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Immigrant Visa


What is an Immigrant Visa?


A Permanent Resident is someone who is not a U.S. citizen but has been authorized to permanently live and work in the United States. When you are outside the US, you need an Immigrant Visa to come to the US and have this permission (‘status’) immediately. (Others will become Permanent Residents after Adjusting Status (AOS) from a non-immigrant visa type)

People who enter the US with an Immigrant Visa become Legal Permanent Residents (PR or LPR) immediately, and are issued a ‘Green Card’ as evidence of their status.

Getting an Immigrant Visa is a multi-step process that takes about 8-12 months for the spouse of a US citizen.

1: USCIS must approve an immigrant petition (form I-130) for you, usually filed by a relative on your behalf. Your relative is the Petitioner. You are the Beneficiary.

2: A visa number, through the State Department must be immediately available to you. If you are the spouse, parent or minor child of a US citizen, a visa number is ALWAYS immediately available to you.

3: You must apply and qualify for an Immigrant Visa U.S. law limits the number of immigrant visa numbers that are available every year. If you are not the Immediate Relative of a US citizen (spouse, parent or child), please visit this page for more information - How Do I Get an Immigrant Visa Number?

For the purpose of this article, the Beneficiary will be an Immediate Relative of a US citizen.

The hardest part of the application process for most people is waiting for the petition approval. While the now-typical 3-6 months adjudication cycle seems long, bear in mind that only a few years ago, the wait was closer to 3 YEARS. This is why the K-3 non-immigrant visa was introduced, and the K-3 is of much less value toward reunification today. Please research carefully if you are considering a K-3 visa—it may not be what you think it is.

After the 3-6 months waiting for your petition to be adjudicated, the USCIS will tell the person who filed the visa petition (the petitioner) if the visa petition is approved. This notice I-797 is commonly called “NOA2” on the Internet, but not by USCIS.

USCIS will forward the approved visa petition to the Department of State's National Visa Center, where it will begin the visa application process. The NVC will notify you (the beneficiary of the petition) when the visa petition is received and again when an immigrant visa number is available. You do not need to contact the National Visa Center, unless you change your address or there is a change in your personal situation that may affect your eligibility for an immigrant visa. You may contact the National Visa Center by calling (603) 334-0700

The NVC is responsible for the collection of visa application fees and visa application documentation. FAQs about the NVC process are here: General Immigrant Visa Processing FAQ

This process, and tips for reducing the waiting time can be found here:
NVC Immigrant Visa process & Flowchart
NVC Timesavers including knowing your Case Number

Immigrant Visas are classed with codes and it has become common for people to call Immigrant Visas for spouses by their code CR-1 or IR-1. You can find all the visa classifications listed here: Visa Classifications

When the NVC has finished its work on your application, they will forward your case to your home Consulate for the visa interview.

After your interview, your file will have a final namecheck and the immigrant visa will be issued.

The Machine Readeable Immigrant Visa (MRIV) is glued into your passport and is valid for a limited time. You must travel to the US before the immigrant visa expires, and once you are admitted, you become a Legal Permanent Resident.

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