The How-To Guide to Consular Processing When Seeking a Family-Based Immigrant Visa

Laraine E. Schwartz, Esq.Immigration law is a maze to follow. For foreign nationals who are seeking a visa based on their family ties in the U.S., here is a brief overview of what you and your family need to know.

First, in order to be able to legally sponsor a relative of yours to immigrate to the United States, you must meet the following criteria:

  • You must be either a United States Citizen or a Lawful Permanent Resident of the United States and provide documentation proving your status.
  • You must have a qualifying family relationship with the applicant seeking a visa. Qualifying relationship will be either spouse, parent or U.S. son or daughter over 21, petitioning for their parent.    
  • You must be willing to sponsor your relative for lawful permanent residency by filing the  I-130 Petition for Alien Relative form with United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) here in the United States.
  • You must show that you can financially support your family household members as well as all sponsored family members at a level 125% above the poverty line or have a joint sponsor willing to submit documentation to show they can afford the sponsorship.

Now, here is an overview of the steps the foreign national and his or her sponsoring relative must take when applying for the visa, and the mechanics of the process:

  • The sponsoring relative petitions for the relative by filing the I-130 form with the USCIS.
  • When this petition is approved, USCIS forwards the approval to the National Visa Center (NVC) in New Hampshire. After NVC receives the approval, a file is formed and assigned a case number. NVC will retain the case until it is ready for the interview at the  consul abroad.
  • When a beneficiary's priority date is available, NVC will send an Affidavit of Support and Visa processing fee bill to the sponsoring relative.
  • Once the processing fees are paid, NVC will send the request for documents and Affidavit of Support (form I-864) and Instructions Package for Immigrant Visa Applicants to the petitioner or attorney of record.
  • The Affidavit of Support and all supporting original documents must be filed with the NVC. The documents will include required civil documents such as the petitioner and beneficiary’s birth certificates; marriage, death and divorce certificates; police and judicial certificates; as well as recent photographs of the beneficiary.
  • Once NVC has received and pre-approved all required documents, an interview will be scheduled with the U.S. Embassy located in the beneficiary's country of origin.
  • The beneficiary and all accompanying family members must visit the Consulate on the appointment day for an immigrant visa interview.
  • Once this interview is completed, a Visa stamp of approval is placed in the beneficiary’s passport and the beneficiary pays one more entry fee from their country. Within the next six months, when the beneficiary enters the United States, their green card is officially approved and it is mailed to the beneficiary within a few weeks.

Keep in mind that this is just a broad overview of the visa process. If you or a relative is seeking to gain legal immigration status, you should consult with an immigration attorney because the circumstances of your individual case may require special consideration.

In upcoming blog posts we will discuss the Priority Dates and how they affect your visa availability.

Larraine Schwartz, Lobbying for Immigration Reform

Laraine E. Schwartz, Esq.
Winograd and Schwartz Attorneys at Law, PC

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