Visas to Immigrate to the United States and Live Permanently
Immigrating to the United States is an important decision which requires a number of steps to complete. 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. The law specifies what family members are eligible to act as sponsors. The sponsor living in the United States files a petition on your behalf with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), which must be approved before the immigrant visa process can begin.
Immigrant Visa Categories
Most immigrant applicants apply for family or employment based immigration. You can be sponsored for immigration to the United States if you are:
- Spouse, son or daughter, brother or sister, or parent of a U.S. citizen;
- Spouse, or unmarried son or daughter of a U.S. lawful permanent resident.
Prospective U.S. employers can petition for certain workers with extraordinary ability, priority workers, professionals with advanced degrees, or certain skilled workers.
Some specialized immigration categories also exist. Learn more about filing a petition on the USCIS website under “Government Agencies” on the right. In addition, each year the Diversity Visa Program registers online entries during October, then selects 50,000 prospective immigrants in a random drawing of qualified entrants . DV entrants check the status of their entries by returning to the DV website to find out if their entry was or was not selected. The Department of State does not notify successful DV program entrants by letter or email. Learn more about the DV Program or visit the Electronic Diversity Visa website, under “Government Agencies.”
With the exception of the immediate relative category, the number of visas available each year in many of the immigrant visa categories is limited. Therefore whenever the number of qualified applicants exceeds the available immigrant visas, there will be a waiting period before immigrant visa processing can start. Some of these waiting lists can be several years long.
How to Apply – Immigrant Visa
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. The sponsor living in the United States files a petition on your behalf with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), which must be approved before the immigrant visa process can begin. Petitions approved by USCIS in the United States are sent to the Department of State, National Visa Center (NVC). The NVC provides notification to visa applicants and the U.S. sponsors to begin next steps in processing their approved petition. If the visa is in a category with an annual limit, NVC will contact the visa applicant only when his or her spot on the waiting list has been reached. NVC handles immigrant visa pre-processing, including collecting visa fees, forms and documents from sponsors (petitioners) and immigrant visa applicants.
Immigrant Visa Interview
After you have paid the necessary fees and have submitted the required documents to the National Visa Center, your interview will be scheduled and the case file will be sent to the appropriate U.S. embassy or consulate for you to prepare for the visa interview. The following U.S. embassies or consulates process Iranian immigrant applications and are able to conduct interviews in Farsi:
U.S. Embassy Ankara, Turkey
U.S. Embassy Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
U.S. Consulate Frankfurt, Germany
During the visa application process, usually at the interview, an ink-free, digital fingerprint scan will be quickly taken. Some visa applications require further administrative processing, which takes additional time after the visa applicant's interview by a Consular Officer.