We observed that traveling to the United States has become somehow difficult for some persons especially those from developing countries such that they end up getting frustrated. It is in the light of this observation that we decide to come with this article to enable potential immigrants know the steps and vital procedures involved in U.S. immigrant visa application.
Visa processing steps
There are about 12 steps to be taken while processing an immigrant visa to the U.S., they are:
- Submit a Petition
- Begin National Visa Center (NVC) Processing
- Pay Fees
- Complete Affidavit of Support
- Collect Financial Evidence and other Supporting Documents
- Complete Online Visa Application (DS-260)
- Collect Civil Documents
- Scan Collected Documents
- Upload and Submit Scanned Documents
- Prepare for the Interview
- Applicant Interview
- After the Interview
Before we go into explaining the steps listed above, it is necessary you know that the processes are categorized into three: for petitioners; for applicants; and for both petitioners and applicants.
Steps 1, 4, and 5 are for petitioners; steps 6, 7, 10, 11, and 12 are for applicants; while steps 2, 3, 8, and 9 are for both petitioners and applicants.
Who is a petitioner?
A petitioner is a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident family member or employer (or the employer’s agent) who files a family-based or employment-based immigrant visa petition with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The USCIS oversees immigration to the United States and approves or denies immigrant petitions, and more.
Who is an applicant?
An applicant is a foreign citizen who is applying for a nonimmigrant or immigrant U.S. visa. The visa applicant may also be referred as a beneficiary for petition based visas.
The steps explained
Read carefully the U.S. Visa application steps.
Step 1: Submit a Petition (for petitioners only)
U.S. citizens and lawful permanent resident petitioners residing in the United States are required to file Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Filing of the petition can be done either electronically or through the traditional paper process through the mail.
A petition can be filed from either inside or outside the United States and your immigrant petition must be approved by USCIS before your case can proceed to the National Visa Center.
Step 2: Begin National Visa Center (NVC) Processing (for both petitioners and applicants)
The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services after approving your petition will transfer your case to the Department of State’s National Visa Center (NVC) for pre-processing. The first step in this processing is the creation of your case in the NVC system. Upon completion you will be sent a Welcome Letter by e-mail or physical mail. With the information in this letter, you can log in to our Consular Electronic Application Center (CEAC) to check your status, receive messages, and manage your case.
Your case will be reviewed to ensure you provided all the required documentation to schedule the immigrant visa interview o once you submit your fees, forms, and supporting documents to NVC.
Step 3: Pay Fees (for both petitioners and applicants)
Payment of your visa processing fees is the first thing you need to do after receiving your NVC Welcome Letter. There are two processing fees to pay:
- Immigrant Visa Application Processing Fee
- Affidavit of Support Fee.
To make your payment, you will need a bank routing number and a checking or savings account number from a U.S. based bank. Log into your case in CEAC and click the ‘PAY NOW’ button under Affidavit of Support Fee or IV Fee on your summary page and make your payment.
Please note that the two fees cannot be paid simultaneously as the system will direct you to pay them separately.
Step 4: Complete Affidavit of Support (for petitioners only)
Form I-864 which is the known as an Affidavit of Support, is a document an individual signs to accept financial responsibility for the applicant who is coming to live in the United States. The person who signs the Affidavit of Support is also called the “sponsor.” The petitioner is compulsorily required to complete the Affidavit of Support, but where the petitioner’s income is insufficient, a joint-sponsor may agree to also complete it on behalf of the applicant.
By signing Form I-864, the petitioner (including any joint sponsor) is agreeing to use their resources, if necessary, to financially support the beneficiary and any dependent(s). If the beneficiary and dependent(s) receive any designated federal, state, or local means-tested public benefits, under U.S. law the agency providing the benefit “shall request reimbursement” from the signatory of the I-864.
A petitioner is required to gather evidence of his or her finances and other supporting documents
Step 5: Collect Financial Evidence and other Supporting Documents (for petitioners only)
After completing the Affidavit of Support form, a petitioner is required to gather evidence of his finances and other supporting documents. Failure to do this will delay the processing of your case.
Step 6: Complete Online Visa Application (for applicants only)
Upon making your fees payment, your status in CEAC is updated to ‘PAID’, after which, you and each qualified family member immigrating with you must complete the Application for Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration known as Form DS-260.
Log into your case in CEAC and click the ‘START NOW’ under IV Application on your summary page To complete your Application for Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration.
Step 7: Collect Civil Documents (for applicants only)
You and any family member immigrating with you must collect the civil documents required to support your visa application after you complete your DS-260(s). Your civil documents must be issued by the official issuing authority in your country.
Note that all documents not written in English, or in the official language of the country from which you are applying, must be accompanied by certified translations. The translation must include a statement signed by the translator stating that:
- The translation is accurate, and
- The translator is competent to translate.
The civil documents to be provided include:
- Documentation of Adoption (if an intending immigrant child was adopted)
- Birth Certificates
- Court and Prison Records (if you were convicted of a crime)
- Marriage Certificates (if you are or have been married)
- Marriage Termination Documentation (legal divorce decree, death certificate, or annulment papers must be provided if you were previously married)
- Military Records (if you served in the military of any country)
- Petitioner Documents
- Photocopy of Valid Passport Biographic Data Page (for you and each family member immigrating with you)
- Police Certificates (if you are 16 years of age or older) not for present and former residents of the United States)).
Step 8: Scan Collected Documents (for both petitioners and applicants)
All necessary documents you collected must be scanned and saved. Scanning and saving your documents will enable you to be ready anytime you are called to submit them (usually softcopies).
Please do not mail any documents to National Visa Center (NVC) unless you are directed to do so. Anything you do against the instructions given to you may delay the processing of your case and you may as well risk losing any documents you send.
Required image qualities of your documents
Your scanned documents must:
- Be in color
- Include the front and back side of any document that has stamps, seals, or writing on the back
- Include a certified translation of your document with your original (i.e. foreign language) document in a single file
- Be clear, easily seen and read, and no parts of the document are cut off
- Be oriented so it can be read across the screen without the need to rotate the document.
Compress only where necessary.
Step 9: Upload and Submit Scanned Documents (for both petitioners and applicants)
Log into CEAC and go to the “Start Now” button located under Affidavit of Support Documents and Civil Documents to submit documents. After uploading all the required documents for each section, press “Submit Documents”. This button will not work unless you have uploaded all of the required documents for each person. Once you press it, your case will be placed in line for review at the National Visa Center (NVC).
Please do not send any documents to NVC by mail. However, you must bring every civil document you uploaded and submitted with your U.S. immigrant visa application to your visa interview.
Step 10: Prepare for the Interview (for applicants only)
The National Visa Center (NVC) will schedule your visa interview appointment after you have submitted your documents. An email will be sent to you, your petitioner, and your agent/attorney (if applicable) noting the appointment date and time. After you receive an interview Appointment Letter from NVC, you must take the following steps before the U.S. immigrant visa application interview date.
- Schedule and Complete a Medical Examination
- Register for Courier Service/Other Pre-Interview Instructions
- Gather Documents Required for the Interview
Note that failure to bring all items on the above list can delay visa issuance as the consular officer will not be able to complete the processing of your visa.
Step 11: Applicant Interview (for applicants only)
You (and accompanying family member beneficiaries) will be interviewed by a Consular officer. The interview is to determine whether or not you are eligible to receive an immigrant visa.
On the scheduled date and time of your U.S. immigrant visa application interview appointment, go to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate with your printed visa application (DS-260) confirmation page. As part of the interview process, ink-free, digital fingerprint scans will be taken.
You are to come for the interview with the following documents:
- Appointment Letter
- DS-260 Confirmation Page
- Supporting Documents
Step 12: After the Interview
If your visa is approved, you will be informed how and when your passport and visa will be returned to you. 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. You must arrive in and apply for admission to the United States no later than the visa expiration date printed on your visa.
On the other hand, if your visa is denied, you will be informed by the consular officer why you are ineligible to receive a visa. Based on U.S. law, not everyone who applies is qualified or eligible for a visa to come to the United States.
We strongly advise that: you should not make permanent financial commitments, such as selling your house, car or property, resigning from your job, or making other travel arrangements, until you have received your immigrant visa.
We wish you good luck and successful U.S. immigrant visa application.