uspersonalvisa

Helping a family member, whether it is your spouse, fiancé(e), child,parent or brother or sister, become a permanent resident of the US, follows roughly the same procedure as outlined below. It may seem straightforward, but there are many nuances in each type of family-based visa. Please read our site carefully, and if you have any questions, please contact us for more information on family based immigration to the US.

    • First, the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) must approve an immigrant visa petition (I-130) for you. The US citizen relative fills this out on behalf of the foreign-born relative. It must be accompanied by proof of the relationship and the other required documentation in order to begin the family based immigration process.
    • Second, the Department of State must determine if an immigrant visa number is available for the foreign national, according to the category of visa applied for, even if that person already lives in the United States.
    • The third step in family based immigration, if the foreign relative is already in the United States, he or she should apply to change his or her status to that of a lawful permanent resident after a visa number becomes available. This is one way to secure an immigrant visa number. You can adjust your status, commonly known as AOS, by submitting a form I-485 along with other required documentation, such as the results of medical examinations, police certificates, etc. I-485s are considered by the USCIS directly. In this case, principal applicants, both petitioner and beneficiary should submit their applications together (I-130 + I-485 + required documentation) through the local office rather than regional one.
    • If you are outside the United States when an immigrant visa number becomes available, the foreign relative must go to the U.S. consulate to complete the processing. This is the other way in which you can apply to secure an immigrant visa number for US family based immigration. If a beneficiary is based outside the United States, then his / her documents are considered by the National Visa Center (NVC) before his / her case is being sent to the US Consulate for further processing.NVC reviews the documentation and completes the required administrative processing, such as checking backgrounds and so on.

K-3 visas for the spouse of a US citizen

American citizens have two means of bringing their foreign husbands or wives to the US to live (if you are not yet married, please visit our section for fiancé(e) visas).

  • You can "sponsor" your spouse's immigrant visa for entry to the United States. If you follow this process, your foreign spouse will complete the visa process completely outside the US, and then arrive in the US and obtain permanent residency status immediately. You will need to submit an immigrant Petition for Alien Relative, Form I-130. After USCIS, the National Visa Center and the US Embassy complete all the necessary administrative processing your spouse will be granted an immigrant visa. Your spouse will receive an IR1 or a CR1 visa.

(Note: An IR-1 (IR stands for "Immediate Relative") visa allows your spouse to immigrate to the U.S. A CR1 Visa (CR stands for "Conditional Residency") will be given to you if your marriage is less than 2 years old. It is conditional for two years.

  • You can obtain a K-3 visa. The K3 visa is a non-immigrant visa for the US. K3 visas are granted normally within a few months. You should use the K3 visa to start the process outside of the US, then travel to the US to complete the immigration process. Please note that in this case, the application must be made in the country where the marriage took place. If your marriage took place in the US, your spouse must apply for a K3 visa through the US Embassy in the country of his/her residence. Furthermore, and somewhat confusing – the applicant needs to have form I-129F (called "petition for alien fiancé(e)) also filed on his/her behalf. Since K-3 is a relatively new visa category, USCIS continues to be using the Form I-129F and it is still called a "petition for alien fiancé (e)" rather than a "petition for alien spouse". After the visa has been issued, the spouse can travel to the US.

To obtain either visa, you must meet the following requirements:

  • You must be legally married. Merely living together does not qualify a marriage for immigration Unmarried partners are ineligible to sponsor visas to the United Stated.
  • In most cases you must have a residence in the US to apply. If you live outside the US, see the next section below.
  • You must be 18 years old before you can sign the Affidavit of Support, which is a form that will be required later in the process.

If you live outside the US

If you want to bring your foreign spouse to the US, but you are currently living outside the US, you must submit a visa petition (form I-130) to either your local US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) office or directly to the US Embassy where your foreign spouse resides. Please check first if the US Embassy accepts Immigrant Visa Petitions.

Once the visa petition is approved, the foreign-born spouse will receive a packet from the National Visa Center (NVC), which is located in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. The packet informs your foreign spouse of the various documents which must be presented at the immigrant visa interview abroad (e.g., passport, police clearances, results of medical examinations, etc.). The packet includes certain documents requesting biographic data that must be completed, signed and forwarded to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad. Usually, the foreign-born spouse is interviewed and granted an immigrant visa within three to six months.

If you and your spouse are planning to remain outside the US indefinitely, it is not recommended that you apply for a Green Card. The Green Card could be cancelled at the Port of Entry to the US if you have spent more than six months outside of the US. The Immigration Officer at the Port of Entry will have to determine if the US is your main home, so be prepared for a lot of questions.

If you both already live in the US

The U.S. citizen must submit a Petition for Alien Relative (form I-130) to appropriate US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) office to prove that the marriage is genuine.

Attached to the visa petition are the following items:

  • Biographical forms (forms G-325A) for both the husband and the wife with photos attached.
  • Proof of the petitioner's citizenship. This can take the form of a U.S. Passport, a Certificate of Naturalization or Citizenship or a certified copy of the citizen's birth certificate.
  • A certified copy of the marriage certificate.
  • Certified copies of the documents that terminated any previous marriages of the husband or wife, including final divorce decrees, and certificates of annulment or death.

At the same time, the foreign-born spouse, assuming he or she entered the U.S. lawfully, should submit an application for adjustment of status (form I-485), which is an application for a green card. Normally you will also have to submit form I-485 along with green card photographs, an affidavit of support from the spouse, an application for employment authorization, an application for a travel permit (known as "advanced parole") - assuming the non-citizen spouse has not been in the U.S. unlawfully for 180 days or more - and numerous other USCIS forms.

K-1 visas for the fiance(e) of a US citizen

f you are a US citizen planning to marry someone who is not a US citizen in the United States, your fiancé(e) will need a visa to enter the United States. Specifically, you will need a K-1 visa, which will allow you to get married and then pursue permanent residency. Please read our Frequently Asked Questions section for additional information.

Applying for the K-1 visa
To apply for the K-1 visa, the procedure is as follows:
  • Form I-129F Petition for Alien Fiancé(e) should be submitted to USCIS. If your fiancé(e) has unmarried children who are under 21, they are eligible to accompany your fiancé(e), but only if they are listed on this form. See our section on obtaining a visa for minor children.
  • Show proof of your U.S. citizenship.
  • Submit 2 Form G-325A Biographic Data Sheets (one for you and one for your fiancé(e)) plus color photos of each of you.
  • A copy of any divorce decrees, death certificates, or annulment decrees if either of you were previously married.
  • Proof of permission to marry if you or your fiancé(e) are subject to any age restrictions (age restrictions vary from state to state).

You and your fiancé(e) must fulfill several requirements in order to be considered for the K-1 visa, such as:

  • You must both be free to marry (ie both of you are single, divorced, etc)
  • You must have met your fiancé(e) in person at least one time in the past two years. You can prove this by showing photographs of the two of you together, airline tickets, etc. This can be waived if you can prove that meeting would have created hardship, or meeting would have gone against traditional or cultural custom in your fiancé(e)'s home country.
  • It is important to note that if your fiancé(e) is given the visa, you must get married within 90 of his or her arrival in the US, or your fiancé(e) will have to leave. Your fiancé(e) may not be given another US visa if this happens. The visa cannot be extended beyond 90 days. Your fiancé(e) also must marry the K-1 petitioner (you) and no one else in order to remain in the US.

If you require assistance in obtaining a visa for your fiancé(e) workpermit.com can help you.

US visas for the children of a US citizen, fiance(e) of a US citizen, or permanent resident of the US

If you are in the US on a K-3 spouse visa, you may bring your child to the states on a K-4 visa.

Your child can qualify for the K-4 visa if s/he:

  • Is under 21
  • Is unmarried
  • Is the child of a K-3 visa holder
  • Is seeking to immigrate to the US

If your child is granted a K-4 visa, he or she may live in the US while waiting approval of the immigrant visa petition, apply for a work permit, travel outside of the US and come back and study in the US.

On a K-4 visa , your child may not change to any other non-immigrant status, or enter the US if s/he has been barred for previous violation of US immigration laws.

The K-4 visa is valid for two years with multiple entries, or until the age of 21, whichever is shorter. You may apply for extension of stay using Form I-539, Application to Extend or Change Nonimmigrant Status, 120 days prior to the expiration of your authorized stay. Extension will be granted in two year intervals. Extensions for K-4 status must be filed concurrently with your K-3 parents' status extension application. In addition, your U.S. citizen parent filing for extension of your K-4 status should file Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, on your behalf.

Applying for a K-4 visa

The following documents are required for the K4 visa:

  • Two copies of the DS-156 application form
  • Two passport-sized, frontal view color photographs with a white background of the principal K-3 and K-4 visa applicant
  • Local police certificates of the principal K-3 and K-4 visa applicant
  • Birth certificates of the principal K-3 and K-4 visa applicant
  • Local marriage certificate of the principal K-3 applicant
  • Divorce or Death certificates of the principal K-3 applicant
  • Medical report from one of the Embassy's panel physicians
  • Separate valid passports of the principal K-3 and K-4 visa applicant
Children of K-1 fiancé(e) visa holders

One of the priveleges of having a K-1 visa is that you may bring your children under age 21 with you. They will need a K-2 visa. When you apply to bring your fiancé(e) to the United States, you should apply for their unmarried, minor children at the same time. They may work in the US on this visa.

US visas for foreign-born adopted children, including information for US citizens living abroad and US permanent residents

In the past few decades, the number of children born abroad who are adopted by American parents has increased dramatically. The adopted child's immigration can be a major issue in the international adoption process. To avoid making a mistake that could lead to heartbreak and disappointment down the road read our website carefully before you begin the process, or contact us if you are having difficulties.

In gaining permanent residence for an adopted foreign child, the following requirements must be met:

  • The child's home country must permit adoptions by foreigners, and the prospective US citizen parents must comply with all of that country's rules;
  • The child to be adopted must be under 16 years old and must fit the US government's definition of orphan;
  • The adoptive parent must be a US citizen, or in the case of a married couple, only one needs to be a US citizen. Single adoptive parents must be at least 25 years of age;
  • The child must have been formally adopted in its country of origin, or the adoptive parents must have custody of the child for immigration and an adoption to be finalized in the US; and
  • An agency must determine if the home/family are suitable to adopt a child.
Family evaluation:

The first step in the international adoption is an evaluation of the family that wishes to adopt. It is a good idea to take care of this procedure (called "advance processing") before finding an appropriate child, as this interview process can take time. This is conducted by a United States Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) authorized organization.

The evaluation may vary, but will likely include the following: an interview of each adult living in the home; a visit to the home; a report detailing the physical, mental and emotional ability of the prospective parents; a report of the prospective parents' financial situation; background checks (including previous attempts at adoption, and criminal history); training; references; autobiographical statements written by both prospective parents.

At this stage, the parents must provide proof that at least one parent is a US citizen. If the potential parent is a single US citizen, he or she must be over 25. The application is then submitted to the USCIS office where the adoptive parents live. The next step requires proving that the child they wish to adopt is actually an orphan. See the definition of orphan.

Getting your adopted child a visa:

When the foreign adoption process is completed, the adoptive parents can apply for an immigrant visa at the appropriate U.S. consular office abroad. In addition to the notification of the approved I-600 or I-600A petition from USCIS, the consular officer also requires specific documentation to conduct a visa interview and to approve visa issuance. Some of these requirements are discussed below. However, we strongly suggest that adoptive parents contact the consular section conducting the visa interview prior to the actual scheduling of the interview. Remember, a visa is not permission to enter the United States. Final authority to enter the U.S. rests with theUSCIS at the port of entry.

The Department of State Consular Officer who adjudicates your child's immigrant visa application is required to conduct an investigation (called the "I-604 Orphan Investigation") before an immigrant visa can be issued to your child. This investigation serves two purposes: (1) to verify the orphan status of the child, and (2) to ensure that the child does not suffer from a medical condition that you, the adoptive parents, do not already know about and are willing to accept. As a part of the immigrant visa application process and the I-604 Orphan Investigation, your child will be examined by a U.S.-approved foreign physician.

Two types of visas for internationally-adopted children
  • The IR-3 ("IR" stands for Immediate Relative) visa classification signifies that the orphan has been adopted abroad prior to the issuance of the immigrant visa. In order to issue an IR-3 visa, the adjudicating officer must be satisfied that the adoption was both legal in the country where it occurred and valid for U.S. immigration purposes. Children who enter the U.S. on an IR-3 visa are automatically granted U.S. citizenship, and under the new regulations, will be sent a Certificate of Citizenship within 45 days of their entry. Parents do not need to complete a separate application on behalf of their children for this document.
  • The other international adoption visa category is the IR-4. This type of visa is given to a child who will undergo the adoption process in the US, rather than in his/her home country. This situation arises when the foreign country's laws only permit the adoptive parents to obtain guardianship of the child, rather than to fully adopt the child in that country, and/or the prospective adoptive parents did not see and observe the child prior to the adoption process. If this is the case, the following requirements must be met:
    • The parent, or a person or organization acting on the parent's behalf, must have legal custody of the child under the laws of the child's home country
    • The parent must obtain an irrevocable release for adoption and immigration from the person or entity that last had legal custody of the child
    • The parent must comply with all pre-adoption requirements of the state in which they will live with the adoptive child
    • The state in which the adoptive parent and child will live must allow a re-adoption or else provide for judicial recognition of a foreign adoption that was invalid for immigration purposes.

IR-4 orphans must be readopted in the United States before they are automatically U.S. citizens.

Definition of orphan:

The US government's definition of orphan says that improper understanding of the term orphan most often causes delays or denials in the adoption process.

It is important to note also that in order to obtain an immigrant visa for the child you wish to adopt, the child must qualify as an orphan under U.S. law, not under the law of the foreign country in which you are adopting.

The legal definition of "orphan" is:

"...a child under the age of sixteen who is an orphan because of the death or disappearance of, abandonment or desertion by, or separation or loss from, both parents, or for whom the sole surviving parent is incapable of providing the proper care (according to the standards of adoptee's country) and has, in writing, irrevocably released the child for immigration and adoption."

Information for US permanent residences

The US government says that each year, non-US citizen parents legally adopted a child internationally, only to learn that the child cannot join them in the US. The problem with non-US citizens living in the US attempting to adopt internationally is the following:

Long term nonimmigrant visa holders and legal permanent residents can bring their spouses and children with them when they enter the United States or have them enter later. The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) divides the definition of "child" into several sub-groups: natural born children, step-children, and adopted children. The INA recognizes as a "child" one who has been adopted before the age of sixteen and who has resided with, and been in the legal custody of, the parent for two years. A child born overseas to the principal applicant after his or her entry to the US may receive the appropriate dependent visa immediately. A child adopted overseas by a non-citizen must first meet the two-year co-residence requirement. However, the INA does not provide any way for the child to enter the US to satisfy this requirement.

As a solution, the parents could live with the child for two years in the child's country of origin. However, a permanent resident cannot reside outside the US making the two-year requirement basically impossible.

The best solution is for legal permanent residents to first naturalize as US citizens and for long-term nonimmigrant visa holders to return to their home countries before adopting.

US citizens living abroad:

Adoptive parents who wish to naturalize their children but who will continue to reside abroad may enter their adoptive children with a B-2 visa into the United States and complete the naturalization process there. To do this, they should contact the United States Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) office which has jurisdiction over their case and which will set an appointment for the procedure.

In order to get a B-2 visa, adoptive parents must demonstrate that the child qualifies either under the two-year physical/legal custody rule or present an approved I-600. (The I-600 classifies an alien orphan who either is, or will be, adopted by a U.S. citizen as an immediate relative of the U.S. citizen to allow the child to enter the U.S. The petition is filed by the U.S. citizen who is adopting the child.)

When applying for a nonimmigrant visa, the adoptive parents must also prove that they have made all the necessary arrangements with the USCIS office and that they intend to depart the U.S. to continue their residence abroad. Adoptive parents can show proof of arrangements made with the USCIS by presenting a USCIS General Call-in Letter (Form G-56).

This means that parents who qualify under the two-year legal/physical custody rule and who will continue to reside abroad can avoid the cost and paperwork of both the I-130 and the I-600 by using this procedure. Expeditious naturalization in all cases must be complete before the child turns 18.

US visas for parents of US citizens

In the past few decades, the number of children born abroad who are adopted by American parents has increased dramatically. The adopted child's immigration can be a major issue in the international adoption process. To avoid making a mistake that could lead to heartbreak and disappointment down the road read our website carefully before you begin the process, or contact us if you are having difficulties.

In gaining permanent residence for an adopted foreign child, the following requirements must be met:

  • The child's home country must permit adoptions by foreigners, and the prospective US citizen parents must comply with all of that country's rules;
  • The child to be adopted must be under 16 years old and must fit the US government's definition of orphan;
  • The adoptive parent must be a US citizen, or in the case of a married couple, only one needs to be a US citizen. Single adoptive parents must be at least 25 years of age;
  • The child must have been formally adopted in its country of origin, or the adoptive parents must have custody of the child for immigration and an adoption to be finalized in the US; and
  • An agency must determine if the home/family are suitable to adopt a child.
Family evaluation:

The first step in the international adoption is an evaluation of the family that wishes to adopt. It is a good idea to take care of this procedure (called "advance processing") before finding an appropriate child, as this interview process can take time. This is conducted by a United States Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) authorized organization.

The evaluation may vary, but will likely include the following: an interview of each adult living in the home; a visit to the home; a report detailing the physical, mental and emotional ability of the prospective parents; a report of the prospective parents' financial situation; background checks (including previous attempts at adoption, and criminal history); training; references; autobiographical statements written by both prospective parents.

At this stage, the parents must provide proof that at least one parent is a US citizen. If the potential parent is a single US citizen, he or she must be over 25. The application is then submitted to the USCIS office where the adoptive parents live. The next step requires proving that the child they wish to adopt is actually an orphan. See the definition of orphan.

Getting your adopted child a visa:

When the foreign adoption process is completed, the adoptive parents can apply for an immigrant visa at the appropriate U.S. consular office abroad. In addition to the notification of the approved I-600 or I-600A petition from USCIS, the consular officer also requires specific documentation to conduct a visa interview and to approve visa issuance. Some of these requirements are discussed below. However, we strongly suggest that adoptive parents contact the consular section conducting the visa interview prior to the actual scheduling of the interview. Remember, a visa is not permission to enter the United States. Final authority to enter the U.S. rests with theUSCIS at the port of entry.

The Department of State Consular Officer who adjudicates your child's immigrant visa application is required to conduct an investigation (called the "I-604 Orphan Investigation") before an immigrant visa can be issued to your child. This investigation serves two purposes: (1) to verify the orphan status of the child, and (2) to ensure that the child does not suffer from a medical condition that you, the adoptive parents, do not already know about and are willing to accept. As a part of the immigrant visa application process and the I-604 Orphan Investigation, your child will be examined by a U.S.-approved foreign physician.

Two types of visas for internationally-adopted children:
  • The IR-3 ("IR" stands for Immediate Relative) visa classification signifies that the orphan has been adopted abroad prior to the issuance of the immigrant visa. In order to issue an IR-3 visa, the adjudicating officer must be satisfied that the adoption was both legal in the country where it occurred and valid for U.S. immigration purposes. Children who enter the U.S. on an IR-3 visa are automatically granted U.S. citizenship, and under the new regulations, will be sent a Certificate of Citizenship within 45 days of their entry. Parents do not need to complete a separate application on behalf of their children for this document.
  • The other international adoption visa category is the IR-4. This type of visa is given to a child who will undergo the adoption process in the US, rather than in his/her home country. This situation arises when the foreign country's laws only permit the adoptive parents to obtain guardianship of the child, rather than to fully adopt the child in that country, and/or the prospective adoptive parents did not see and observe the child prior to the adoption process. If this is the case, the following requirements must be met:
    • The parent, or a person or organization acting on the parent's behalf, must have legal custody of the child under the laws of the child's home country
    • The parent must obtain an irrevocable release for adoption and immigration from the person or entity that last had legal custody of the child
    • The parent must comply with all pre-adoption requirements of the state in which they will live with the adoptive child
    • The state in which the adoptive parent and child will live must allow a re-adoption or else provide for judicial recognition of a foreign adoption that was invalid for immigration purposes.

IR-4 orphans must be readopted in the United States before they are automatically U.S. citizens.

Definition of orphan:

The US government's definition of orphan says that improper understanding of the term orphan most often causes delays or denials in the adoption process.

It is important to note also that in order to obtain an immigrant visa for the child you wish to adopt, the child must qualify as an orphan under U.S. law, not under the law of the foreign country in which you are adopting.

The legal definition of "orphan" is:

"...a child under the age of sixteen who is an orphan because of the death or disappearance of, abandonment or desertion by, or separation or loss from, both parents, or for whom the sole surviving parent is incapable of providing the proper care (according to the standards of adoptee's country) and has, in writing, irrevocably released the child for immigration and adoption."

Information for US permanent residences:

The US government says that each year, non-US citizen parents legally adopted a child internationally, only to learn that the child cannot join them in the US. The problem with non-US citizens living in the US attempting to adopt internationally is the following:

Long term nonimmigrant visa holders and legal permanent residents can bring their spouses and children with them when they enter the United States or have them enter later. The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) divides the definition of "child" into several sub-groups: natural born children, step-children, and adopted children. The INA recognizes as a "child" one who has been adopted before the age of sixteen and who has resided with, and been in the legal custody of, the parent for two years. A child born overseas to the principal applicant after his or her entry to the US may receive the appropriate dependent visa immediately. A child adopted overseas by a non-citizen must first meet the two-year co-residence requirement. However, the INA does not provide any way for the child to enter the US to satisfy this requirement.

As a solution, the parents could live with the child for two years in the child's country of origin. However, a permanent resident cannot reside outside the US making the two-year requirement basically impossible.

The best solution is for legal permanent residents to first naturalize as US citizens and for long-term nonimmigrant visa holders to return to their home countries before adopting.

US citizens living abroad

Adoptive parents who wish to naturalize their children but who will continue to reside abroad may enter their adoptive children with a B-2 visa into the United States and complete the naturalization process there. To do this, they should contact the United States Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) office which has jurisdiction over their case and which will set an appointment for the procedure.

In order to get a B-2 visa, adoptive parents must demonstrate that the child qualifies either under the two-year physical/legal custody rule or present an approved I-600. (The I-600 classifies an alien orphan who either is, or will be, adopted by a U.S. citizen as an immediate relative of the U.S. citizen to allow the child to enter the U.S. The petition is filed by the U.S. citizen who is adopting the child.)

When applying for a nonimmigrant visa, the adoptive parents must also prove that they have made all the necessary arrangements with the USCIS office and that they intend to depart the U.S. to continue their residence abroad. Adoptive parents can show proof of arrangements made with the USCIS by presenting a USCIS General Call-in Letter (Form G-56).

This means that parents who qualify under the two-year legal/physical custody rule and who will continue to reside abroad can avoid the cost and paperwork of both the I-130 and the I-600 by using this procedure. Expeditious naturalization in all cases must be complete before the child turns 18.

US visas for siblings of US citizens

If you are a US citizen and at least 21 years old, you are eligible to petition for a visa for your brother or sister to live and work permanently in the United States.

If you are a lawful permanent resident, you are not eligible to apply to bring your brother or sister to live and work permanently in the United States.

For those who are eligible to bring their sibling to the US, you will have to do the following:

  • Get birth certificates for both of you and be prepared to prove that you are related through at least one parent.
  • File form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative at the USCIS.
  • Wait for approval notification from USCIS.
  • After approval, the State Department will issue a visa-number. Your brother or sister will receive a priority date and must wait until that date becomes current before filing the application for the Green Card.
  • If your siblings live outside the US, they must go to the local US consulate to complete the process for an immigrant visa.
  • If they live inside the US, they have to file form I-485 (Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status). They are eligible for a work permit, Form I-765.
  • If your siblings live outside the US: they will receive a stamp in their passport upon arrival in the US. Until their Green Card card is issued, this stamp proves that they are allowed to work.