Last Updated on 11/26/2012
In general, any applicant for an immigrant visa must be the beneficiary of an approved petition. A few categories of applicants such as priority workers, investors, certain special immigrants, and diversity immigrants can petition on their own behalf. All other intending immigrants must have a relative or potential employer petition on their behalf.
Applicants for family-based immigrant visas who believe they are entitled to immigrant status based on a relationship to a U.S. citizen or lawful resident alien, should have that relative (known as the petitioner) file a petition (Form I -130) with the office of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS, formerly INS) in the United States that has jurisdiction over the petitioner's place of residence. In some cases, if the American citizen sponsor is residing abroad, he or she may file the petition with a USCIS office located abroad or a U.S. consular officer at an American Embassy or Consulate.
-- New Regulations for Submitting Certain Immigrant Visa Petitions (as of January 22, 2007)
In order to file the Form I-130 at the Consular Section, American citizen petitioners must be able to show they have permission to reside in the consular district and that they have been doing so continuously for at least six moths before filing the petition.
For further information, please visit the Family-Based Immigrants page of the U.S. Department of State.
- Rights and Protections for Foreign-Citizen Fiancé(e)s and Spouses of U.S. Citizens and Spouses of Lawful Permanent Residents (U.S. Department of State pamphlet)
Applicants for employment-based immigrant visas who believe they are entitled to immigrant status based on proposed employment in the U.S. require an approved petition (Form I -140) from a USCIS office in the U.S. People who qualify as Priority Workers may petition on their own behalf with USCIS, while others must have prospective employers file their petitions. Prior to filing a petition with USCIS, applicants for classification as professionals, skilled or unskilled workers must obtain certification from the Department of Labor that there are no qualified workers available for the proposed employment in the U.S.
For further information, please visit the Employment-Based Visas page of the U.S. Department of State.
Please also see the Work Visa page of the Non-Immigrant Visa Section.
Investors must file a Form I -526 petition with USCIS.
Special immigrants, returning residents and U.S. government employees must apply to the Secretary of State through a U.S. consular office abroad. All other special immigrants must file a Form I-360 petition with a USCIS office.
Priority Date Information
There are numerical limitations for certain immigrant visa categories, as well as limits on the number of immigrant visas per year, which can be issued to natives of any single country. For more details, please visit our Priority Date Information page.
United States immigration laws, in order to protect the country's health, welfare and security, prohibit the issuance of an immigrant visa to certain applicants.
For more information, please visit our Immigrant Visa Ineligibilities page.
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