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How do I obtain an immigrant visa?

To become a lawful permanent resident of the U.S., foreign citizens must first obtain an immigrant visa. 








Do I need an attorney?

Hiring an attorney is a personal decision that should be carefully considered.  An attorney can help you come up with a strategy to apply under the proper category, help you identify and gather the necessary evidence and supporting documents, efficiently streamline the process, properly fill out the necessary paperwork, communicate with you about the process, and avoid any unnecessary delays.  If you are considering hiring an attorney for your immigration needs, call us today for a free consultation!


The U.S. Department of State outlines the immigrant visa process and emphasizes the common methods of applying through the employment-based and family-based categories:


Eligibility

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, a prospective employer, with a few exceptions.


Visa Applications Based on Family

Who can file a petition?

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

  • Spouse
  • Son or daughter
  • Parent
  • Brother or sister

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

  • Spouse
  • Unmarried son or daughter


What is the minimum age requirement to be a U.S. sponsor?

  • To file petitions for siblings or parents, must be 21 years old or older.
  • For all other categories of family based immigrant visas, there is no minimum age requirement.   However, a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident (LPR) must be at least 18 years old 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.


Is Residence in the U.S. Required for the U.S. sponsor?
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.  Review the Affidavit of Support (I-864 or I-864EZ) Instructions for more information.


How does the sponsoring family member begin the immigration process?
The sponsoring family member must file an I-130 Petition for Alien Relative with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).


What are the groups of family-based immigrant visa categories?

1. Immediate Relative Immigrant Visas (Unlimited): 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:

  • IR-1: Spouse of a U.S. Citizen
  • IR-2: Unmarried Child Under 21 Years of Age of a U.S. Citizen
  • IR-3: Orphan adopted abroad by a U.S. Citizen
  • IR-4: Orphan to be adopted in the U.S. by a U.S. citizen
  • IR-5: Parent of a U.S. Citizen who is at least 21 years old


2. Family Preference Immigrant Visas (Limited): 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:

  • Family First Preference (F1): Unmarried sons and daughters of U.S. citizens, and their minor children, if any. (23,400)
  • Family Second Preference (F2): 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)
  • Family Third Preference (F3): Married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens, and their spouses and minor children. (23,400)
  • Family Fourth Preference (F4): 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)
  • Note: Grandparents, aunts, uncles, in-laws, and cousins cannot sponsor a relative for immigration.


What are the numerical limitations for limited family-based preference categories?
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 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.


When is the priority date?

The date the USCIS receives an immigration petition.


Where can someone find the latest priority dates?

The latest priority dates can be found in the Visa Bulletin.

What happens when a lawful permanent resident (LPR) has remained outside the United States for longer than twelve months or beyond the validity period of a re-entry permit?

  • The LPR 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 because of circumstances beyond his/her control.

 

If you were an LPR and are now a U.S. Citizen, how do you upgrade a petition?
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:

  • A copy of the biodata page of your U.S. passport; or
  • A copy of your certificate of naturalization


*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.)

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.

What is the next step after the USCIS approves a petition?

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.

Can My Family Members also Receive Immigrant Visas?

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.

When are family preference immigrant visas issued?
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.

What services require fees?
Fees are charged for the following services:

  • Filing an immigrant Petition for Alien Relative, Form I-130 (this fee is charged by USCIS)
  • Processing an immigrant visa application, Form DS-260
  • Medical examination and required vaccinations (costs vary)
  • 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.


Where can I find a list of current fees?

For current fees for Department of State services, see Fees for Visa Services.

For current fees for USCIS services, see Filing Fees.

What kind of documentation is required?
In general, the following documents are required:

  • Passport(s) valid for 60 days beyond the expiration date printed on the immigrant visa.
  • Affidavit of Support (Form I-864, I-864A, I-864 EZ, or I-864W, as appropriate) from the petitioner/U.S. sponsor.
  • Form DS-260, Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration Application.
  • Two (2) 2x2 photographs.
  • Civil Documents for the applicant (and petitioner in F4 cases). 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.
  • Completed Medical Examination Forms – These are provided by the panel physician after you have completed your medical examination and vaccinations.


What is the Visa interview process?
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. 

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.

*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.

Are there vaccination requirements to obtain a visa?
U.S. immigration law requires immigrant visa applicants to obtain certain vaccinations prior to the issuance of immigrant visas.

How long does it take to obtain a family preference visa?
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.  Using a qualified attorney can help prevent errors in the process and potentially decrease the amount of time the process takes.

What makes an applicant ineligible for a visa?

Certain conditions and activities, which include: drug trafficking; overstaying a previous visa; and submitting fraudulent documents.


What happens if you are ineligible for a visa?

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.


Where can I find the complete list of ineligibilities?
The waivers of ineligibility are in the Immigration and Nationality Act § 212(d),(g)-(i).

What happens if I willfully misrepresent a material fact or commit fraud while attempting to obtain a visa?
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.

What should I know about having an immigrant visa?

  • 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 you provided.
  • 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.


Does a visa guarantee entry into the United States?

  • A visa allows a foreign citizen to travel to the U.S. port-of-entry and request permission to enter the United States.
  • 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.


When will you receive your green card?

Once you have paid the USCIS Immigrant Fee 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.

How do you apply for a Social Security Card?

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.


Is there any additional information you should know?

  • 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.


Employment-Based Immigration Visa Applications

Who can sponsor skilled workers?

  • A U.S. employer can sponsor skilled workers for hire into permanent jobs. 
  • In some specialized fields, prospective immigrants can sponsor themselves.  
  • A number of special immigrant categories and an immigrant investor program also exist.


How many employment-based visas are generally available?
Every fiscal year (Oct. 1st – Sept. 30th), approximately 140,000 employment-based immigrant visas are made available to qualified applicants.


How many employment-based categories exist?
Employment-based immigrant visas are divided into five (5) preference categories.

What are the five employment-based preference categories?

1. Employment First Preference (E1): Priority Workers

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


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

  • 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.
  • There are two subgroups within this category:
    • Professionals holding an advanced degree (beyond a baccalaureate degree), or a baccalaureate degree and at least five years progressive experience in the profession
    • 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


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

  • 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.
  • There are three subgroups within this category:
    • Skilled workers
      • Persons whose jobs require a minimum of 2 years training or work experience that are not temporary or seasonal.
    • Professionals
      • Members of the professions whose jobs require at least a baccalaureate degree from a U.S. university or college or its foreign equivalent degree.
    • Unskilled workers (other workers)
      • Persons capable of filling positions that require less than two years training or experience that are not temporary or seasonal.


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

  • 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.
  • There are many subgroups within this category:
    • Broadcasters in the U.S. employed by the International Broadcasting Bureau of the Broadcasting Board of Governors or a grantee of such organization
    • Ministers of Religion
    • 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
    • Certain Former Employees of the Panama Canal Company or Canal Zone Government
    • Certain Former Employees of the U.S. Government in the Panama Canal Zone
    • Certain Former Employees of the Panama Canal Company or Canal Zone Government on April 1st, 1979
    • 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.
    • 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
    • Certain Foreign Medical Graduates (Adjustments Only)
    • Certain Retired International Organization Employees
    • Certain Unmarried Sons and Daughters of International Organization Employees
    • Certain Surviving Spouses of deceased International Organization Employees
    • Special Immigrant Juveniles (no family member derivatives; Adjustments Only)
    • Persons Recruited Outside of the United States Who Have Served or are Enlisted to Serve in the U.S. Armed Forces
    • Certain retired NATO-6 civilians
    • Certain Unmarried Sons and Daughters of NATO-6 civilians
    • Certain Surviving Spouses of deceased NATO-6 civilian employees
    • 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
    • Certain Religious Workers


5. Employment Fifth Preference (E5): Immigrant Investors

  • Immigrant Investor visa categories are for capital investment by foreign investors in new commercial enterprises in the United States which provide job creation.
  • 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:
    • $1,000,000 (U.S.); or
    • $500,000 (U.S.) in a high-unemployment or rural area, considered a targeted employment area.
    • Investor must be able to prove the invested funds come from a lawful source. 
  • 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.
  • Immigrant investor visa categories are:
    • Employment creation outside a targeted area – C5
    • Employment creation in a targeted rural/high unemployment area – T5
    • Investor Pilot Program not in a targeted area – R5
    • Investor Pilot Program in a targeted area – I5


What are the first steps toward an employment-based immigrant visa?

  • The applicant's prospective employer or agent must first obtain a labor certification approval from the Department of Labor.
  • Once the labor certification is 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.
    • Persons with extraordinary abilities in the Employment First preference category are able to file their own petitions.


What are the next steps after USCIS approves an employment-based visa petition?

  • After USCIS approves the petition, it is sent to the National Visa Center (NVC).
  • Once received, the NVC assigns 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.


Can family members also receive immigrant visas?

  • Based on your approved petition, your spouse and minor unmarried children, younger than 21, may apply for immigrant visas with 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.


When are employment-based immigrant visas issued?

  • 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.
  • The Visa Bulletin lists the latest priority dates.


For which services are fees attached?

  • 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)
  • Processing an immigrant visa application, Form DS-260
  • Medical examination and required vaccinations (costs vary)
  • 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.


What documents are generally required?

  • Passport(s) valid for 60 days beyond the expiration date printed on the immigrant visa
  • Form DS-260, Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration Application.
  • Two (2) 2x2 photographs.
  • Civil Documents for the applicant.
  • 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.)
  • Completed Medical Examination Forms – These are provided by the panel physician after you have completed your medical examination and vaccinations (see below)


What happens after the NVC determines the file is complete with all the required documents?

The NVC then schedules 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.


What should the applicant bring to the visa interview?

Each applicant should bring a valid passport to the interview, as well as any other documentation not already provided to NVC.


What happens at the visa interview?

  • 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.
  • Generally, an applicant receives original civil documents and original translations back.


What else needs to be done to prepare for the visa interview?

  • Before an immigrant visa can be issued, every applicant, regardless of age, must undergo a medical examination.
  • The examination must be performed by an authorized panel physician.
  • U.S. immigration law also requires immigrant visa applicants to obtain certain vaccinations prior to the issuance of immigrant visas.
  • NVC provides applicants instructions regarding medical examinations, including information on authorized panel physicians.
  • Applicants will need to schedule and complete a medical examination and any required vaccinations before the visa interview.


How long does the employment-based visa application process take?

Employment based immigrant visa cases take additional time because they are in numerically limited visa categories. The length of time varies 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.