOT required if you are a resident of Afghanistan. However, if you have lived in a different country for more than 12 months since reaching the age of 16, then you must submit a police certificate from the authorities of that locality. See additional information how to obtain a police certificate.

5.       A completed Refugee Benefits Election Form  (PDF - 56 KB);

6.       A completed DS-0234, Special Immigrant Visa Biodata Form  (PDF - 312 KB) (if you elect to receive Resettlement Benefits; see explanation below).

                                                             ii.      All documents must be accompanied by an English translation. The translation must include a statement signed by the translator that the translation is accurate, and the translator is competent to translate.

 

 

c.       I have a question about which documents I need for the visa interview.

                                                               i.      If you have questions about gathering the necessary documents for the visa application, please contact the National Visa Center at NVCSIV@state.gov.
 

d.      How do I submit my documents to NVC?

                                                               i.      Please scan and send all documentation to NVC via email at NVCSIV@state.gov. Do not mail any original documents or photos to NVC. You should hand-carry your original documents and photos with you to your visa interview.
 

e.       Am I eligible for Resettlement Benefits?

                                                               i.      Yes. Afghan special immigrants are eligible for the same resettlement assistance, entitlement programs, and other benefits as refugees admitted under the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program, for a period of up to eight (8) months after being admitted to the United States.

                                                             ii.      If you wish to participate in the U.S. Department of State’s Reception and Placement (R&P) Program, which covers only your first 30-90 days in the United States, you must apply for it before you arrive in the United States.

                                                           iii.      To apply, you must return scanned, signed copies of the Refugee Benefits Election Form  (PDF - 56 KB) (signature required) and the Special Immigrant Visa Biodata Form (DS-0234)  (PDF - 312 KB), included in the visa instruction packet, to NVC as soon as possible but no later than 10 calendar days after the date your visa is issued. In addition, you must submit to NVC a scanned copy of your visa as soon as possible but no later than 30 calendar days prior to the visa’s expiration. You should not wait to submit the Refugee Benefits Election Form and the Special Immigrant Biodata Form (DS-0234) until visa issuance. All three items must be received by NVC prior to the deadlines indicated above. Failure to do so will result in the denial of any future request for Department of State-funded resettlement benefits. Additional information about Department of State-funded benefits can be found here.

                                                           iv.      If you decline to receive Department of State-funded resettlement benefits, you may still be eligible to receive benefits funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Refugee Resettlement (HHS/ORR). Unlike Department of State-funded benefits, HHS/ORR-funded benefits can be claimed upon arrival in the United States. Additional information about HHS/ORR-funded benefits can be found here.
 

f.        I submitted an SIV petition. How do I find out the status of my application?

                                                               i.      When your approved petition reaches NVC, you will be advised by email and provided with instructions. If you believe that you have an approved petition, but you have not been contacted by NVC, or you have questions about your pending SIV case after the petition has been approved, please email NVC at NVCSIV@state.gov or call 1-603-334-0828 and provide your USCIS receipt number, full name, and date of birth. Customer Service Representatives at NVC are available from 7:30 a.m. to midnight (EST). The hours for congressional inquiries are from 7:30 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. (EST).

g.       My question wasn’t answered here. Where can I get more information about my approved petition?

                                                               i.      You may email NVC at NVCSIV@state.gov.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6.       Step 4 - The Visa Interview

a.       Is a personal interview required?

                                                               i.      Yes. After USCIS has approved your petition, an interview is required to determine if you are eligible for a visa. You must appear in person at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate where a consular officer will interview you. U.S. law also requires you to submit fingerprints, which will be taken at the interview. The consular officer will also require evidence that you plan to resign from your position in order to immigrate to the United States.

                                                             ii.      Each family member who is applying for a visa with you must also appear at the embassy or consulate for an interview.

 

b.      If I am in Afghanistan, can my interview be conducted at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul?

                                                               i.      Yes. The U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, conducts interviews for and issues immigrant visas. If you are in another country, the interview will be conducted at the closest U.S. Embassy or Consulate that adjudicates immigrant visa applications. You can find a list of our embassies and consulates at http://www.usembassy.gov.

 

c.       May my family accompany me or follow to join me in the United States?

                                                               i.      Yes, your spouse, as well as your unmarried minor children under age 21, may accompany you to the United States or follow to join you in the United States. These family members must also attend the visa interview. You must provide proof of the marriage relationship to your spouse and the relationship to your children. Your family members may not precede you in entering the U.S.

                                                             ii.      NOTE: We strongly advise you to bring your spouse and minor dependent children with you to your visa interview. This will facilitate having all eligible family members travel to the United States together. If it is not possible for your family members to travel to the interview with you, they will be required to schedule interviews at a later date and may follow-to-join you in the United States at a later time.

                                                           iii.      If you marry after your petition is approved but before you travel to the United States, your new spouse may be added to the original petition. You should immediately contact the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where your interview took place, to notify consular officials that your new spouse should be added to the petition and an interview scheduled. If you marry a foreign national after you have already traveled to the United States, you will need to file a new petition for your spouse.

 

 

d.      What happens if the principal applicant dies after approval of the petition?

                                                               i.      Your spouse or children may, in some circumstances, still be eligible for a visa if a petition had been approved by USCIS, but the petition was revoked or terminated after its approval due to the death of the principal applicant.

 

e.       What documents should I bring to the visa interview?

                                                               i.      Please bring your passport, any military photo identification (if available), civilian identification badges, and originals of any civil documents, such as marriage certificates, taskeras or death certificates, including all documents that were submitted by email to the NVC. (Applicants must provide new Afghan machine-readable e-passports.) At the visa interview, you will also be expected to provide written evidence of your intent to immigrate promptly to the United States.

                                                             ii.      In addition, you should bring two recent photographs of each applicant, which meet the Photo Requirements.

 

f.        May an attorney or other representative accompany me to the visa interview?

                                                               i.      An attorney or other accredited representative may represent you during the SIV application process, including at relevant interviews and examinations. Such representation is not to be the expense of the U.S. government.

 

g.       Will the U.S. government pay the cost of my travel to the interview or provide accommodations at the interview site?

                                                               i.      No. When preparing for your visa interview, please plan for the possibility that you may need to stay for more than one day in the city where your interview takes place. You will not be able to complete your medical examination and interview on the same day. Some medical exams may require tests with delayed results.

 

h.      Can the U.S. Embassy arrange for my entry visas and guarantee admission to another country for my visa interview?

                                                               i.      No. While embassies and consulates work closely with their host-country counterparts to ensure coordination on important programs, such as this SIV program, the final decision about whom to admit into a country rests with the government of that country. If you have difficulty entering another country for your visa interview, you should remain in close contact with the U.S. Embassy or Consulate to which your case has been assigned.

 

i.        Is there a visa application fee?

                                                               i.      No. Under this particular program, there is no immigrant visa application fee. You are required to pay all costs associated with the medical examination.

 

j.        Will I receive my visa on the same day as my interview?

                                                               i.      At the conclusion of your interview, the consular officer will let you know if there are any problems with your case that might prevent issuance of a visa, or if there is missing documentation that you need to provide. However, even if your visa interview is successful, you will not receive your visa on the same day. All SIV cases require additional administrative processing after the interview.

k.       My question wasn’t answered here. Where can I get more information about my pending visa?

                                                               i.      If you have received COM approval, had your petition approved by USCIS, and NVC has scheduled your case for an interview, you should directly contact the U.S. embassy or consulate to which your case has been assigned:

If your case has been assigned to:

You may contact the Embassy at:

U.S. Embassy Kabul

KabulIV@state.gov

7.       Otherwise, go to http://www.usembassy.gov to locate contact information for the U.S. Embassy or Consulate that is handling your case.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

8.       STEP 5 - Arrival in the United States

a.       As an Afghan Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) recipient, am I eligible for any benefits?

                                                               i.      Yes. Afghan SIV recipients are eligible for the same resettlement assistance, entitlement programs, and other benefits as refugees admitted under the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP). Resettlement assistance is available under section 602(b) of Division F, Title VI, of the Omnibus Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2009, Public Law 111-8 to Afghans who are admitted to the United States on Special Immigrant Visas, for a period not to exceed eight months. For more information about the relevant U.S. law, see References - U.S. Laws, number 7.

                                                             ii.      The U.S. Department of State’s Reception and Placement (R&P) Program covers only your first 30-90 days in the United States.

 

b.      How do I apply to receive these benefits?

                                                               i.      If you would like to participate in the R&P Program, you must complete, sign, and return scanned copies of the following two forms, included in the visa instruction packet:

1.       Refugee Benefits Election Form  (PDF - 56 KB)

2.       Special Immigrant Visa Biodata Form (DS-0234)  (PDF - 312 KB).

                                                             ii.      You should complete these two forms as soon as possible while you are still overseas before your visa has been issued, or upon your arrival in the United States. You should send the forms to one of the following offices, so that we can begin processing of your case and book your travel after your visa has been issued:

1.       the NVC at NVCSIV@state.gov, or

2.       the Refugee Processing Center (RPC) at SIV@wrapsnet.org.

                                                           iii.      You must also provide a copy of your visa after it has been issued.

                                                           iv.      Additional information about Department of State-funded benefits can be found here.

 

c.       The instructions on the "Special Immigrant Visa Biodata Form (DS-0234)" state that it is to be completed by each beneficiary. Does that mean each member of my family needs to complete a form or is one form sufficient for all family members included on the SIV case?

                                                               i.      You must complete a separate form for each family member and return it to NVC at NVCSIV@state.gov or the RPC at SIV@wrapsnet.org. NVC will provide you with the Special Immigrant Visa Biodata Form (DS-0234)  (PDF - 312 KB) ;as part of the visa application packet. This form can also be found on the Refugee Processing Center’s (RPC) website.

 

d.      I would like to be resettled in a specific city/state. What should I do?

                                                               i.      You may designate a resettlement preference if you have family or friends living in the United States. You may include this information on the Special Immigrant Visa Biodata Form (DS-0234)  (PDF - 312 KB) under Section D, entitled “U.S. Ties”. If you have a resettlement preference, you should provide the full name, address, telephone number, and email address of the individual(s) you desire to be resettled near, specifying the nature of your relationship to this individual(s) (i.e. mother, daughter, brother, etc.). If more than one individual is provided and all of them live in different locations, you should indicate your order of preference. Please note that the individual(s) you provide must currently reside in the United States and must be willing to discuss your case with a resettlement agency. While you may provide information about a person you wish to be resettled near, it may not always be possible to honor your request to resettle near family members or friends.

                                                             ii.      If you do not have any family or friends in the United States, your final destination will be determined by the resettlement agency. Decisions are based on your needs/background and local capacity.

                                                           iii.      Please be aware that the cost of living and the availability of housing can vary significantly in different locations across the United States. The Washington, DC metro area including northern Virginia and some cities in California are very expensive places to live, and it can be difficult to find affordable housing and employment. Any resettlement benefits you receive may not comfortably cover the cost of living in these areas. Unless you have close relatives or friends in these areas who are able to provide financial support and housing until you find employment that covers your living expenses, it is best to allow a resettlement agency to choose a suitable location for you.

 

e.       How do I obtain a travel loan?

                                                               i.      The International Organization for Migration (IOM) will prepare your travel loan and arrange your travel to the United States after your visa has been issued, if you elected to receive travel and resettlement assistance from the Department of State by submitting scanned, signed copies of the Refugee Benefits Election Form  (PDF - 56 KB) and the Special Immigrant Visa Biodata Form (DS-0234)  (PDF - 312 KB) to the NVC or the RPC. This interest-free travel loan is a benefit provided through the U.S. Department of State’s Reception and Placement (R&P) Program, for which you must apply while you are still overseas. Additional information about Department of State-funded benefits can be found here.

 

f.        What if I have to travel immediately and cannot arrange travel through the International Organization for Migration (IOM)?

                                                               i.      Under certain circumstances, we understand you may not have time to declare your intention to participate in the R&P Program while still overseas. If you elect to arrange your own flight, you may still be eligible for Department of State resettlement benefits or benefits funded by the Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Refugee Resettlement (HHS/ORR). To determine if you qualify, please contact a resettlement affiliate as soon as possible after your arrival in the United States as your eligibility is time-limited. We recommend you contact a resettlement affiliate within 30 days after your arrival. The list of resettlement affiliates can be found on http://www.wrapsnet.org/ or click here.

 

g.       At what point can I begin to make travel arrangements, sell property, and/or give up my job?

                                                               i.      You should NOT sell property and/or give up employment until the U.S. Embassy or Consulate General has issued a visa and the Refugee Processing Center has referred your case to IOM for travel arrangements.

 

h.      How will I know which agency is responsible for providing services to me in the U.S.?

                                                               i.      If you choose to receive Department of State-funded Reception and Placement (R&P) services, you must fill out and return scanned copies of the Refugee Benefits Election Form  (PDF - 56 KB), the Special Immigrant Visa Biodata Form (DS-0234)  (PDF - 312 KB), and of your visa, after it has been issued, to NVC or the RPC while still overseas. Once you submit the copy of your issued visa, your case will be assigned to a resettlement agency before you depart for the United States. Prior to departure, the entity responsible for processing your case for R&P benefits - either a Resettlement Support Center (RSC) or the RPC - will provide you with an Assurance Form indicating your final destination in the United States and the resettlement agency that will provide services to you upon your arrival.

 

i.        If I elect to receive refugee benefits, what help will I receive once I am in the U.S., and from whom?

                                                               i.      The Department of State funds nine (9) Resettlement Agencies that participate in the Reception and Placement (R&P) Program under a cooperative agreement. These agencies have over 300 affiliated Reception and Placement offices across the United States. The resettlement agency is responsible for providing initial reception and placement services and assisting refugees and SIV beneficiaries to achieve economic self-sufficiency as quickly as possible. All refugees and SIV recipients who elected to participate in the program are provided with sponsorship and resettlement services appropriate to their personal circumstances by one of these organizations.

                                                             ii.      The U.S. government has established guidelines and provides funding for the resettlement services that you will receive upon arrival in the United States. Your resettlement agency will have a local office in or near the town where you will be resettled and will provide basic living assistance and support for up to the first 30-90 days after you arrive. The following are some of the things you should expect to do and/or receive during your first weeks in the United States.

                                                           iii.      The resettlement agency to which you are assigned will:

1.       Receive U.S. government funds and use these funds to pay for your rent and/or basic necessities. A portion of these funds may be given directly to you in cash. The resettlement agency will ensure you have a small amount of money for daily needs.

2.       Ensure you have housing for your first 30 days.

3.       Assist with enrolling your children in school.

4.       Assist you with access to English language classes, if necessary.

                                                           iv.      With assistance from the resettlement agency, if needed, you will need to:

1.       Apply for a social security card, required for work.

2.       Learn about and be assisted with access to employment services. (While the resettlement agency will assist in whatever way it can, it is ultimately your responsibility to find and maintain employment.)

3.       Learn to use public transportation (a car will not be provided).

4.       Begin to learn about U.S customs and law.

5.       Learn about and be assisted with access to community services that can help you, including social services, cash and medical assistance, and food stamps, if necessary.

6.       Find out about other government services and programs and how to access services.

                                                             v.      The program would not succeed without volunteers in communities across the United States to assist with these activities. The following organizations provide initial resettlement services to refugees and SIV recipients. You may learn more about them from information provided in their websites.

U.S. Refugee Resettlement Agencies

Church World Service (CWS)

www.churchworldservice.org

Episcopal Migration Ministries (EMM)

www.episcopalchurch.org/emm

Ethiopian Community Development Council (ECDC)

www.ecdcinternational.org

Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS)

www.hias.org

International Rescue Committee (IRC)

www.rescue.org

Lutheran Immigration & Refugee Service (LIRS)

www.lirs.org

U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI)

www.refugees.org

United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB)

http://usccb.org/about/migration-and-refugee-services/

World Relief (WR)

www.wr.org

 

j.        What if I already have a file with UNHCR or a UN number? What should I do?

                                                               i.      If you meet the eligibility criteria of the SIV Program, you may apply for an SIV even if you are already registered with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and/or have an application pending with the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP).

 

k.       Are other benefits available to me, if I decline benefits from the Department of State?

                                                               i.      If you decline to receive Department of State-funded resettlement benefits, you may still be eligible to receive benefits funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Refugee Resettlement (HHS/ORR). ORR-funded benefits are administered by states and are available through state benefit-granting agencies. After arrival in the United States, you may apply for these benefits in the state in which you reside. SIV recipients who elect to participate in the U.S. Department of State R&P Program will be assisted in applying for ORR-funded benefits by the resettlement agency providing their R&P services. If you do not elect to participate in the Department of State’s R&P Program, you must apply for these benefits on your own by contacting the State Refugee Coordinator in the state in which you live.

 

l.        If admitted to the United States, do I get U.S. citizenship? If so, how long does it take?

                                                               i.      As an SIV recipient, you will have Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) status upon admission into the United States. Once you are admitted to the United States you will be mailed your Permanent Resident Card (also known as Green Card). You are normally eligible to apply for U.S. citizenship after residing for five (5) years in the United States. For more information, see naturalization information on the USCIS website.

 

 

 

 

9.       Contact Information

If you:

Please contact:

At:

have questions on how to receive Chief of Mission (COM) approval,

National Visa Center (NVC)

AfghanSIVapplication@state.gov

have questions regarding filing requirements and instructions for an SIV Form I-360 petition,

USCIS Nebraska Service Center

sivtranslator.nsc@dhs.gov

have an approved Form I-360 petition and have questions regarding your case status,

National Visa Center (NVC)

NVCSIV@state.gov

have questions about your immigrant visa interview,

the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where the interview will be scheduled

You can find a list of our U.S. Embassies and Consulates at:
http://www.usembassy.gov

would like information about SIV resettlement benefits and post-arrival services,

the Refugee Processing Center

SIV@wrapsnet.org

are a supervisor of an SIV applicant that has received COM approval and would like to submit additional information in support of the pending visa application

Visa Office

SIV-Applicant-Supervisor@state.gov

 

 

 


 

10.   Quarterly Reports on Status of Afghan Program

a.       Report of the Afghan SIV Program - April 2017 (PDF - 200 KB)

b.       Report of the Afghan SIV Program - January 2017  (PDF - 204 KB)

c.       Report of the Afghan SIV Program - October 2016 (PDF - 203 KB)

d.       Report of the Afghan SIV Program - July 2016 (PDF - 133 KB)

e.       Report of the Afghan SIV Program -  April 2016 (PDF - 211 KB)

f.        Report of the Afghan SIV Program - January 2016  (PDF - 162 KB)

g.       Report of the Afghan SIV Program - October 2015  (PDF - 131 KB)

h.       Report of the Afghan SIV Program - July 2015  (PDF - 239 KB)

i.         Report of the Afghan SIV Program - April 2015  (PDF - 213 KB)

j.         Report of the Afghan SIV Program - January 2015  (PDF - 212 KB) 

k.       Report of the Afghan SIV Program - October 2014 (PDF - 202 KB)

l.         Report of the Afghan SIV Program - July 2014   (PDF - 205 KB) (Sent to Congress December 2014) 

m.     Report of the Afghan SIV Program - April 2014  (PDF - 243 KB) (Sent to Congress July 2014)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

11.   References – U.S. Laws

a.       The chart below contains a list of U.S. laws relevant to Special Immigrant Visas (SIVs) for eligible Iraqi or Afghan nationals who were employed by or on behalf of the U.S. government in Iraq or Afghanistan, respectively. You can find more detailed information about each of these laws by going to the National Archives Office of the Federal Register website.

 

Law:

Information about the Law:

1

Consolidated Appropriations Act for FY 2017, Section 7083 of Public Law 115-31

This law, signed on May 5, 2017, authorizes the issuance of 2,500 additional visas to Afghan principal applicants with no end date by which they must be issued. 

2

National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2017, Section 1214 of Public Law 114-326

This law, signed on December 23, 2016, extends and amends the Afghan SIV Program.  It authorizes the issuance of 1,500 additional visas to principal applicants with no end date by which they must be issued.  It also extends the date by which applicants must apply for Chief of Mission approval from December 31, 2016 to December 31, 2020.  It amends eligibility for Afghans employed by or on behalf of the U.S. government who submit an application for Chief of Mission approval on or after December 23, 2016 to applicants whose employment required them to serve as an interpreter or translator for personnel of the Department of State or USAID; to serve as an interpreter or translator for U.S. military personnel; or to perform sensitive and trusted activities for the U.S. government.

3

National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2016, Section 1216 of Public Law 114-92

This law, signed on November 25, 2015, extends and amends the Afghan SIV Program. It authorizes the issuance of 3,000 additional visas to principal applicants with no end date by which they must be issued. It also extends the date by which applicants must apply for Chief of Mission approval from December 31, 2015 to December 31, 2016 and increases the required length of service from one year to two years between October 7, 2001 and December 31, 2016. It expands SIV program eligibility to certain Afghans who were employed by a successor mission to the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).

4

National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2015, Section 1227 of Public Law 113-291

This law, signed on December 19, 2014, extended the Afghan SIV Program. It authorized the issuance of 4,000 visas to principal applicants by September 30, 2016. It also extended the date by which applicants must apply for Chief of Mission approval from December 31, 2014 to December 31, 2015 and expanded SIV program eligibility to certain Afghans who were employed by the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).

5

Emergency Afghan Allies Extension Act of 2014, Section 1 of Public Law 113-160

This law, signed on August 8, 2014, extended the Afghan SIV Program. It authorized the issuance of 1,000 visas to principal applicants by December 31, 2014. It also extended the date by which applicants must apply for Chief of Mission approval from September 30, 2014 to December 31, 2014.

6

The Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2014, Section 7034(o) of Division K, Title VII of Public Law 113-76

This law, signed on January 17, 2014, extended the Afghan SIV Program. It authorized the issuance of 3,000 visas to principal applicants in fiscal year (FY) 2014 and allowed that any unissued visas from FY 2014 be allocated to FY 2015. It also established that the employment period must have commenced on or after October 7, 2001 and been completed on or before December 31, 2014 and that applicants must apply for Chief of Mission approval no later than September 30, 2014.

7

The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2014, Section 1219 of Division A, Title XII, Subtitle B of Public Law 113-66

This law included provisions for: consideration of a credible sworn statement depicting dangerous country conditions, together with official evidence of such country conditions from the U.S government, as a factor in a determination of whether an applicant has experienced or is experiencing an ongoing serious threat as a consequence of employment by the U.S. government; not more than one written appeal of a COM denial, within 120 days of receiving the denial letter; and representation during the application process, including at relevant interviews and examinations, by an attorney or other accredited representative.

8

The Afghan Allies Protection Act of 2009, Section 602(b) of Division F, Title IV, of the Omnibus Appropriations Act, 2009, (Public Law 111-8)

This law allowed up to 1,500 Afghan nationals who provided faithful and valuable service to the U.S. government, while employed by or on behalf of the U.S. government in Afghanistan after October 7, 2001, for not less than one year, and who have experienced or are experiencing an ongoing serious threat as a consequence of that employment, to receive special immigrant visas (SIVs) annually through FY 2013, with the allocation of any unused visas from FY 2013 to FY 2014. The period of qualifying employment was later extended under subsequent legislation. See law above.

9

The Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2008 (Public Law 110-161 of December 26, 2007)

This law initially made Afghan and Iraqi SIV holders eligible for the same resettlement assistance, entitlement programs, and other benefits as refugees admitted under the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program for up to six (6) months from their date of admission or date of adjustment if applying domestically. The period of eligibility was later extended under subsequent legislation. See law below.

10

The Omnibus Appropriations Act, 2009 (Public Law 111-8 of March 10, 2009)

This law extended the period of eligibility of Afghan SIV holders for resettlement assistance, entitlement programs, and other benefits to up to eight (8) months from their date of admission or date of adjustment if applying domestically. For Afghan SIV holders already in the U.S. to be eligible for uninterrupted benefits for an additional two (2) months beyond the original six months (6) allowed under previous law, you must have been admitted to the U.S. on or after September 10, 2008, or if applying domestically, have a date of adjustment of September 10, 2008 or later.

Special Immigrant Visas (SIVs) for Iraqi and Afghan Translators/Interpreters

1.       Iraqi and Afghan SIV Programs

a.       This page describes one Special Immigrant Visa program available to persons who worked with the U.S. Armed Forces or under Chief of Mission authority as a translator or interpreter in Iraq or Afghanistan. This program, which offers visas to up to fifty persons a year, remains active.

b.       The Department of State’s authority to issue Special Immigrant Visas (SIVs) to Afghan nationals under section 602(b) of the Afghan Allies Protection Act of 2009, as amended, will continue until all visa numbers allocated under the Act are used.  The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for FY 2017 as signed by President Obama on December 23, 2016 allocated 1,500 additional visas for Afghan principal applicants, for a total of 8,500 allocated since December 19, 2014. The deadline to apply for Chief of Mission approval is extended from December 31, 2016 to December 31, 2020.

c.       Due to the limited numbers of SIVs remaining for Afghan principal applicants under the Act, further interviews for Afghan principal applicants in the SQ category will not be scheduled after March 1, 2017.  The Department believes there are enough applicants in the final stages of the visa process to exhaust all remaining visa numbers.   For more information, please refer to the April Visa Bulletin

 

2.       Note: You should NOT make any travel arrangements, sell property, or give up employment until and unless you are issued a U.S. visa.

a.       Overview

                                                               i.      STEP 1 - File a Petition with USCIS

                                                             ii.      STEP 2 - Prepare for Your Visa Application

                                                           iii.      STEP 3 - The Visa Interview

                                                           iv.      STEP 4 - Arrival in the United States

                                                             v.      Contact Information

                                                           vi.      References - U.S. Laws

 

3.       Overview

a.       What is this program?

                                                               i.      Section 1059 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2006, authorizes the issuance of up to 50 Special Immigrant Visas (SIVs) annually to Iraqi and Afghan translators and interpreters working for the U.S. military and who meet certain requirements. An amendment to Section 1059 expanded the total number of visas to 500 per year for FY 2007 and FY 2008 only. In FY 2009, the number of visas available for this category reverted to 50 annually. As amended, the Act provides for SIV status for eligible Iraqi or Afghan translators and interpreters, who have worked directly with the U.S. Armed Forces or under Chief of Mission (COM) authority at U.S. Embassy Baghdad or U.S. Embassy Kabul. For more information about the relevant U.S. laws, see References - U.S. Laws, numbers 1, 2, and 3.

                                                             ii.      In addition to the information on this website, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) provides information on Form I-360petitions for this program.

                                                           iii.      This program is completely distinct from two other programs authorizing SIVs for certain Iraqi and Afghan nationals who have worked for, or on behalf of, the U.S. government in Iraq or Afghanistan, although some translators and interpreters may qualify under both programs. For information on those programs, see SIVs for Iraqi nationals or SIVs for Afghan nationals.

 

b.      What is meant by SIV?

                                                               i.      SIV stands for Special Immigrant Visa. While there are many categories of SIVs, this webpage discusses only SIVs for eligible Iraqi and Afghan translators and interpreters who have worked directly with the U.S. Armed Forces or under Chief of Mission (COM) authority at U.S. Embassy Baghdad or U.S. Embassy Kabul.

 

c.       What is meant by fiscal year?

                                                               i.      The fiscal year begins on October 1 and ends September 30.

 

d.      What is meant by Chief of Mission (COM) authority?

                                                               i.      Iraqi and Afghan translators and interpreters who have worked directly (not as contractors) for U.S. Embassy Baghdad or U.S. Embassy Kabul are considered to have been under COM authority.

 

e.       How many Special Immigrant Visas can be issued per year under this program?

                                                               i.      The total number of principal applicants who can receive SIV status under this program may not exceed 50 per fiscal year.

                                                             ii.      SIVs issued to a principal applicant’s spouse and children do not count toward the 50 limit.

 

f.        Who can apply for this program?

                                                               i.      You may apply for this program if you meet all of the following requirements:

1.       You must be a national of Iraq or Afghanistan; and

2.       You must have worked directly with the U.S. Armed Forces or under COM authority as a translator or interpreter for a period of at least 12 months; and

3.       You must have obtained a favorable written recommendation from a General or Flag Officer in the chain of command of the U.S. Armed Forces unit that was supported by you, as a translator or interpreter, or from the Chief of Mission from the embassy where you worked.

                                                             ii.      Specific requirements for each step of the process are detailed below.
 

g.       What about my family? Can my family members immigrate with me?

                                                               i.      Your spouse, as well as unmarried children younger than 21, may be granted SIVs, and may travel with you or may follow to join you after you have been admitted to the United States.

 

 

 

 

 

4.       STEP 1 – File a Petition with USCIS

a.       Who files the petition (Form I-360)? What documents are required?

                                                               i.      The first step toward applying for SIV status is to file a petition with USCIS. You must submit the following package of documents directly to the USCIS Nebraska Service Center:

1.       A completed Form I-360, Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant.
[NOTE: To be properly filed, the Form I-360 must include your original signature.]

2.       A copy of your passport or nationality/birth certificate showing that you are a national of Iraq or Afghanistan, along with a certified English translation, if the document is not in English.  

3.       Proof that you worked as a translator/interpreter with the U.S. Armed Forces or under Chief of Mission (COM) authority for at least 12 months.

4.       Proof of a background check and screening by the U.S. Armed Forces or the COM.

5.       A recommendation letter from a General or Flag Officer in the chain of command of the unit you supported as a translator/interpreter, or from the COM at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad or Kabul.

6.       Payment for filing the petition (see below).

                                                             ii.      More information is available on the USCIS website under Green Card for an Afghan or Iraqi Translator.

 

b.      Where do I find the forms?

                                                               i.      Form I-360, Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrantis available on the USCIS Forms webpage.

 

c.       Who may submit the letter of recommendation?

                                                               i.      General, Lieutenant General, Major General, Brigadier General in the Army, Air Force, or Marine Corps; Admiral, Rear Admiral in the Navy; or the Chief of Mission in Baghdad or Kabul.

 

d.      What if I am unable to locate or need assistance contacting my former U.S. Military or Department of Defense Supervisor?

                                                               i.      If your previous supervisor was U.S. military or an employee of the U.S. Department of Defense and you are having trouble locating them, the Supervisor Locator can possibly help. Learn more.

 

e.       Is there a template or format for the letter of recommendation?

                                                               i.      There is no required format, but the letter should include the length of your service, information concerning your security clearance, and the recommendation.

 

f.        Should I submit copies of commendations and recommendations along with the required letter of recommendation?

                                                               i.      You may submit copies of any additional commendations and recommendations, but they do not take the place of the required documents.

 

g.       Where do I file the petition?

h.       You must mail your petition and required documents to the following address, by either regular mail or overnight delivery, to:

                                                               i.      Regular Mail:
USCIS/ Nebraska Service Center (NSC)
P.O. Box 87485
Lincoln, NE 68501-7485

                                                             ii.      Overnight Deliveries:
USCIS/ Nebraska Service Center (NSC)
850 “S” Street
Lincoln, NE 68508

 

i.        What return mailing address should I use on the Form I-360 petition?

                                                               i.      USCIS cannot send mail outside the United States except to an APO address. If you have access to an APO address, USCIS will use this address. If you do not have access to an APO address, but you have family, friends, or an attorney with an address in the United States, you may list their address (with their permission). In Part 1, line 3, the family member's, friend's, or attorney’s name must be listed in the C/O (in care of) section; otherwise the post office will not deliver the mail. You should also list your e-mail address, as this is the best way for USCIS to reach you.

                                                             ii.      If you don’t have an APO address or an address in the United States, you should list your e-mail address.

 

j.        Can the Form I-360 be filed electronically (E-filing)?

                                                               i.      No, this form is not set up for E-filing.

 

k.       Where will my petition be adjudicated? Who makes the decision?

                                                               i.      All petitions for this program are adjudicated at USCIS Nebraska Service Center. If approved, USCIS will forward your petition to NVC, which will then contact you by e-mail to begin collecting the necessary documentation to support your visa application. NVC will also schedule the visa interviews for you and your family at a U.S. embassy or consulate overseas.

 

l.        If my Form I-360 petition is denied, will the application fee be refunded?

                                                               i.      No, this is a processing fee and is not based on the decision.

 

m.    What is the difference between Part 1 and Part 3 of the Form I-360? Should both parts be completed?

                                                               i.      Part 1 and Part 3 contain similar information, but Part 3 includes additional required information. Both parts should be completed.

 

n.      In Part 2, what box should be checked?

                                                               i.      You should check box "k" for a claim for SIV classification under section 1059 of Public Law 109-163 as a translator or interpreter.

                                                             ii.      NOTE:  If you are a national of Iraq who has been employed in Iraq by or on behalf of the U.S. Government for at least one year, you may be eligible to claim SIV classification under section 1244 of Public Law 110-181 by checking box “l”.

                                                           iii.      If you are a national of Afghanistan who has been employed in Afghanistan by or on behalf of the U.S. Government for at least one year, you may be eligible to claim SIV classification under section 602(b) of Division F, Title VI of Public Law 111-8 by checking box “m” and writing “Afghan Worker” in the space provided.

                                                           iv.      See SIVs for Iraqi nationals or SIVs for Afghan nationals for further information regarding qualifications.
 

o.      In Part 10 of the Form I-360, who can sign the section for USCIS Officers or Consular Officers?

                                                               i.      Because of the dangers in Iraq and Afghanistan, USCIS will accept the signature of a U.S. military officer in the chain of command of a translator or interpreter who has worked directly with the U.S. Armed Forces.
 

p.      What are the fees associated with filing the petition?

                                                               i.      For applicants filing through the Nebraska Service Center while residing outside the United States, the Form I-360 fee is $375.00 for a claim for classification under section 1059.

                                                             ii.      See www.uscis.gov for more information about fees.
 

q.      What is the method of payment of the petition filing fee?

                                                               i.      The method of payment is either a personal check on a U.S. bank, a money order in U.S. dollars, or a fee receipt from a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad. This may be paid by anyone. If paid by someone other than you and by personal check, please ensure that your name is written on the bottom of the check.
 

r.        Can the fee be waived?

                                                               i.      Yes, you may request a fee waiver by placing a cover sheet on the petition and explaining the reasons for the request. However, if the waiver is denied, the petition will be rejected and the filing date will not be retained, meaning you will lose your place in line and will need to re-file the petition, going to the back of the queue of already-pending cases.
 

s.       If I am an Iraqi or Afghan refugee already in the United States, can I file Form I-485 with USCIS to apply for adjustment from refugee to SIV status?

                                                               i.      No. A refugee in the United States is not eligible to adjust from refugee to SIV status. Under U.S. law, an employment-based immigrant must be in valid nonimmigrant status in order to apply for adjustment. Instead, a refugee may adjust to lawful permanent resident (LPR) status after acquiring one year of physical presence in the United States following his or her refugee admission. (Note: there is no fee for applicants who are filing Form I-485 to adjust to LPR status based on having been admitted to the United States as a refugee.)

                                                             ii.      See the USCIS website for further information.
 

t.        My question wasn't answered here. Where can I get more information about filing an I-360 petition?

                                                               i.      If you need further information about the petition filing process, you may e-mail the USCIS Nebraska Service Center at SIVTranslator.NSC@dhs.gov.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5.       STEP 2 – Prepare for Your Visa Application

a.       When will my case be ready for visa processing?

                                                               i.      Once NVC receives your approved petition from USCIS, NVC will contact you by e-mail to advise you to begin collecting the appropriate documents to move ahead with your visa application, and to obtain a passport. NVC will schedule your immigrant visa interview for you and your family at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate overseas. NVC will forward your SIV case to that embassy or consulate for your visa interview. NVC will work with you to schedule your appointment at the embassy or consulate in the country in which you reside or to which you can easily travel.

                                                             ii.      You must provide an e-mail address to facilitate communication with NVC. You may contact NVC by e-mail at NVCSIV@state.gov.

 

b.      What documents do I need to send to NVC for visa processing? (For Iraqi SIV applicants)

                                                               i.      You must submit the following forms and documents for yourself and all family members also applying for visas: 

1.       Form DS-260, Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration Application.

2.       Preview a sample  DS-260 (PDF - 6.4MB)

3.       A copy of the biodata page from the passport of each applicant.  You should obtain an A or G series Iraqi passport because only A or G series passports are valid for travel to the United States.  Click here for more information about Iraqi passports.

4.       Family Book (Copy of Entry 1957) and scanned copies of a birth certificate for each applicant, and any other civil documents showing the relationship between you and your spouse and/or minor children (e.g., marriage and divorce certificates, adoption decrees, etc.).  If no birth certificate is available, the Iraqi national identity card (bataqa shaksiya) may be used instead of a birth certificate;

5.       Police certificate from Iraq if you have lived in Iraq for at least six months since reaching age 16.  If you have lived in a different country for more than 12 months since reaching age 16, then you need to submit a police certificate from the authorities of that locality. Click here for additional information on how to obtain police certificates. 

6.       A completed Refugee Benefits Election Form  (PDF - 56 KB)

7.       A completed DS-0234, Special Immigrant Visa Biodata Form  (PDF - 312 KB) (if you elect to receive Resettlement Benefits; see explanation below).

                                                             ii.      All documents must be accompanied by an English translation. The translation must include a statement signed by the translator that the translation is accurate, and the translator is competent to translate.

 

c.       What documents do I need to send to NVC for visa processing? (For Afghan SIV applicants)

                                                               i.      You must submit the following forms and documents for yourself and all family members also applying for visas:

1.       Form DS-260, Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration Application.

2.       Preview a sample  DS-260 (PDF - 6.4MB).

3.       A copy of the biodata page from the passport of each applicant; (Each passport must be valid for at least 12 months beyond the anticipated visa interview date).

4.       Scanned copies of a birth certificate/taskera for each applicant, and any other civil documents showing the relationship between you and your spouse and/or minor children (e.g. marriage (Nikah Khet) and divorce certificates, adoption decrees, etc.)

5.       Police certificates are NOT required if you are a resident of Afghanistan. However, if you have lived in a different country for more than 12 months since reaching the age of 16, then you must submit a police certificate from the police authorities of that locality. Click here for additional information on how to obtain police certificates. 

6.       A completed Refugee Benefits Election Form  (PDF - 56 KB);

7.       A completed DS-0234, Special Immigrant Visa Biodata Form  (PDF - 312 KB) (if you elect to receive Resettlement Benefits; see explanation below).

                                                             ii.      All documents must be accompanied by an English translation. The translation must include a statement signed by the translator that the translation is accurate, and the translator is competent to translate.

 

d.      How do I submit my documents to NVC?

                                                               i.      Please scan and send all documentation to NVC via e-mail at NVCSIV@state.gov. Do not mail any original documents or photos to NVC. You should hand-carry your original documents and photos with you to your visa interview.

 

e.       Am I eligible for Resettlement Benefits?

                                                               i.      Yes. Iraqi and Afghan special immigrants are eligible for the same resettlement assistance, entitlement programs, and other benefits as refugees admitted under the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program, for up to eight (8) months after being admitted to the United States. For more information about the relevant U.S. laws, see References - U.S. Laws, numbers 4, 5, and 6.

                                                             ii.      If you wish to participate in the U.S. Department of State’s Reception and Placement (R&P) Program, which covers only your first 30-90 days in the United States, you must apply for it before you travel to the United States. 

                                                           iii.      To apply, you must return scanned, signed copies of the Refugee Benefits Election Form  (PDF - 56 KB) (signature required) and the Special Immigrant Visa Biodata Form (DS-0234)  (PDF - 312 KB), included in the visa instruction packet, to NVC, the Refugee Processing Center (RPC), or the appropriate Resettlement Support Center (RSC), as soon as possible but no later than 10 calendar days after the date your visa is issued. In addition, you must submit a scanned copy of your visa foil as soon as possible but no later than 30 calendar days prior to the visa’s expiration. You should not wait to submit the Refugee Benefits Election Form and the Special Immigrant Visa Biodata Form until visa issuance. All three items must be received by NVC, RPC, or RSC prior to the deadlines indicated above. Failure to do so will result in the denial of any future request for Department of State-funded resettlement benefits. Click here for additional information about Department of State-funded benefits.

                                                           iv.      If you decline to receive Department of State-funded resettlement benefits, you may still be eligible to receive benefits funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Refugee Resettlement (HHS/ORR). Unlike Department of State-funded benefits, HHS/ORR-funded benefits can be claimed upon arrival to the United States. Click here for additional information about HHS/ORR-funded benefits.

 

f.        I submitted an SIV petition. How do I find out the status of my application?

                                                               i.      When your approved petition reaches NVC, you will be advised by e-mail and provided with instructions. If you believe that you have an approved petition, but you have not been contacted by NVC, or you have questions about your pending SIV case after the petition has been approved, please email NVC at NVCSIV@state.gov or call 1-603-334-0828 and provide your USCIS receipt number, full name, and date of birth.  Customer Service Representatives at NVC are available from 7:30 a.m. to midnight (EST). The hours for congressional inquiries are from 7:30 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. (EST).

 

g.       My question wasn't answered here. Where can I get more information about my approved petition?

                                                               i.      You may e-mail NVC at NVCSIV@state.gov.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6.       Step 3 – The Visa Interview

a.       Is a personal interview required?

                                                               i.      Yes. After USCIS has approved your petition, an interview is required to determine if you are eligible for a visa. You must appear in person at a U.S. embassy or consulate where a consular officer will interview you. U.S. law also requires you to submit fingerprints, which will be taken at the interview. The consular officer will also require evidence that you plan to resign from your position in order to immigrate to the United States.

                                                             ii.      Each family member who is applying for a visa with you must also appear at the embassy or consulate for an interview.

 

b.      Will I be required to provide a written description of my position and responsibilities for my work as a translator/interpreter at the visa interview?

                                                               i.      Yes, you will be required to provide a written description of your position and responsibilities for translation/interpretation at your scheduled interview appointment.

 

c.       Will I be required to interview in English?

                                                               i.      Yes. You should be prepared to interview in English only.

 

d.      If I live in Iraq or Afghanistan, can my interview be conducted at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad or Kabul?

                                                               i.      The U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq, and the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, conduct interviews for and issue immigrant visas. If you are in another country, the interview may be conducted at the closest U.S. Embassy or Consulate that adjudicates immigrant visa applications. You can find a list of our embassies and consulates at http://www.usembassy.gov.

 

e.       I am an Iraqi national and do not have a valid passport, or I have an S, M or N series Iraqi passport. Do I need to obtain an A or G series passport?

                                                               i.      In order to apply for a U.S. visa and travel to the United States, you must have an A or G series passport. You should make all possible efforts to obtain an Iraqi A or G series passport. Failure to do so will complicate your ability to travel and will delay your application. If your immigrant visa appointment has been scheduled, please contact the embassy or consulate where the interview is scheduled for information about what documents may be required for travel to that country. You should be aware that Iraqi S, M and N series passports are not valid for travel to the United States, though in some limited circumstances a waiver may be available. Again, this will delay your travel significantly. Click here for more information about Iraqi passports.

 

 

f.        May my family accompany me or follow to join me to the United States?

                                                               i.      Yes, your spouse, as well as your unmarried children under age 21, may accompany you to the United States or follow to join you in the United States. These family members must also attend the visa interview. You must provide proof of the marriage relationship to your spouse and the relationship to your children. Your family members may not precede you in entering the United States.    

                                                             ii.      NOTE: We strongly advise you to bring your spouse and minor dependent children with you to your visa interview. This will facilitate having all eligible family members travel to the United States together. If it is not possible for your family members to travel to the interview with you, they will be required to schedule interviews for a later date and may follow-to-join you in the United States at a later time.

                                                           iii.      If you marry after your petition is approved but before you travel to the United States, your new spouse may be added to the original petition. You should immediately contact the U.S. embassy or consulate where your interview took place, to notify consular officials that your new spouse should be added to the petition and an interview scheduled. If you marry a foreign national after you have already traveled to the United States, you will need to file a new petition for your spouse.

 

g.       What happens if the principal applicant dies after approval of the petition?

                                                               i.      Your spouse or children may, in some circumstances, still be eligible for a visa if a petition had been approved by USCIS, but the petition was revoked or terminated after its approval due to the death of the principal applicant.

 

h.      What documents should I bring to the visa interview?

                                                               i.      Please bring your passport, your Iraqi national identity card (bataqa shaksiya) (if you are an Iraqi national), taskera (if you are Afghan national), and any military photo identification or civilian identification badges. You should also bring originals of your civil documents, such as marriage certificates, birth certificates, or death certificates, including all documents that were submitted by e-mail to NVC.  At the visa interview, you will also be expected to provide written evidence of your intent to immigrate promptly to the United States. 

                                                             ii.      In addition, you should bring two recent photographs of each applicant, which meet the photo requirements.

 

i.        Will the U.S. Government pay the cost of my travel to the interview or provide accommodations at the interview site?

                                                               i.      No. When budgeting your time and your funds, please plan for the possibility that you may need to stay for more than one day in the country where your interview takes place. You will not be able to complete your medical examination and interview on the same day. Some medical exams may require tests with delayed results.

j.        Can the U.S. Embassy arrange for my entry visas and guarantee admission to another country for my visa interview?

                                                               i.      No. While embassies and consulates work closely with their host-country counterparts to ensure coordination on important programs, such as this SIV program, the final decision about whom to admit into a country rests with the government of that country. If you have difficulty entering another country for your visa interview, you should remain in close contact with the U.S. embassy or consulate to which your case has been assigned.

 

k.       What are the visa fees?

                                                               i.      Each applicant must pay the immigrant visa application processing fee at the visa interview. For the current amount for these fees, see Fees for Visa Services.

 

l.        Can the visa fees be waived?

                                                               i.      No. We do not have the authority to waive the immigrant visa fees.

 

m.    Will I receive my visa on the same day as my interview?

                                                               i.      At the conclusion of your interview, the consular officer will let you know if there are any problems with your case that might prevent issuance of a visa, or if there is missing documentation that you need to provide. However, even if your visa interview is successful, you might not receive your visa on the same day. Many immigrant visa cases require additional administrative processing after the interview.

 

n.      My question wasn't answered here. Where can I get more information about my pending visa?

                                                               i.      You should directly contact the U.S. embassy or consulate to which your case has been assigned:

If you are an Iraqi national and your case has been assigned to:

You may contact the Embassy at:

U.S. Embassy Baghdad

BaghdadSIV@state.gov

U.S. Embassy Amman

Amman-IV@state.gov

If you are an Afghan national and your case has been assigned to:

You may contact the Embassy at:

U.S. Embassy Kabul

KabulSIV@state.gov

                                                             ii.      Otherwise, go to http://www.usembassy.gov to locate contact information for the U.S. embassy or consulate that is handling your case.

7.       STEP 4 – Arrival in the United States

a.       As an Iraqi or Afghan Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) recipient, am I eligible for any benefits?

                                                               i.      Yes. Afghan and Iraqi SIV recipients are eligible for the same resettlement assistance, entitlement programs, and other benefits as refugees admitted under the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP), for up to eight (8) months after being admitted to the United States. For more information about the relevant U.S. laws, see References - U.S. Laws, numbers 4, 5, and 6.

                                                             ii.      The U.S. Department of State’s Reception and Placement (R&P) Program covers only your first 30-90 days in the United States.

 

b.      How do I apply to receive these benefits?

                                                               i.      If you would like to participate in the R&P Program, you must complete, sign, and return scanned copies of the following two forms, included in the visa instruction packet:

1.       Refugee Benefits Election Form (PDF - 56 KB)

2.       Special Immigrant Visa Biodata Form (DS-0234) (PDF - 312 KB).

                                                             ii.      You should complete these two forms as soon as possible while you are still overseas before your visa has been issued, or upon your arrival in the United States. You should send the forms to one of the following offices, so that we can begin processing of your case and book your travel after your visa has been issued:

1.       the NVC at NVCSIV@state.gov, or

2.       the Refugee Processing Center (RPC) at SIV@wrapsnet.org.

                                                           iii.      You must also provide a copy of your visa after it has been issued.

                                                           iv.      Additional information about Department of State-funded benefits can be found here.

 

c.       The instructions on the Special Immigrant Visa Biodata Form (DS-0234) state that it is to be completed by each beneficiary. Does that mean each member of my family needs to complete a form or is one form sufficient for all family members included on the SIV case?

                                                               i.      You must complete a separate form for each family member and return it to NVC at NVCSIV@state.gov or the RPC at SIV@wrapsnet.org. NVC will provide you with the Special Immigrant Visa Biodata Form (DS-0234) (PDF - 312 KB) as part of the visa application packet. This form can also be found on the Refugee Processing Center’s (RPC) website.

 

d.      I would like to be resettled in a specific city/state. What should I do?

                                                               i.      You may designate a resettlement preference if you have family or friends living in the United States. You may include this information on the Special Immigrant Visa Biodata Form (DS-0234)  (PDF - 312 KB) under Section D, entitled “U.S. Ties”. If you have a resettlement preference, you should provide the full name, address, telephone number, and email address of the individual(s) you desire to be resettled near, specifying the nature of your relationship to this individual(s) (i.e. mother, daughter, brother, etc.). If more than one individual is provided and all of them live in different locations, you should indicate your order of preference. Please note that the individual(s) you provide must currently reside in the United States and must be willing to discuss your case with a resettlement agency. While you may provide information about a person you wish to be resettled near, it may not always be possible to honor your request to resettle near family members or friends.

                                                             ii.      If you do not have any family or friends in the United States, your final destination will be determined by the resettlement agency. Decisions are based on your needs/background and local capacity.

                                                           iii.      Please be aware that the cost of living and the availability of housing can vary significantly in different locations across the United States. The Washington, DC metro area including northern Virginia and some cities in California are very expensive places to live, and it can be difficult to find affordable housing and employment. Any resettlement benefits you receive may not comfortably cover the cost of living in these areas. Unless you have close relatives or friends in these areas who are able to provide financial support and housing until you find employment that covers your living expenses, it is best to allow a resettlement agency to choose a suitable location for you.

 

e.       How do I obtain a travel loan?

                                                               i.      The International Organization for Migration (IOM) will prepare your travel loan and arrange your travel to the United States after your visa has been issued, if you elected to receive travel and resettlement assistance from the Department of State by submitting scanned, signed copies of the Refugee Benefits Election Form  (PDF - 56 KB) and the Special Immigrant Visa Biodata Form (DS-0234)  (PDF - 312 KB) to the NVC or the RPC. This interest-free travel loan is a benefit provided through the U.S. Department of State’s Reception and Placement (R&P) Program, for which you must apply while you are still overseas. Additional information about Department of State-funded benefits can be found here.

 

f.        What if I have to travel immediately and cannot arrange travel through the International Organization for Migration (IOM)?

                                                               i.      Under certain circumstances, we understand you may not have time to declare your intention to participate in the R&P Program while still overseas. If you elect to arrange your own flight, you may still be eligible for Department of State resettlement benefits or benefits funded by the Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Refugee Resettlement (HHS/ORR). To determine if you qualify, please contact a resettlement affiliate as soon as possible after your arrival in the United States as your eligibility is time-limited. We recommend you contact a resettlement affiliate within 30 days after your arrival. The list of resettlement affiliates can be found on http://www.wrapsnet.org/ or click here.

 

g.       At what point can I begin to make travel arrangements, sell property, and/or give up my job?

                                                               i.      You should NOT sell property and/or give up employment until the U.S. Embassy or Consulate General has issued a visa and the Refugee Processing Center has referred your case to IOM for travel arrangements.

 

h.      How will I know which agency is responsible for providing services to me in the United States?

                                                               i.      If you choose to receive Department of State-funded Reception and Placement (R&P) services, you must fill out and return scanned copies of the Refugee Benefits Election Form  (PDF - 56 KB), the Special Immigrant Visa Biodata Form (DS-0234)  (PDF - 312 KB), and of your visa, after it has been issued, to NVC or the RPC while still overseas. Once you submit the copy of your issued visa, your case will be assigned to a resettlement agency before you depart for the United States. Prior to departure, the entity responsible for processing your case for R&P benefits - either a Resettlement Support Center (RSC) or the RPC - will provide you with an Assurance Form indicating your final destination in the United States and the resettlement agency that will provide services to you upon your arrival.

 

i.        If I elect to receive refugee benefits, what help will I receive once I am in the United States, and from whom?

                                                               i.      The Department of State funds nine (9) Resettlement Agencies that participate in the Reception and Placement (R&P) Program under a cooperative agreement. These agencies have over 300 affiliated Reception and Placement offices across the United States. The resettlement agency is responsible for providing initial reception and placement services and assisting refugees and SIV beneficiaries to achieve economic self-sufficiency as quickly as possible. All refugees and SIV recipients who elected to participate in the program are provided with sponsorship and resettlement services appropriate to their personal circumstances by one of these organizations.

                                                             ii.      The U.S. government has established guidelines and provides funding for the resettlement services that you will receive upon arrival in the United States. Your resettlement agency will have a local office in or near the town where you will be resettled and will provide basic living assistance and support for up to the first 30-90 days after you arrive. The following are some of the things you should expect to do and/or receive during your first weeks in the United States.

                                                           iii.      The resettlement agency to which you are assigned will:

1.       Receive U.S. government funds and use these funds to pay for your rent and/or basic necessities. A portion of these funds may be given directly to you in cash.The resettlement agency will ensure you have a small amount of money for daily needs.

2.       Ensure you have housing for your first 30 days.

3.       Assist with enrolling your children in school.

4.       Assist you with access to English language classes, if necessary.

                                                           iv.      With assistance from the resettlement agency, if needed, you will need to:

1.       Apply for a social security card, required for work.

2.       Learn about and be assisted with access to employment services. (While the resettlement agency will assist in whatever way it can, it is ultimately your responsibility to find and maintain employment.)

3.       Learn to use public transportation (a car will not be provided).

4.       Begin to learn about U.S customs and law.

5.       Learn about and be assisted with access to community services that can help you, including social services, cash and medical assistance, and food stamps, if necessary.

6.       Find out about other government services and programs and how to access services.

                                                             v.      The program would not succeed without volunteers in communities across the United States to assist with these activities. The following organizations provide initial resettlement services to refugees and SIV recipients. You may learn more about them from information provided in their websites.

U.S. Refugee Resettlement Agencies

Church World Service (CWS)

www.churchworldservice.org

Episcopal Migration Ministries (EMM)

www.episcopalchurch.org/emm

Ethiopian Community Development Council (ECDC)

www.ecdcinternational.org

Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS)

www.hias.org

International Rescue Committee (IRC)

www.rescue.org

Lutheran Immigration & Refugee Service (LIRS)

www.lirs.org

U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI)

www.refugees.org

United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB)

http://usccb.org/about/migration-and-refugee-services/

World Relief (WR)

www.wr.org

 

j.        What if I already have a file with UNHCR or a UN number? What should I do?

                                                               i.      If you meet the eligibility criteria of the SIV Program, you may apply for an SIV even if you are already registered with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and/or have an application pending with the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP).

 

k.       Are other benefits available to me, if I decline benefits from the Department of State?

                                                               i.      If you decline to receive Department of State-funded resettlement benefits, you may still be eligible to receive benefits funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Refugee Resettlement (HHS/ORR). ORR-funded benefits are administered by states and are available through state benefit-granting agencies. After arrival in the United States, you may apply for these benefits in the state in which you reside. SIV recipients who elect to participate in the U.S. Department of State R&P Program will be assisted in applying for ORR-funded benefits by the resettlement agency providing their R&P services. If you do not elect to participate in the Department of State’s R&P Program, you must apply for these benefits on your own by contacting the State Refugee Coordinator in the state in which you live.

 

l.        If admitted to the United States, do I get U.S. citizenship? If so, how long does it take?

                                                               i.      As an SIV recipient, you will have Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) status upon admission into the United States. Once you are admitted to the United States you will be mailed your Permanent Resident Card (also known as Green Card). You are normally eligible to apply for U.S. citizenship after residing for five (5) years in the United States. For more information, see naturalization information on the USCIS website.

 

 

 

 

 

 

8.       Contact Information

If you:

please contact:

at:

think you might be eligible to apply for an SIV,

your supervisor in the U.S. Armed Forces, or the Human Resources (HR) office at your embassy or consulate

have questions regarding filing requirements and instructions for an SIV Form I-360 petition,

USCIS Nebraska Service Center

sivtranslator.nsc@dhs.gov

have an approved Form I-360 petition and have questions regarding your case status,

National Visa Center (NVC)

NVCSIV@state.gov

have questions about your immigrant visa interview,

the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where the interview will be scheduled

You can find a list of our U.S. Embassies and Consulates at: http://www.usembassy.state.gov

would like information about SIV resettlement benefits and post-arrival services,

the Refugee Processing Center

SIV@wrapsnet.org

are a supervisor of an SIV applicant that has received COM approval and would like to submit additional information in support of the pending visa application

Visa Office

SIV-Applicant-Supervisor@state.gov

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

9.       References – U.S. Laws

a.       The chart below contains a list of U.S. laws relevant to Special Immigrant Visas (SIVs) for eligible Iraqi or Afghan translators/interpreters who worked directly with the U. S. Armed Forces or under Chief of Mission authority.  You can find more detailed information about each of these laws by going to the National Archives Office of the Federal Register website.


 

Law:

Information about the Law:

1

Section 1059 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2006 (Public Law 109-163)

This law allowed up to 50 Iraqi and Afghan translators/interpreters who worked for the U.S. Armed Forces to receive special immigrant visas (SIVs) each fiscal year (FY). This law was later amended and now provides SIV status for eligible Iraqi and Afghan translators/interpreters who have worked either directly with the U.S. Armed Forces or under Chief of Mission (COM) authority at U.S. Embassy Baghdad or U.S. Embassy Kabul.

2

Public Law 110-36

This law, which then-President Bush signed on June 15, 2007, amended the law above by expanding the total number of SIVs issued to Iraqi and Afghan translators/interpreters working for the U.S. military to 500 a year for FY 2007 and FY 2008 only.

3

Public Law 110-242

A provision of this law applies only to cases in which petitions for SIV status as Iraqi or Afghan translators/interpreters who worked directly with the U. S. Armed Forces or under Chief of Mission authority for at least 12 months were filed before October 1, 2008. It authorized the continued processing and adjudication of these applications even though the annual limit of 500 visas had already been reached.

4

The Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2008 (Public Law 110-161 of December 26, 2007)

This law initially made Afghan and Iraqi SIV holders eligible for the same resettlement assistance, entitlement programs, and other benefits as refugees admitted under the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program for up to six (6) months from their date of admission or date of adjustment if applying domestically. The period of eligibility was later extended under subsequent legislation. See these two laws below.

5

The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008 (Public Law 110-181 of January 28, 2008)

This law extended the period of eligibility of Iraqi SIV holders for resettlement assistance, entitlement programs, and other benefits to up to eight (8) months from their date of admission or date of adjustment if applying domestically.

6

The Omnibus Appropriations Act, 2009 (Public Law 111-8 of March 10, 2009)

This law extended the period of eligibility of Afghan SIV holders for resettlement assistance, entitlement programs, and other benefits to up to eight (8) months from their date of admission or date of adjustment if applying domestically. For Afghan SIV holders already in the U.S. to be eligible for uninterrupted benefits for an additional two (2) months beyond the original six months (6) allowed under previous law, you must have been admitted to the U.S. on or after September 10, 2008, or if applying domestically, have a date of adjustment of September 10, 2008 or later.

Special Immigrant Visas for Iraqis - Who Were Employed by/on Behalf of the U.S. Government

1.       Iraqi SIV Program Extended

a.       The Department of State’s authority to issue Special Immigrant Visas (SIVs) to Iraqi nationals under the National Defense Authorization Act of 2008 was extended. As of January 1, 2014, 2,500 visas may be issued to principal applicants under this program, and the program will end when all visas have been issued.

b.       The deadline to apply for Chief of Mission approval, the first step in the SIV application process, was September 30, 2014.

                                                               i.       Overview

                                                             ii.      STEP 1 – Chief of Mission Approval

                                                            iii.      STEP 2 – File a Petition with USCIS

                                                            iv.      STEP 3 – Prepare for Your Visa Application

                                                             v.       STEP 4 – The Visa Interview

                                                            vi.      STEP 5 – Arrival in the United States

                                                          vii.       Contact Information

                                                        viii.      Quarterly Reports on Status of Iraqi Program 

                                                            ix.       References - U.S. Laws

c.       Note: You should NOT make any travel arrangements, sell property, or give up employment until and unless you are issued a U.S. visa.

 

2.       Overview

a.       What is this program?

                                                               i.      Section 1244 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008, authorized the issuance of up to 5,000 Special Immigrant Visas (SIVs) annually through fiscal year (FY) 2013 to Iraqi nationals who were employed by or on behalf of the U.S. government in Iraq and who meet certain requirements. Subsequent legislation extended this program from October 1 until December 31, 2013. This program was again extended through legislation effective January 1, 2014. The SIV process is available to Iraqi employees and contractors who were employed by or on behalf of the U.S. government in Iraq on or after March 20, 2003 and prior to September 30, 2013, for a period of one year or more, and who have experienced or are experiencing an ongoing serious threat as a consequence of that employment. For more information about the relevant U.S. law, see References - U.S. Laws, number 1

                                                             ii.      In addition to the information on this website, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) provides information on Form I-360petitions for this program.

                                                           iii.      This program is completely distinct from another program authorizing SIVs for certain Iraqi and Afghan translators/interpreters who worked directly with the United States Armed Forces or under COM authority, although some translators and interpreters may qualify under both programs. For information on that program, see our page on Special Immigrant Visas for Iraqi and Afghan Translators/Interpreters.

 

b.      What is meant by SIV?

                                                               i.      SIV stands for Special Immigrant Visa. While there are many categories of SIVs, this webpage discusses only SIVs for eligible Iraqi citizens who were employed by or on behalf of the U.S. government for one year or more between March 20, 2003 and September 30, 2013, and who have experienced or are experiencing an ongoing serious threat due to that employment.

 

c.       What is meant by fiscal year?

                                                               i.      The fiscal year begins on October 1 and ends September 30.

 

d.      How many Special Immigrant Visas can be issued per year under this program?

                                                               i.      The total number of principal applicants who could receive SIV status under this program could not exceed 5,000 per year for fiscal years 2008 through 2012.  The unused amount from fiscal year 2012 was allocated toward fiscal year 2013. Subsequent legislation extended this program until December 31, 2013. During this period of extension, there was authorization for the issuance of visas in the amount of the total number of applications for SIV status by principal applicants pending as of September 30, 2013 and for up to 2,000 additional visas for person who apply for status as principal applicants subsequent to that date. This program was again extended through legislation effective January 1, 2014 and authorizes the issuance of 2,500 visas to principal applicants. The program will end when all 2,500 visas have been issued. SIVs issued to a principal applicant's spouse and children do not count toward the numerical limit.

                                                             ii.      The deadline to apply for Chief of Mission approval, the first step in the SIV application process, was September 30, 2014.

 

e.       Who could apply for this program?

                                                               i.      Applicants for this program must have met all of the following requirements:

1.       You must be a national of Iraq; and

2.       You must have been employed by, or on behalf of, the U.S. government in Iraq on or after March 20, 2003 and prior to September 30, 2013, for a period of one year or more; and

3.       You must have provided faithful and valuable service to the U.S. Government, which is documented in a letter of recommendation from your supervisor; and

4.       You must have experienced or be experiencing an ongoing serious threat as a consequence of your employment by the U.S. government.

                                                             ii.      The deadline to apply for Chief of Mission approval, the first step in the SIV application process, was September 30, 2014. Applications submitted after this date cannot be accepted or processed.

 

 

f.        What about my family? Can my family members immigrate with me?

                                                               i.      Your spouse, as well as unmarried children younger than 21, may be granted SIVs, and may travel with you or may follow to join you after you have been admitted to the United States.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3.       STEP 1 – Chief of Mission Approval

a.       May I apply for Chief of Mission (COM) approval?

                                                               i.      The deadline to apply for COM approval was September 30, 2014. Applications submitted after this date cannot be accepted or processed.

                                                             ii.      Although applications are no longer possible for the Iraqi SIV program, you may be eligible for resettlement in the United States with your family under the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP). For more information on the USRAP, please visit http://iraq.usembassy.gov/refugeesidpaffairs.html.

 

b.      I submitted my application for Chief of Mission (COM) approval by September 30, 2014. What happens after I submit my documents?

                                                               i.      NVC will collect and review your documents. Once NVC deems the application packet complete, it is forwarded to the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, where the Chief of Mission (COM) SIV approval designee and staff will review your case. If approved, a Chief of Mission Approval letter will be sent to you via e-mail with instructions on how to send your application and Form I-360 petition to the Nebraska Service Center. See Step 2 below.

 

c.       Who is the Chief of Mission (COM)?

                                                               i.      The Chief of Mission (COM) is the principal officer in charge of a diplomatic mission appointed by the President of the United States.

 

d.      What happens if my Chief of Mission application is denied?

                                                               i.      Applicants whose Chief of Mission (COM) applications are denied will receive a letter of denial by email which will provide an explanation of the basis for denial. You may file one appeal of a COM denial, and it must be filed within 120 days of receiving the denial letter by email. Your appeal should request that your denied COM application be reopened and should provide additional information pertinent to your application, clarify existing information in your original application, or explain any unfavorable information that was contained in the letter of denial.

 

e.       If I have already been scheduled for an interview or have been interviewed as a refugee, but am also eligible for a Special Immigrant Visa based on approval of my Chief of Mission (COM) application, which application should I pursue?

                                                               i.      You determine which route you choose to pursue. Both processes take several months to complete. Registration and application for either program is not a guarantee of eventual admission to the United States. You may pursue both applications simultaneously. The refugee and SIV programs differ in process and eligibility. Please consult U.S. Embassy Baghdad’s Office of Refugee and IDP Affairs website for more information about accessing the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program.

                                                             ii.      You may apply for both the refugee and SIV programs at the same time. At the time of your interview with a U.S. government official for either refugee or SIV status, you should ask that your case in the other status be closed. You may be asked to submit a written request to close your other case.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4.       STEP 2 – File a Petition with USCIS

a.       Who files the petition (Form I-360)? What documents are required with the petition?

                                                               i.      You must submit the following package of documents directly to the USCIS Nebraska Service Center:

1.       A completed Form I-360, Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant.
[NOTE: To be properly filed, the Form I-360 must include your original signature.]

2.       A copy of your passport, nationality certificate (shahadat jensiyah), or national identification card showing that you are a national of Iraq, along with a certified English translation, if the document is not in English.

3.       A copy of the recommendation from your supervisor that you sent to NVC when you applied for Chief of Mission (COM) approval.  

4.       A copy of your COM approval, which should note that the COM or his/her designee:

a.       Has determined that you were employed by, or on behalf of, the U.S. government between March 20, 2003 and September 30, 2013, for a period of not less than one year;

b.       Has conducted an independent review of records maintained by the U.S. government or hiring organization or entity to confirm employment and determined that you have provided faithful and valuable service to the U.S. government; and

c.       Has determined that you have experienced or are experiencing an ongoing serious threat as a consequence of your employment by the U.S. government.

5.       If you are in the United States when you file the petition, a copy of the front and back of your paper Form I-94, Arrival/Departure Record.  If you entered the United States after the automation of Form I-94, and your Arrival/Departure Record was created electronically, you may obtain a paper Form I-94 at http://www.cbp.gov/travel/international-visitors/i-94-instructions.

                                                             ii.      More information is available on the USCIS website under Green Card for an Iraqi Who Assisted the U.S. Government.

 

b.      Where do I find the forms?

                                                               i.      Form I-360, Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrantis available on the USCIS Forms webpage.

 

c.       How do I file the petition?

                                                               i.      There are no filing or biometric fees associated with this petition, you may scan and email your petition with the required documents (preferably in pdf format) to the following email address:

                                                             ii.      NSCI360SIVAPP@uscis.dhs.gov

                                                           iii.      Please note if you submit your I-360 by email, that you must bring the same original, signed Form I-360 that was submitted to NSC with you to the consular interview.   

                                                           iv.      Or you may send the original I-360 and required documents by either regular mail or overnight delivery, to the appropriate address below.

1.       Regular Mail:
USCIS/ Nebraska Service Center (NSC)
P.O. Box 87485
Lincoln, NE 68501-7485

2.       Overnight Deliveries:
USCIS/ Nebraska Service Center (NSC)
850 “S” Street
Lincoln, NE 68508

 

d.      What return email or mailing address should I use on the Form I-360 petition?

                                                               i.      If you scan and email your Form I-360 petition, include the email address you want USCIS to use to send your electronic receipt (Form I-797). If no email address is submitted with the form, the receipt notice will be sent electronically to the email address from which the petition was submitted. 

                                                             ii.      USCIS cannot send mail outside the United States except to an APO address. If you have access to an APO address, USCIS will use this address. If you do not have access to an APO address, but you have family, friends, or an attorney with an address in the United States, you may list their address (with their permission). In Part 1, line 3, the family member’s, friend’s, or attorney’s name must be listed in the C/O (in care of) section; otherwise the post office will not deliver the mail. You should also list your email address as this is the best way for USCIS to reach you.

                                                           iii.      If you don’t have an APO address or an address in the United States, you should list your email address.

 

e.       Where will my petition be adjudicated? Who makes the decision?

                                                               i.      All petitions for this program are adjudicated at USCIS Nebraska Service Center. If approved, USCIS will forward your petition to the NVC, which will then contact you by e-mail to begin collecting the necessary documentation to support your visa application. NVC will also schedule your visa interview at a U.S. embassy or consulate overseas.

 

f.        When the numerical limit of visas is reached, will my petition be rejected and have to be re-filed?

                                                               i.      USCIS will continue to process each petition, even if the numerical limit of visas has been reached. 

                                                             ii.      When your petition has been approved, it will be sent to the NVC.  If visas are available, the NVC will contact you to schedule the visa interview. If the authorized number of visas are no longer available, the NVC will hold the petition. 

 

g.       What is the difference between Part 1 and Part 3 of the Form I-360? Should both parts be completed?

                                                               i.      Part 1 and Part 3 contain similar information, but Part 3 includes additional required information. Both parts should be completed.

 

h.      In Part 2, what box should be checked?

                                                               i.      You should check box “l,” Special Immigrant Iraq National who was employed by or on behalf of the United States Government, in Part 2 of the Form I-360. If an earlier form is used, you should check box ”k” – “Other, explain”, and write “Iraqi Worker” in the space provided.

 

i.        What are the fees associated with filing the petition?

                                                               i.      Under this particular program, there are no filing or biometric fees associated with filing the petition.

 

j.        If I am an Iraqi refugee already in the United States, can I file Form I-485 with USCIS to apply for adjustment from refugee to SIV status?

                                                               i.      No. A refugee in the United States is not eligible to adjust from refugee to SIV status. Under U.S. law, an employment-based immigrant must be in valid nonimmigrant status in order to apply for adjustment. Instead, a refugee may adjust to lawful permanent resident (LPR) status after acquiring one year of physical presence in the United States following his or her refugee admission. (Note: there is no fee for applicants who are filing Form I-485 to adjust to LPR status based on having been admitted to the United States as a refugee.)

                                                             ii.      See the USCIS website for further information.

 

k.       My question wasn’t answered here. Where can I get more information about filing a Form I-360 petition?

                                                               i.      If you need further information about the petition filing process, you may email the USCIS Nebraska Service Center at SIVTranslator.NSC@dhs.gov.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5.       STEP 3 – Prepare for Your Visa Application

a.       When will my case be ready for visa processing?

                                                               i.      Once NVC receives your approved petition from USCIS, NVC will contact you by e-mail to advise you to begin collecting the appropriate documents to move ahead with your visa application. NVC will schedule your immigrant visa interview for you and your family at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate overseas. NVC will forward your SIV case to that Embassy or Consulate for your visa interview. NVC will work with you to schedule your appointment at the embassy or consulate in the country in which you reside or to which you can easily travel. 

                                                             ii.      You must provide an e-mail address to facilitate communication with NVC. You may contact NVC by e-mail at NVCSIV@state.gov.

 

b.      What documents do I need to send to NVC for visa processing?

                                                               i.      You must submit the following forms and documents for yourself and all family members also applying for visas. If you have previously submitted any of these documents to NVC, you do not need to submit them to NVC again.

1.       Form DS-260, Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration Application.

2.       Preview a sample  DS-260 (6.4MB);

3.       A copy of the biodata page from the passport of each applicant. You should obtain an A or G series Iraqi passport because only A or G series passports are valid for travel to the United States. Click here for more information about Iraqi passports;

4.       Family Book (Copy of Entry 1957) and scanned copies of a birth certificate for each applicant and any other civil documents showing the relationship between you and your spouse and/or minor children (e.g., marriage and divorce certificates, adoption decrees, etc.). If no birth certificate is available, the Iraqi national identity card (bataqa shaksiya) may be used instead of a birth certificate;

5.       Police certificate from Iraq if you have lived in Iraq for at least six months since reaching age 16. If you have lived in a different country for more than 12 months since reaching age 16, then you need to submit a police certificate from the authorities of that locality. Click here for additional information on how to obtain police certificates; 

6.       A completed Resettlement Benefits Election Form  (PDF - 56 KB);

7.       A completed DS-0234, Special Immigrant Visa Biodata Form  (PDF - 312 KB)(if you elect to receive Resettlement Benefits, see explanation below).

                                                             ii.      All documents must be accompanied by an English translation. The translation must include a statement signed by the translator that the translation is accurate, and the translator is competent to translate.

 

 

c.       How do I submit my documents to NVC?

                                                               i.      Please scan and send all documentation to NVC via e-mail at NVCSIV@state.gov. Do not mail any original documents or photos to NVC. You should hand-carry your original documents and photos with you to your visa interview.

 

d.      Am I eligible for Resettlement Benefits?

                                                               i.      Yes. Iraqi special immigrants are eligible for the same resettlement assistance, entitlement programs, and other benefits as refugees admitted under the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program, for up to eight (8) months after being admitted to the United States. For more information about the relevant U.S. law, see References - U.S. Laws, number 2.

                                                             ii.      If you wish to participate in the U.S. Department of State’s Reception and Placement (R&P) Program, which covers only your first 30-90 days in the United States, you must apply for it before you arrive in the United States. 

                                                           iii.      To apply, you must return scanned, signed copies of the Refugee Benefits Election Form  (PDF - 56 KB) (signature required) and the Special Immigrant Visa Biodata Form (DS-0234)  (PDF - 312 KB), included in the visa instruction packet, to NVC, the Refugee Processing Center (RPC), or the appropriate Resettlement Support Center (RSC) as soon as possible but no later than 10 calendar days after the date your visa is issued. In addition, you must submit a scanned copy of your visa foil as soon as possible but no later than 30 calendar days prior to the visa’s expiration. You should not wait to submit the Refugee Benefits Election Form and the Special Immigrant Visa Biodata Form (DS-0234) until visa issuance. All three items must be received by the NVC, RPC, or RSC prior to the deadlines indicated above. Failure to do so will result in the denial of any future request for Department of State-funded resettlement benefits. Click here for additional information about Department of State-funded benefits.

                                                           iv.      If you decline to receive Department of State-funded resettlement benefits, you may still be eligible to receive benefits funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Refugee Resettlement (HHS/ORR). Unlike Department of State-funded benefits, HHS/ORR-funded benefits can be claimed upon arrival to the U.S. Click here for additional information about HHS/ORR-funded benefits.

 

e.       I submitted an SIV petition. How do I find out the status of my application?

                                                               i.      When your approved petition reaches NVC, you will be advised by e-mail and provided with instructions. If you believe that you have an approved petition, but you have not been contacted by NVC, or you have questions about your pending SIV case after the petition has been approved, please email NVC at NVCSIV@state.gov or call 1-603-334-0828 and provide your USCIS receipt number, full name, and date of birth. Customer Service Representatives at NVC are available from 7:30 a.m. to midnight (EST). The hours for congressional inquiries are from 7:30 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. (EST).

f.        My question wasn’t answered here. Where can I get more information about my approved petition?

                                                               i.      You may email NVC at NVCSIV@state.gov.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6.       STEP 4 – The Visa Interview

a.       Is a personal interview required?

                                                               i.      Yes. After USCIS has approved your petition, an interview is required to determine if you are eligible for a visa. You must appear in person at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate where a consular officer will interview you. U.S. law also requires you to submit fingerprints, which will be taken at the interview. The consular officer will also require evidence that you plan to resign from your position in order to immigrate to the United States.

                                                             ii.      Each family member who is applying for a visa with you must also appear at the embassy or consulate for an interview.

 

b.      If I live in Iraq, can my interview be conducted at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad?

                                                               i.      Yes. The U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq conducts interviews for and issues immigrant visas. If you are in another country, the interview will be conducted at the closest U.S. Embassy or Consulate that processes immigrant visa applications. You can find a list of our embassies and consulates at http://www.usembassy.gov.

 

c.       I do not have a valid passport, or I have an S, M or N series Iraqi passport. Do I need to obtain an A or G series passport?

                                                               i.      In order to apply for a U.S. visa and travel to the United States, you must have an A or G series passport. You should make all possible efforts to obtain an Iraqi A or G series passport. Failure to do so will complicate your ability to travel and will delay your application. If your immigrant visa appointment has been scheduled, please contact the embassy or consulate where the interview is scheduled for information about what documents may be required for travel to that country. You should be aware that Iraqi S, M and N series passports are not valid for travel to the United States, though in some limited circumstances a waiver may be available. Again, this will delay your travel significantly. Click here for more information about Iraqi passports.

 

d.      May my family accompany me or follow to join me to the United States?

                                                               i.      Yes, your spouse, as well as your unmarried children under age 21, may accompany you to the United States or follow to join you in the United States. These family members must also attend the visa interview. You must provide proof of the marriage relationship to your spouse and the relationship to your children. Your family members may not precede you in entering the United States.  

                                                             ii.      NOTE:   We strongly advise you to bring your spouse and minor dependent children with you to your visa interview. This will facilitate having all eligible family members travel to the United States together. If it is not possible for your family members to travel to the interview with you, they will be required to schedule interviews for a later date and may follow-to-join you in the United States at a later time.

                                                           iii.      If you marry after your petition is approved but before you travel to the United States, your new spouse may be added to the original petition. You should immediately contact the U.S. embassy or consulate where your interview took place, to notify consular officials that your new spouse should be added to the petition and an interview scheduled. If you marry a foreign national after you have already traveled to the United States, you will need to file a new petition for your spouse.

 

 

e.       What happens if the principal applicant dies after approval of the petition?

                                                               i.      Your spouse or children may, in some circumstances, still be eligible for a visa if a petition had been approved by USCIS, but the petition was revoked or terminated after its approval due to the death of the principal applicant.

 

f.        What documents should I bring to the visa interview?

                                                               i.      Please bring your passport, your Iraqi national identity card (bataqa shaksiya), any military photo identification, civilian identification badges, and originals of any civil documents, such as marriage certificates, birth certificates, or death certificates, including all documents that were submitted by e-mail to NVC. At the visa interview, you will also be expected to provide written evidence of your intent to immigrate promptly to the United States. 

                                                             ii.      In addition, you should bring two recent photographs of each applicant, which meet the photo requirements.

 

g.       May an attorney or other representative accompany me to the visa interview?

                                                               i.      An attorney or other accredited representative may represent you during the SIV application process, including at relevant interviews and examinations. Such representation is not to be at the expense of the U.S. government.

 

h.      Will the U.S. government pay the cost of my travel to the interview or provide accommodations at the interview site?

                                                               i.      No. When budgeting your time and your funds, please plan for the possibility that you may need to stay for more than one day in the country where your interview takes place. You will not be able to complete your medical examination and interview on the same day. Some medical exams require tests with delayed results.

 

i.        Can the U.S. Embassy arrange for my entry visas and guarantee admission to another country for my visa interview?

                                                               i.      No. While embassies and consulates work closely with their host-country counterparts to ensure coordination on important programs, such as this SIV program, the final decision about whom to admit into a country rests with the government of that country. If you have difficulty entering another country for your visa interview, you should remain in close contact with the U.S. Embassy or Consulate to which your case has been assigned.

 

j.        Is there a visa application fee?

                                                               i.      No. Under this particular program, there is no immigrant visa application fee. You are required to pay all costs associated with the medical examination.

 

k.       Will I get my visa on the same day as my interview?

                                                               i.      At the conclusion of your interview, the consular officer will let you know if there are any problems with your case that might prevent issuance of a visa, or if there is any missing documentation that you need to provide. However, even if your visa interview is successful, you might not receive your visa on the same day. Many immigrant visa cases require additional administrative processing after the interview.

 

l.        My question wasn’t answered here. Where can I get more information about my pending visa?

                                                               i.      You should directly contact the U.S. embassy or consulate to which your case has been assigned: 

If your case has been assigned to:

You may contact the Embassy at:

U.S. Embassy Baghdad

BaghdadSIV@state.gov

U.S. Embassy Amman

Amman-IV@state.gov

                                                             ii.      Otherwise, go to http://www.usembassy.gov to locate contact information for the U.S. embassy or consulate that is handling your case.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

7.       STEP 5 – Arrival in the United States

a.       As an Iraqi Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) recipient, am I eligible for any benefits?

                                                               i.      Yes. Iraqi SIV recipients are eligible for the same resettlement assistance, entitlement programs, and other benefits as refugees admitted under the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP), for up to eight (8) months after being admitted to the United States. For more information about the relevant U.S. law, see References - U.S. Laws, number 4.

                                                             ii.      The U.S. Department of State’s Reception and Placement (R&P) Program covers only your first 30-90 days in the United States.

 

b.      How do I apply to receive these benefits?

                                                               i.      If you would like to participate in the R&P Program, you must complete, sign, and return scanned copies of the following two forms, included in the visa instruction packet:

1.       Refugee Benefits Election Form (PDF - 56 KB)

2.       Special Immigrant Visa Biodata Form (DS-0234) (PDF - 312 KB).

                                                             ii.      You should complete these two forms as soon as possible while you are still overseas before your visa has been issued, or upon your arrival in the United States. You should send the forms to one of the following offices, so that we can begin processing of your case and book your travel after your visa has been issued:

1.       the NVC at NVCSIV@state.gov, or

2.       the Refugee Processing Center (RPC) at SIV@wrapsnet.org.

                                                           iii.      You must also provide a copy of your visa after it has been issued.

1.       Additional information about Department of State-funded benefits can be found here.

 

c.       The instructions on the "Special Immigrant Visa Biodata Form (DS-0234)" state that it is to be completed by each beneficiary. Does that mean each member of my family needs to complete a form or is one form sufficient for all family members included on the SIV case?

                                                               i.      You must complete a separate form for each family member and return it to NVC at NVCSIV@state.gov or the RPC at SIV@wrapsnet.org. NVC will provide you with the Special Immigrant Visa Biodata Form (DS-0234)  (PDF - 312 KB) as part of the visa application packet. This form can also be found on the Refugee Processing Center’s (RPC) website.
 

d.      I would like to be resettled in a specific city/state. What should I do?

                                                               i.      You may designate a resettlement preference if you have family or friends living in the United States. You may include this information on the Special Immigrant Visa Biodata Form (DS-0234)  (PDF - 312 KB) under Section D, entitled “U.S. Ties”. If you have a resettlement preference, you should provide the full name, address, telephone number, and email address of the individual(s) you desire to be resettled near, specifying the nature of your relationship to this individual(s) (i.e. mother, daughter, brother, etc.). If more than one individual is provided and all of them live in different locations, you should indicate your order of preference. Please note that the individual(s) you provide must currently reside in the United States and must be willing to discuss your case with a resettlement agency. While you may provide information about a person you wish to be resettled near, it may not always be possible to honor your request to resettle near family members or friends.

                                                             ii.      If you do not have any family or friends in the United States, your final destination will be determined by the resettlement agency. Decisions are based on your needs/background and local capacity.

                                                           iii.      Please be aware that the cost of living and the availability of housing can vary significantly in different locations across the United States. The Washington, DC metro area including northern Virginia and some cities in California are very expensive places to live, and it can be difficult to find affordable housing and employment. Any resettlement benefits you receive may not comfortably cover the cost of living in these areas. Unless you have close relatives or friends in these areas who are able to provide financial support and housing until you find employment that covers your living expenses, it is best to allow a resettlement agency to choose a suitable location for you.

 

e.       How do I obtain a travel loan?

                                                               i.      The International Organization for Migration (IOM) will prepare your travel loan and arrange your travel to the United States after your visa has been issued, if you elected to receive travel and resettlement assistance from the Department of State by submitting scanned, signed copies of the Refugee Benefits Election Form (PDF - 56 KB) and the Special Immigrant Visa Biodata Form (DS-0234) (PDF - 312 KB) to the NVC or the RPC. This interest-free travel loan is a benefit provided through the U.S. Department of State’s Reception and Placement (R&P) Program, for which you must apply while you are still overseas. Additional information about Department of State-funded benefits can be found here.

 

f.        What if I have to travel immediately and cannot arrange travel through the International Organization for Migration (IOM)?

                                                               i.      Under certain circumstances, we understand you may not have time to declare your intention to participate in the R&P Program while still overseas. If you elect to arrange your own flight, you may still be eligible for Department of State resettlement benefits or benefits funded by the Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Refugee Resettlement (HHS/ORR). To determine if you qualify, please contact a resettlement affiliate as soon as possible after your arrival in the United States as your eligibility is time-limited. We recommend you contact a resettlement affiliate within 30 days after your arrival. The list of resettlement affiliates can be found on http://www.wrapsnet.org/ or click here.

 

g.       At what point can I begin to make travel arrangements, sell property, and/or give up my job?

                                                               i.      You should NOT sell property and/or give up employment until the U.S. Embassy or Consulate General has issued a visa and the Refugee Processing Center has referred your case to IOM for travel arrangements.

 

h.      How will I know which agency is responsible for providing services to me in the U.S.?

                                                               i.      If you choose to receive Department of State-funded Reception and Placement (R&P) services, you must fill out and return scanned copies of the Refugee Benefits Election Form (PDF - 56 KB), the Special Immigrant Visa Biodata Form (DS-0234) (PDF - 312 KB), and of your visa, after it has been issued, to NVC or the RPC while still overseas. Once you submit the copy of your issued visa, your case will be assigned to a resettlement agency before you depart for the United States. Prior to departure, the entity responsible for processing your case for R&P benefits - either a Resettlement Support Center (RSC) or the RPC - will provide you with an Assurance Form indicating your final destination in the United States and the resettlement agency that will provide services to you upon your arrival.

 

i.        If I elect to receive refugee benefits, what help will I receive once I am in the United States, and from whom?

                                                               i.      The Department of State funds nine (9) Resettlement Agencies that participate in the Reception and Placement (R&P) Program under a cooperative agreement. These agencies have over 300 affiliated Reception and Placement offices across the United States. The resettlement agency is responsible for providing initial reception and placement services and assisting refugees and SIV beneficiaries to achieve economic self-sufficiency as quickly as possible. All refugees and SIV recipients who elected to participate in the program are provided with sponsorship and resettlement services appropriate to their personal circumstances by one of these organizations.

                                                             ii.      The U.S. government has established guidelines and provides funding for the resettlement services that you will receive upon arrival in the United States. Your resettlement agency will have a local office in or near the town where you will be resettled and will provide basic living assistance and support for up to the first 30-90 days after you arrive. The following are some of the things you should expect to do and/or receive during your first weeks in the United States.

                                                           iii.      The resettlement agency to which you are assigned will:

1.       Receive U.S. government funds and use these funds to pay for your rent and/or basic necessities. A portion of these funds may be given directly to you in cash.The resettlement agency will ensure you have a small amount of money for daily needs.

2.       Ensure you have housing for your first 30 days.

3.       Assist with enrolling your children in school.

4.       Assist you with access to English language classes, if necessary.

                                                           iv.      With assistance from the resettlement agency, if needed, you will need to:

1.       Apply for a social security card, required for work.

2.       Learn about and be assisted with access to employment services. (While the resettlement agency will assist in whatever way it can, it is ultimately your responsibility to find and maintain employment.)

3.       Learn to use public transportation (a car will not be provided).

4.       Begin to learn about U.S customs and law.

5.       Learn about and be assisted with access to community services that can help you, including social services, cash and medical assistance, and food stamps, if necessary.

6.       Find out about other government services and programs and how to access services.

                                                             v.      The program would not succeed without volunteers in communities across the United States to assist with these activities. The following organizations provide initial resettlement services to refugees and SIV recipients. You may learn more about them from information provided in their websites.

U.S. Refugee Resettlement Agencies

Church World Service (CWS)

www.churchworldservice.org

Episcopal Migration Ministries (EMM)

www.episcopalchurch.org/emm

Ethiopian Community Development Council (ECDC)

www.ecdcinternational.org

Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS)

www.hias.org

International Rescue Committee (IRC)

www.rescue.org

Lutheran Immigration & Refugee Service (LIRS)

www.lirs.org

U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI)

www.refugees.org

United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB)

http://usccb.org/about/migration-and-refugee-services/

World Relief (WR)

www.wr.org

 

8.       What if I already have a file with UNHCR or a UN number? What should I do?

a.       If you meet the eligibility criteria of the SIV Program, you may apply for an SIV even if you are already registered with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and/or have an application pending with the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP).
 

9.       Are other benefits available to me, if I decline benefits from the Department of State?

a.       If you decline to receive Department of State-funded resettlement benefits, you may still be eligible to receive benefits funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Refugee Resettlement (HHS/ORR). ORR-funded benefits are administered by states and are available through state benefit-granting agencies. After arrival in the United States, you may apply for these benefits in the state in which you reside. SIV recipients who elect to participate in the U.S. Department of State R&P Program will be assisted in applying for ORR-funded benefits by the resettlement agency providing their R&P services. If you do not elect to participate in the Department of State’s R&P Program, you must apply for these benefits on your own by contacting the State Refugee Coordinator in the state in which you live.

 

10.   If admitted to the United States, do I get U.S. citizenship? If so, how long does it take?

a.       As an SIV recipient, you will have Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) status upon admission into the United States. Once you are admitted to the United States you will be mailed your Permanent Resident Card (also known as Green Card). You are normally eligible to apply for U.S. citizenship after residing for five (5) years in the United States. For more information, see naturalization information on the USCIS website.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

11.   Contact Information

If you:

please contact:

at:

have questions regarding filing requirements and instructions for an SIV Form I-360 petition,

USCIS Nebraska Service Center

sivtranslator.nsc@dhs.gov

have an approved Form I-360 petition and have questions regarding your case status,

National Visa Center (NVC)

NVCSIV@state.gov

have questions about your immigrant visa interview,

the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where the interview will be scheduled

You can find a list of our U.S. Embassies and Consulates at: http://www.usembassy.state.gov

would like information about SIV resettlement benefits and post-arrival services,

the Refugee Processing Center

SIV@wrapsnet.org

are a supervisor of an SIV applicant that has received COM approval and would like to submit additional information in support of the pending visa application

Visa Office

SIV-Applicant-Supervisor@state.gov

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

12.   Quarterly Reports on Status of Iraqi Program

a.       Report of the Iraqi SIV Program - April 2017  (PDF - 202 KB)

b.       Report of the Iraqi SIV Program - January 2017  (PDF - 203 kb)

c.       Report of the Iraqi SIV Program - October 2016 (PDF - 202 KB)

d.       Report of the Iraqi SIV Program - July 2016 (PDF - 208 KB)

e.       Report of the Iraqi SIV Program - April 2016  (PDF - 69 KB)

f.        Report of the Iraqi SIV Program - January 2016  (PDF - 201 KB)

g.       Report of the Iraqi SIV Program - October 2015  (PDF - 207 KB)

h.       Report of the Iraqi SIV Program - July 2015  (PDF - 207 KB)

i.         Report of the Iraqi SIV Program - April 2015  (PDF - 207 KB)

j.         Report of the Iraqi SIV Program - January 2015  (PDF - 207 KB)

k.       Report of the Iraqi SIV Program - October 2014 (PDF - 205 KB)

l.         Report of the Iraqi Program - July 2014  (PDF - 204 KB)
(sent to Congress December 2014)

m.     Report of the Iraqi SIV Program - April 2014 (PDF - 243 KB)
(sent to Congress July 2014)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

13.   References - U.S. Laws

a.       The chart below contains the U.S. laws relevant to Special Immigrant Visas (SIVs) for eligible Iraqi employees or contractors who were employed by or on behalf of the U.S. government in Iraq. You can find more detailed information about each of these laws by going to the National Archives Office of the Federal Register website.


 

Law:

Information about the Law:

 

 

 

1

Section 1244 of the National Defense Authoriation Act for Fiscal Year 2008, as amended by section 1218 of Public Law 113-66

This law extends the Iraqi SIV Program on January 1, 2014. During this period of extension, the issuance of 2,500 visas to principal applicants is authorized. It also establishes that the one-year employment period must have commenced on or after March 20, 2003 and been completed on or before September 30, 2013 and that applicants must apply for Chief of Mission approval no later than September 30, 2014. This law also included provisions for: consideration of a credible sworn statement depicting dangerous country conditions, together with official evidence of such country conditions from the U.S government, as a factor in a determination of whether an applicant has experienced or is experiencing an ongoing serious threat as a consequence of employment by the U.S. government; not more than one written appeal of a COM denial, within 120 days of receiving the denial letter; and representation during the application process, including at relevant interviews and examinations, by an attorney or other accredited representative.

2

Section 1244 of the Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008, as amended by section 1 of Public Law 113-42 (H.R. 3233)

This law extended the Iraqi SIV Program until December 31, 2013. During this period of extension, there was authorization for the issuance of visas in the amount of the total number of applications for SIV status by principal applicants pending as of September 30, 2013 and for up to 2,000 additional visas for person who apply for status as principal applicants subsequent to that date. It also established that the one-year employment period must have commenced on or after March 20, 2003 and been completed on or before September 30, 2013.

3

Section 1244(g) of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008, as ameded by Section 1 of Public Law 110-242

This law allowed up to 5,000 Iraqi employees or contractors who have provided faithful and valuable service to the U.S. government, while employed by or on behalf of the U.S. government in Iraq, for a period of one year or more after March 20, 2003, and who have experienced or are experiencing an ongoing serious threat as a consequence of that employment, to receive special immigrant visas (SIVs) annually through fiscal year (FY) 2013.

4

Section 1244(g) of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008 (Public Law 110-181)

This law established the Iraqi SIV program, and made holders of such visas eligible for the same resettlement assistance, entitlement programs, and other benefits as refugees admitted to the United States under the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program. Iraqi SIV holders can receive these benefits for up to eight (8) months from their date of admission to the United States.

1.       Employment-Based Immigrant Visa

a.       Overview

                                                               i.      Every fiscal year (October 1st – September 30th), approximately 140,000 employment-based immigrant visas are made available to qualified applicants under the provisions of U.S. immigration law. Employment based immigrant visas are divided into five preference categories. Certain spouses and children may accompany or follow-to-join employment-based immigrants.

 

b.      The First Steps toward an Immigrant Visa: Labor Certification and Filing a Petition

                                                               i.      To be considered for an immigrant visa under some of the employment-based categories below, the applicant's prospective employer or agent must first obtain a labor certification approval from the Department of Labor. Once received (if required), the employer then files an Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker, Form I-140, with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for the appropriate employment-based preference category. (NOTE: Persons with extraordinary abilities in the Employment First preference category are able to file their own petitions.) When filing the Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker, Form I-140, see the detailed form instructions, as well as more detailed requirements information on the USCIS Permanent Workers webpage.

 

c.       CATEGORIES

                                                               i.      Employment First Preference (E1): Priority Workers

1.       A First Preference applicant must be the beneficiary of an approved Immigrant Petition for Foreign Worker, Form I-140, filed with USCIS. Labor certification is not required for any of the Priority Worker subgroups. Priority Workers receive 28.6 percent of the yearly worldwide limit of employment-based immigrant visas.

2.       There are three sub-groups within this category:

a.       Persons with extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics. Applicants in this category must have extensive documentation showing sustained national or international acclaim and recognition in their fields of expertise. Such applicants do not have to have specific job offers, so long as they are entering the U.S. to continue work in the fields in which they have extraordinary ability. Such applicants can file their own Immigrant Petitions for Alien Worker, Form I-140, with the USCIS.

b.       Outstanding professors and researchers with at least three years experience in teaching or research, who are recognized internationally. Applicants in this category must be coming to the U.S. to pursue tenure, tenure track teaching, or a comparable research position at a university or other institution of higher education. The prospective employer must provide a job offer and file an Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker, Form I-140, with the USCIS.

c.       Multinational managers or executives who have been employed for at least one of the three preceding years by the overseas affiliate, parent, subsidiary, or branch of the U.S. employer. The applicant’s employment outside of the U.S. must have been in a managerial or executive capacity, and the applicant must be coming to work in a managerial or executive capacity. The prospective employer must provide a job offer and file an Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker, Form I-140, with the USCIS.

                                                             ii.      Employment Second Preference (E2): Professionals Holding Advanced Degrees and Persons of Exceptional Ability

1.       A Second Preference applicant must generally have a labor certification approved by the Department of Labor. A job offer is required and the U.S. employer must file an Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker, Form I-140, on behalf of the applicant. Applicants may apply for an exemption, known as a National Interest Waiver, from the job offer and labor certification if the exemption would be in the national interest. In this case, the applicant may self-petition by filing the Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker, Form I-140, along with evidence of the national interest. Professionals Holding Advanced Degrees and Persons of Exceptional Ability receive 28.6 percent of the yearly worldwide limit of employment-based immigrant visas, plus any unused visas from the Employment First Preference category.

2.       There are two subgroups within this category:

a.       Professionals holding an advanced degree (beyond a baccalaureate degree), or a baccalaureate degree and at least five years progressive experience in the profession.

b.       Persons with exceptional ability in the sciences, arts, or business. Exceptional ability means having a degree of expertise significantly above that ordinarily encountered in the sciences, arts, or business.

                                                           iii.      Employment Third Preference (E3): Skilled Workers, Professionals, and Unskilled Workers (Other Workers)

1.       A Third Preference applicant must have an approved Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker, Form I-140, filed by the prospective employer. All such workers generally require labor certification approved by the Department of Labor. Skilled Workers, Professionals, and Unskilled Workers (Other Workers) receive 28.6 percent of the yearly worldwide limit of employment-based immigrant visas, plus any unused visas from the Employment First Preference and Second Preference categories.

2.       There are three subgroups within this category:

a.       Skilled workers are persons whose jobs require a minimum of 2 years training or work experience that are not temporary or seasonal.

b.       Professionals are members of the professions whose jobs require at least a baccalaureate degree from a U.S. university or college or its foreign equivalent degree.

c.       Unskilled workers (Other workers) are persons capable of filling positions that require less than two years training or experience that are not temporary or seasonal.

                                                           iv.      Employment Fourth Preference (E4): Certain Special Immigrants

1.       A Fourth Preference applicant must be the beneficiary of an approved Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant, Form I-360, with the exception of Certain Employees or Former Employees of the U.S. Government Abroad (see number 3 below). Labor certification is not required for any of the Certain Special Immigrants subgroups. Special Immigrants receive 7.1 percent of the yearly worldwide limit of employment-based immigrant visas.

2.       There are many subgroups within this category:

a.       Broadcasters in the U.S. employed by the International Broadcasting Bureau of the Broadcasting Board of Governors or a grantee of such organization

b.       Ministers of Religion

c.       Certain Employees or Former Employees of the U.S. Government Abroad - Must use Form DS-1884, Petition To Classify Special Immigrant Under INA 203(b)(4) As An Employee Or Former Employee of the U.S. Government Abroad

d.       Certain Former Employees of the Panama Canal Company or Canal Zone Government

e.       Certain Former Employees of the U.S. Government in the Panama Canal Zone

f.        Certain Former Employees of the Panama Canal Company or Canal Zone Government on April 1st, 1979

g.       Iraqi and Afghan interpreters/translators who have worked directly with the United States armed forces or under Chief of Mission authority as a translator/interpreter for a period of at least 12 months and meet requirements. This classification has an annual numeric limitation of 50 visas. See Special Immigrant Visas for Iraqi and Afghan Translators/Interpreters for more information.

h.       Iraqi and Afghan nationals who have provided faithful and valuable service while employed by or on behalf of the U.S. government in Iraq for not less than one year on or after March 20th, 2003 and prior to September 30, 2013, or in Afghanistan for not less than one year after October 7th, 2001, and have experienced an ongoing serious threat as a consequence of that employment. See Special Immigrant Visas for Iraqis - Worked for/on behalf of the U.S. Government and Afghans - Worked for/on behalf of the U.S. Government for more information.

i.         Certain Foreign Medical Graduates (Adjustments Only)

j.         Certain Retired International Organization Employees

k.       Certain Unmarried Sons and Daughters of International Organization Employees

l.         Certain Surviving Spouses of deceased International Organization Employees

m.     Special Immigrant Juveniles (no family member derivatives; Adjustments Only)

n.       Persons Recruited Outside of the United States Who Have Served or are Enlisted to Serve in the U.S. Armed Forces

o.       Certain retired NATO-6 civilians

p.       Certain Unmarried Sons and Daughters of NATO-6 civilians

q.       Certain Surviving Spouses of deceased NATO-6 civilian employees

r.        Persons who are beneficiaries of petitions or labor certification applications filed prior to September 11th, 2001, if the petition or application was rendered void due to a terrorist act on September 11th, 2001

s.        Certain Religious Workers

                                                             v.      Employment Fifth Preference (E5): Immigrant Investors

1.       Immigrant Investor visa categories are for capital investment by foreign investors in new commercial enterprises in the United States which provide job creation. Select Immigrant Investor Visas to learn more about this employment-based category.

 

d.      Next Steps – Fees and Visa Application

                                                               i.      After USCIS approves the petition, it is sent to the National Visa Center (NVC). Once received, the NVC will assign a case number for the petition. When an applicant’s priority date meets the most recent qualifying date, the NVC will instruct the applicant to complete Form DS-261, Choice of Address and Agent. (NOTE: If you already have an attorney, the NVC will not instruct you to complete Form DS-261.) The NVC will begin pre-processing the applicant’s case by providing the applicant with instructions to submit the appropriate fees. After the appropriate fees are paid, the NVC will request that the applicant submit the necessary immigrant visa documents, including application forms, civil documents, and more. Learn more about National Visa Center visa case processing.

 

                                                             ii.      Can My Family Members also Receive Immigrant Visas?

1.       Based on your approved petition, your spouse and minor unmarried children, younger than 21, may apply for immigrant visas with you. Like you, they must also fill out required application forms, obtain required civil documents, pay the required fees, and undergo medical examinations. Same-sex spouses of U.S. citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents (LPRs), along with their minor children, are now eligible for the same immigration benefits as opposite-sex spouses. Consular officers at U.S. Embassies and Consulates will adjudicate their immigrant visa applications upon receipt of an approved I-130 or I-140  petition from USCIS. For further information, please see our FAQ’s.

 

                                                           iii.      Numerical Limitations

1.       All categories of employment-based immigrant visas are issued in the chronological order in which the petitions were filed until the annual 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.

 

                                                           iv.      Fees

1.       Fees are charged for the following services:

a.       Filing of Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker, Form I-140, or Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant, Form I-360 (this fee is charged by USCIS)

b.       Processing an immigrant visa application, Form DS-260 (see Note below)

c.       Medical examination and required vaccinations (costs vary)

d.       Other costs may include: translations; photocopying charges; fees for obtaining the documents you need for the immigrant visa application (such as passport, police certificates, birth certificates, etc.); and expenses for travel to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate for your visa interview. Costs vary from country to country and case to case.

2.       For current fees for Department of State services, see Fees for Visa Services. For current fees for USCIS services, see Check Filing Fees on the USCIS website.

3.       Note: Fees must be paid for each intending immigrant, regardless of age, and are not refundable.

4.       Fees should not be paid to the NVC or paid at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where you have your visa interview unless specifically requested. Applicants will be provided with instructions by the NVC on where and when to pay the appropriate fees. Do not send payments to the NVC’s address in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

 

e.       Required Documentation

                                                               i.      In general, the following documents are required:

1.       Passport(s) valid for six months beyond the intended date of entry into the United States, unless longer validity is specifically requested by the U.S. Embassy/Consulate in your country. Please review the instructions for guidance.

2.       Form DS-260, Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration Application.

3.       Preview a sample DS-260 (6.4MB).

4.       Two (2) 2x2 photographs. See the required photo format explained in Photograph Requirements.

5.       Civil Documents for the applicant. See Documents the Applicant Must Submit for more specific information about documentation requirements, including information on which documents may need to be translated. The consular officer may ask for more information during your visa interview. Bring your original civil documents (or certified copies) such as birth and marriage certificates, as well as legible photocopies of the original civil documents, and any required translations to your immigrant visa interview. Original documents and translations can then be returned to you.

6.       Financial Support – At your immigrant visa interview, you must demonstrate to the consular officer that you will not become a public charge in the United States. (NOTE: For applicants where a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident (LPR) relative filed the Form I-140 petition or where such a relative has a significant ownership interest in the entity that filed the petition, that relative must complete Form I-864, Affidavit of Support Under Section 213A of the Act, on behalf of the applicant.)

7.       Completed Medical Examination Forms – These are provided by the panel physician after you have completed your medical examination and vaccinations (see below).

 

f.        Visa Interview

                                                               i.      Once the NVC determines the file is complete with all the required documents, they schedule the applicant’s interview appointment. NVC then sends the file, containing the applicant’s petition and the documents listed above, to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where the applicant will be interviewed for a visa. The applicant, attorney, and third-party agent, if applicable, will receive appointment emails, or letters (if no email address is available), containing the date and time of the applicant's visa interview along with instructions, including guidance for obtaining a medical examination.

                                                             ii.      Each applicant should bring a valid passport to the interview, as well as any other documentation above not already provided to NVC. A consular officer will interview the applicant, and the consular officer will determine whether the applicant is eligible to receive an immigrant visa in accordance with U.S. immigration law. Ink-free, digital fingerprint scans will be taken on the day of the interview. Generally, an applicant receives original civil documents and original translations back at the time of interview.
 

g.       Medical Examinations and Vaccinations

                                                               i.      Important Notice: In preparing for your interview, you will need to schedule and complete your medical examination and any required vaccinations before your visa interview. Before an immigrant visa can be issued, every applicant, regardless of age, must undergo a medical examination which must be performed by an authorized panel physician. NVC provides applicants instructions regarding medical examinations, including information on authorized panel physicians. See Medical Examination for more information, including a list of panel physicians by country, and frequently asked questions.

 

h.      Vaccination Requirements

                                                               i.      U.S. immigration law requires immigrant visa applicants to obtain certain vaccinations prior to the issuance of immigrant visas. See Vaccination Requirements for IV Applicants for the list of required vaccinations and additional information.

 

i.        How Long Does It Take?

                                                               i.      Employment based immigrant visa cases take additional time because they are in numerically limited visa categories. The length of time varies from case to case and cannot be predicted for individual cases with any accuracy. Some cases are delayed because applicants do not follow instructions carefully. Some visa applications require further administrative processing, which takes additional time after the consular officer interviews the applicant.

 

j.        Visa Ineligibility

                                                               i.      Certain conditions and activities may make an applicant ineligible for a visa. Examples of these ineligibilities include: drug trafficking; overstaying a previous visa; and submitting fraudulent documents. If you are ineligible for a visa, you will be informed by the consular officer and advised whether there is a waiver of the ineligibility available to you and what the waiver process is. Ineligibilities and Waivers: Laws contains the complete list of ineligibilities.

 

k.       Misrepresentation of Material Facts or Fraud

                                                               i.      Attempting to obtain a visa by the willful misrepresentation of a material fact or fraud may result in you becoming permanently ineligible to receive a U.S. visa or enter the United States.

 

l.        When You Have Your Immigrant Visa - What You Should Know

                                                               i.      If you are issued an immigrant visa, the consular officer will give you your passport containing the immigrant visa and a sealed packet containing the documents which you provided. It is important that you do not open the sealed packet. Only the U.S. immigration official should open this packet when you enter the United States. You are required to enter the United Statesbefore the expiration date printed on your visa. When traveling, the primary (or principal) applicant must enter the United States before or at the same time as family members holding visas. 

                                                             ii.      USCIS Immigrant Fee -  You must pay the USCIS Immigrant Fee to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) after you receive your immigrant visa and before you travel to the United States. (SI-1, SI-2, SI-3, SQ-1, SQ-2, and SQ-3 visa holders will not pay the fee.) Select USCIS Immigrant Fee on the USCIS website for more information. 

                                                           iii.      Important Notice: USCIS will not issue a Permanent Resident Card (Form I-551 or Green Card) until you have paid the fee.

 

m.    Entering the United States: Port-of-Entry

                                                               i.      A visa allows a foreign citizen to travel to the U.S. port-of-entry and request permission to enter the United States. Applicants should be aware that a visa does not guarantee entry into the United States. The DHS, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials have authority to permit or deny admission to the United States. Travelers should review important information about admissions and entry requirements on the CBP website under Travel.

                                                             ii.      Once you have paid the USCIS immigrant fee and have been admitted to the U.S. as a permanent resident, your Permanent Resident Card, Form I-551 (formerly called Alien Registration Card, also known as a green card) will be mailed to you.

 

n.      How to Apply for a Social Security Number Card

                                                               i.      If you elected on your immigrant visa application form to receive your Social Security Number Card upon admission to the United States as an immigrant, your card will be sent by mail to the U.S. address you designated on your application form, and should arrive approximately six weeks following your admission. If you did not elect to receive your Social Security Number Card automatically, you will have to apply to be issued a card following your arrival in the United States. To learn about applying for a Social Security Number Card, visit the Social Security Administration website.

 

o.      When You Are a Permanent Resident

                                                               i.      Coming to the United States to live permanently, you will want to learn more about your status as a Lawful Permanent Resident. See Welcome to the United States: A Guide for New Immigrants to review information on the USCIS website about living in the United States.

 

p.      Additional Information

                                                               i.      Immigrant visa applicants should not make any final travel arrangements, dispose of property, or give up jobs until and unless visas are issued. Some visa applications require further administrative processing, which takes additional time after the visa applicant's interview. An immigrant visa is generally valid for six months from the issuance date.

 

q.      General Visa Questions

                                                               i.      Before submitting your inquiry, we request that you carefully review this website for answers to your questions. Because of the volume of inquiries, we cannot promise an immediate reply to your inquiry.

                                                             ii.      If your inquiry concerns a visa case in progress overseas, you should first contact the U.S. Embassy or Consulate handling your case for status information. Select U.S. Embassy or Consulate to find contact information.

                                                           iii.      You can find contact information for our Public Inquiries Division at Contact Us.

Visas for Immigrant Religious Workers

1.       Important Notice: Same-sex Marriage

a.       Same-sex spouses of U.S. citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents (LPRs), along with their minor children, are now eligible for the same immigration benefits as opposite-sex spouses. Consular officers at U.S. Embassies and Consulates will adjudicate their immigrant visa applications upon receipt of an approved I-130 or I-140  petition from USCIS. For further information, please see our FAQ’s.

 

2.       Overview

a.       Qualifying as an Immigrant Religious Worker

b.       The First Step toward an Immigrant Visa: Filing the Petition

c.       Next Steps: Fees and Visa Application

d.       Can My Family Members also Receive Immigrant Visas?

e.       Numerical Limitations

f.        Fees

g.       Required Documentation

h.       Visa Interview

i.         Medical Examination and Vaccinations

j.         Vaccination Requirements

k.       How Long Does It Take?

l.         Visa Ineligibility

m.     Misrepresentation of Material Facts or Fraud

n.       When You Have Your Immigrant Visa - What You Should Know

o.       Entering the United States: Port-of-Entry

p.       How to Apply for a Social Security Number Card

q.       When You Are a Permanent Resident

r.        Additional Information

s.        General Visa Questions

 

3.       Overview

a.       U.S. immigration law provides for two categories of immigrant visas for religious workers:

                                                               i.      Ministers of Religion (SD-category); and

                                                             ii.      Certain Religious Workers (SR-category).

b.       Both of these immigrant religious worker categories are included in the Employment Fourth Preference (E4): Certain Special Immigrants category and are separate and distinct from the nonimmigrant Temporary Religious Workers category.

 

4.       Qualifying as an Immigrant Religious Worker

a.       Qualifications of both the petitioning organization and the prospective religious worker are reviewed by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) when the required petition is filed and by a consular officer during the prospective religious worker’s visa interview at a U.S. embassy or consulate. To qualify as an immigrant religious worker, for at least two years before a petition may be filed on your behalf, you must:

                                                               i.      Have been a member of the religious denomination having a bona fide nonprofit, religious organization in the United States for which you are coming to work; and

                                                             ii.      Have been continuously carrying out the religious vocation or occupation that you intend to carry out in the United States.

b.       Also:

                                                               i.      To qualify for an immigrant visa as a Minister of Religion (SD-category), you must be entering the United States to work solely as a minister of your religious denomination.

                                                             ii.      To qualify for an immigrant visa as a Certain Religious Worker (SR-category), you must be entering the United States to work:

1.       In a religious vocation either in a professional or nonprofessional capacity; or

2.       In a religious occupation in a professional or nonprofessional capacity.

c.       NOTE: If you receive an immigrant visa in the Certain Religious Worker (SR) category, you must enter the United States with the visa before September 30, 2016.

 

5.       The First Step toward an Immigrant Visa: Filing the Petition

a.       The first step toward a religious worker immigrant visa is to file a petition. You or your prospective U.S. employer must file a Form I-360, Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant, with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). For instructions on how to file a petition, including requirements to qualify, required documentation relating to the petitioning organization, and required supporting documents, see Form I-360 on the USCIS website. Additional information for all employment-based immigrants is available on the USCIS Permanent Workers webpage.

 

6.       Next Steps: Fees and Visa Application

a.       After USCIS approves the petition, it is sent to the National Visa Center (NVC). Once received, the NVC will assign a case number for the petition. When an applicant’s priority date meets the most recent qualifying date, the NVC will instruct the applicant to complete Form DS-261, Choice of Address and Agent. (NOTE: If you already have an attorney, the NVC will not instruct you to complete Form DS-261.) The NVC will begin pre-processing the applicant’s case by providing the applicant with instructions to submit the appropriate fees. After the appropriate fees are paid, the NVC will request that the applicant submit the necessary immigrant visa documents, including application forms, civil documents, and more. Learn more about National Visa Center visa case processing.

 

7.       Can My Family Members also Receive Immigrant Visas?

a.       Based on your approved petition, your spouse and minor unmarried children, younger than 21, may apply for immigrant visas with you. Like you, they must also fill out required application forms, obtain required civil documents, pay the required fees, and undergo medical examinations. Same-sex spouses of U.S. citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents (LPRs), along with their minor children, are now eligible for the same immigration benefits as opposite-sex spouses. Consular officers at U.S. Embassies and Consulates will adjudicate their immigrant visa applications upon receipt of an approved I-130 or I-140  petition from USCIS. For further information, please see our FAQ’s.

 

8.       Numerical Limitations

a.       All categories of employment-based immigrant visas, including religious workers, are issued in the chronological order in which the petitions were filed until the annual 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. Religious Worker immigrant visa cases fall under Employment Fourth Preference.

 

9.       Fees

a.       Fees are charged for the following services:

                                                               i.      Filing a Form I-360, Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant, with USCIS (this fee is charged by USCIS)

                                                             ii.      Processing an immigrant visa application, Form DS-260 (see Note below)

                                                           iii.      Medical examination and required vaccinations (costs vary)

                                                           iv.      Other costs may include: translations; photocopying charges; fees for obtaining the documents you need for the immigrant visa application (such as passport, police certificates, birth certificates, etc.); and expenses for travel to the U.S. embassy or consulate for your visa interview. Costs vary from country to country and case to case.

b.       For current fees for Department of State services, see Fees for Visa Services. For current fees for USCIS services, see Check Filing Fees on the USCIS website.

c.       Note: Fees must be paid for each intending immigrant, regardless of age, and are not refundable.

d.       Fees should not be paid to the NVC or paid at the U.S. embassy or consulate where you have your visa interview unless specifically requested. Applicants will be provided with instructions by the NVC on where and when to pay the appropriate fees. These instructions are also available on Pay Processing Fees. Do not send payments to the NVC’s address in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

 

10.   Required Documentation

a.       In general, the following documents are required:

                                                               i.      Passport(s) valid for six months beyond the intended date of entry into the United States, unless longer validity is specifically requested by the U.S. Embassy/Consulate in your country. Please review the instructions for guidance.

                                                             ii.      Form DS-260, Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration Application, completed by the applicant. 

                                                           iii.      Preview a sample DS-260 (6.4MB).

                                                           iv.      Two (2) 2x2 photographs. See the required photo format explained in Photograph Requirements.

                                                             v.      Civil Documents for the applicant. See Documents the Applicant Must Submit for more specific information about documentation requirements, including information on which documents may need to be translated. The consular officer may ask for more information during your visa interview. Bring your original civil documents (or certified copies) such as birth and marriage certificates, as well as legible photocopies of the original civil documents, and any required translations to your immigrant visa interview. Original documents and translations can then be returned to you.

                                                           vi.      Financial Support – At your immigrant visa interview, you must demonstrate to the consular officer that you will not become a public charge in the United States.

                                                          vii.      Completed Medical Examination Forms – These are provided by the panel physician after you have completed your medical examination and vaccinations (see below).

 

11.   Visa Interview

a.       Once the NVC determines the file is complete with all the required documents, they schedule the applicant’s interview appointment. NVC then sends the file, containing the applicant’s petition and the documents listed above, to the U.S. embassy or consulate where the applicant will be interviewed for a visa. The applicant, attorney, and third-party agent, if applicable, will receive appointment emails, or letters (if no email address is available), containing the date and time of the applicant's visa interview along with instructions, including guidance for obtaining a medical examination.

b.       Each applicant should bring a valid passport to the interview, as well as any other documentation above not already provided to NVC. A consular officer will interview the applicant, and the consular officer will determine whether the applicant is eligible to receive an immigrant visa in accordance with U.S. immigration law. Ink-free, digital fingerprint scans will be taken on the day of the interview. Generally, an applicant receives original civil documents and original translations back at the time of interview.

 

12.   Medical Examination and Vaccinations

a.       Important Notice: In preparing for your interview, you will need to schedule and complete your medical examination and any required vaccinations before your visa interview. Before an immigrant visa can be issued, every applicant, regardless of age, must undergo a medical examination which must be performed by an authorized panel physician. NVC provides applicants instructions regarding medical examinations, including information on authorized panel physicians. See Medical Examination for more information, including a list of panel physicians by country, and frequently asked questions.
 

13.   Vaccination Requirements

a.       U.S. immigration law requires immigrant visa applicants to obtain certain vaccinations prior to the issuance of immigrant visas. See Vaccination Requirements for IV Applicants for the list of required vaccinations and additional information.

 

14.   How Long Does It Take?

a.       Employment based immigrant visa cases, including for Religious Workers, take additional time because they are in numerically-limited visa categories. The length of time varies from case to case and cannot be predicted for individual cases with any accuracy. Some cases are delayed because applicants do not follow instructions carefully. Some visa applications require further administrative processing, which takes additional time after the consular officer interviews the applicant.

 

15.   Visa Ineligibility

a.       Certain conditions and activities may make an applicant ineligible for a visa. Examples of these ineligibilities include: drug trafficking; overstaying a previous visa; and submitting fraudulent documents. If you are ineligible for a visa, you will be informed by the consular officer and advised whether there is a waiver of the ineligibility available to you and what the waiver process is. Ineligibilities and Waivers: Laws contains the complete list of ineligibilities.

 

16.   Misrepresentation of Material Facts or Fraud

a.       Attempting to obtain a visa by the willful misrepresentation of a material fact or fraud may result in you becoming permanently ineligible to receive a U.S. visa or enter the United States.

 

17.   When You Have Your Immigrant Visa - What You Should Know

a.       If you are issued an immigrant visa, the consular officer will give you your passport containing the immigrant visa and a sealed packet containing the documents which you provided. It is important that you do not open the sealed packet. Only the U.S. immigration official should open this packet when you enter the United States. You are required to enter the U.S. before the expiration date printed on your visa. When traveling, the primary (or principal) applicant must enter the U.S. before or at the same time as family members holding visas. 

 

18.   USCIS Immigrant Fee –

a.       You must pay the USCIS Immigrant Fee to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) after you receive your immigrant visa and before you travel to the United States. Select USCIS Immigrant Fee on the USCIS website for more information. 

b.      Important Notice: USCIS will not issue a Permanent Resident Card (Form I-551 or Green Card) until you have paid the fee.

 

19.   Entering the United States: Port-of-Entry

a.       A visa allows a foreign citizen to travel to the U.S. port of entry and request permission to enter the United States. Applicants should be aware that a visa does not guarantee entry into the United States. The DHS, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials have authority to permit or deny admission to the United States. Travelers should review important information about admissions and entry requirements on the CBP website under Travel.

b.       Once you have paid the USCIS immigrant fee (explained above), and have been admitted to the U.S. as a permanent resident, your Permanent Resident Card, Form I-551 (formerly called Alien Registration Card, also known as green card) will be mailed to you.

 

20.   How to Apply for a Social Security Number Card

a.       If you elected on your immigrant visa application form to receive your Social Security Number Card upon admission to the United States as an immigrant, your card will be sent by mail to the U.S. address you designated on your application form, and should arrive approximately six weeks following your admission. If you did not elect to receive your Social Security Number Card automatically, you will have to apply to be issued a card following your arrival in the United States. To learn about applying for a Social Security Number Card, visit the Social Security Administration website.

 

21.   When You Are a Permanent Resident

a.       Coming to the United States to live permanently, you will want to learn more about your status as a Lawful Permanent Resident. See Welcome to the United States: A Guide for New Immigrants to review information on the USCIS website about living in the United States.

 

22.   Additional Information

a.       Immigrant visa applicants should not make any final travel arrangements, dispose of property, or give up jobs until and unless visas are issued. Some visa applications require further administrative processing, which takes additional time after the visa applicant's interview. An immigrant visa is generally valid for six months from the issuance date.

 

23.   General Visa Questions

a.       Before submitting your inquiry, we request that you carefully review this website for answers to your questions. Because of the volume of inquiries, we cannot promise an immediate reply to your inquiry.

b.       If your inquiry concerns a visa case in progress overseas, you should first contact the U.S. embassy or consulate handling your case for status information. Select U.S. Embassy or Consulate to find contact information.

c.       You can find contact information for our Public Inquiries Division at Contact Us.