How to Apply for United States Visa Residency

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A United States resident visa allows foreign nationals to permanently live, work, and study in the country. With the promise of opportunity, migration to America is an important decision that must be carefully considered. To even become eligible to apply for a visa, you must be sponsored by a relative, permanent resident, or prospective employer who is a legal U.S. citizen. The application process relies heavily on the cooperation between you and your sponsor to petition for your U.S. residency.

Determine first if you require a U.S. sponsor, as you may be eligible for a Diversity Visa (DV). The Diversity Immigrant Visa Program randomly issues 50,000 visas per year to applicants from countries with a low immigration rate to the United States. To qualify, you must possess a high school education and two years of work experience in an occupation that requires at least two years training. Refer to the U.S. Bureau of Consular Affairs website to complete a DV application if your country is currently listed as eligible, otherwise proceed with the standard process.

Have your lawful permanent resident sponsor file an I-130 petition at the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Center nearest to their place of U.S. residence. Once the USCIS approves the petition, it will be forwarded for processing at the National Visa Center (NVC).

Wait for the NVC to send you a bill for the Immigrant Visa Processing fee. Your sponsor (petitioner) will also receive a bill for the Affidavit of Support fee of $70. You will both be given the option of submitting your payments online, by check or money order through mail. Once your sponsor has paid the fee, the NVC will contact them to download and complete the necessary paperwork on your behalf.

Make sure your sponsor completes the I-864EZ Affidavit of Support Form (see Resources) online in capital letters, as preferred by the Department of State. The purpose of an Affidavit of Support is to provide proof that as an immigrant, you will have enough financial support to live in the U.S. without risk of becoming reliant on government welfare. The form should be printed for submission as it will not be accepted electronically.

Retrieve the complete Affidavit of Support Form from your sponsor and file it with an appointed Consular Officer or Immigration Officer. You may do this overseas at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in your jurisdiction.

Prepare for a mandatory medical examination required of all U.S. visa applicants. Visit travel.state.gov/visa (see Resources) for a complete list of authorized panel physicians abroad. You will need to contact one of the designated offices for a physical examination, blood test, and chest X-ray. Obtain your vaccination records and immunization records from the doctor after the exam.

Allow the NVC to arrange a scheduled interview with you at an assigned U.S. Embassy or Consulate near you. They will contact you with a date, time, and location. Refer to the Bureau of Consular Affairs website (see Resources) for complete details on the extensive interview preparation process. Documents you will need to provide include the appointment letter, valid passport, police certificate, birth certificate, applicable court and prison records, color photographs, Affidavit of Support, and other special paperwork that the NVC may request based on your individual situation.

Do not be discouraged if you do not receive a decision soon after your interview. A U.S. resident visa is one of the most difficult to obtain, and not every applicant is guaranteed approval. In fact, it may take anywhere from a few weeks to several years to issue a visa depending on the terms of your application. Stay in touch with your designated consulate and the NVC to frequently check the status of your application.

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