Visa applications

Applying for an immigrant visa

Visa applications

The application procedure and documentation for immigrant visas can vary depending on your visa category and your local US embassy or consulate. The first step to applying is to submit a petition for visa application, the processing period of this alone can take from around 5 months to several years depending on your sponsor.

Once your petition has been accepted, you should receive a package of information from your local US consulate about how to apply. Follow the instructions in this packet carefully, especially those related to how and where to pay the visa application fee. Most consular offices outside the US no longer accept visa applications by mail, unless the applicant is under 14 or over 79. Keep in mind that biometrics will be a required form of evidence and you should consider the cost of travel that may be required for you to travel from your home to your nearest consulate on more than one occasion. 


After the petition stage comes the process of actually applying for an immigrant visa. Along with your application form, you’ll also have to pay a fee, which is calculated on how you are applying for your green card, up to date prices can be viewed here . You may also have to submit certain documentation depending on your type of visa application. Without doubt, visa applications can be complicated. Many applications are rejected each year due to small mistakes in paperwork, so check you have completed everything correctly. You may even want to consult with an accredited immigration lawyer to help you with the process.

Interview and Documentation

Visa applicants above 14 and below 79 are required to have a face-to-face interview with a consular officer. The waiting period for scheduling an immigrant visa interview varies by consulate, to check your nearest consulate waiting times, click here . You can expect the period of time spent at your consulate for an interview to be around two to three hours long. Punctuality is important as late arrival to your appointment may result in the cancellation of your interview. 

During the interview, you can anticipate the consulate official to ask about your application, prove any changes of circumstances, such as marital status or change of address, and provide all documents which have been required of you for your specific application. 

Documents required may include several or all of the following:

  • Your passport
  • Your birth certificate
  • A marriage certificate
  • Photographs
  • Evidence of financial support
  • The form you received from the USCIS notifying you that your petition was approved (form I-797)
  • Police certificates
  • Military records
  • A letter from your prospective employer (as applicable)
  • Proof of income e.g, bank statements, ownership of property, Affidavit of Support from your sponsor, income from royalties, etc.

You are also required to have a medical examination and to bring all your immunization records to the interview, as well as receipts of payment of application fees. The medical examination must be conducted by an approved physician and includes a medical history review, physical examination, chest X-ray and blood test for syphilis. The applicant is responsible for the cost, which can range between $100-$300 depending on the consulate.

Any supporting documents which are requested by the consulate will need to be translated into English.

Obtaining a green card

If all goes well and you are not placed on a waiting list, you will finally receive your immigrant visa – usually the same day or a few days after your interview. From the date your sponsor submits the petition on your behalf, you should expect to wait between six and nine months for completion of this process. 

Once you have received a visa, you must enter the US within six months. At this time, you will be issued a permanent residency card, otherwise known as a green card.

If you are applying for a green card from within the US and wish to travel abroad while you are waiting, you will need to get special ‘advance parole’ permission. If you remain abroad for more than a year without a re-entry permit from the USCIS or take up permanent residency in another country, your green card will be cancelled. In this case, you could apply for a special immigrant visa as a returning resident if you can prove that you didn’t intend to abandon your residence when you left the US. You should familiarize yourself with the rules and regulations of your green card to avoid any misunderstandings or problems concerning immigration to the US. 

If your application for a green card is denied and you believe it has been treated unfairly, you can sometimes make an appeal. However, an appeal should be made with the assistance of an immigration lawyer.

For the latest information and details about specific visa applications, visit the US Bureau of Consular Affairs website .

Further reading

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