Family Preference: F Visa

FAQ

On this page:


Eligibility

Family members of a U.S. citizen fitting into a preference category include unmarried sons or daughters over the age of 21, married children of any age, and brothers and sisters of U.S. citizen petitioners age 21 or older. Family-based immigrants are defined as:

  • Family First Preference (F1)
    Unmarried sons and daughters of U.S. citizens and their minor children, if any.

     

  • Family Second Preference (F2)
    Spouses, minor unmarried children and unmarried sons and daughters (age 21 or older) of lawful permanent residents.

     

  • Family Third Preference (F3)
    Married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens and their spouses and minor children.

     

  • Family Fourth Preference (F4)
    Brothers and sisters of United States citizens and their spouses and minor children provided the U.S. citizen is at least 21 years of age.

     

Numerical Limitations

There are numerical limitations to these categories of immigrants, meaning there will be a waiting period after your petition is approved and before you can apply for U.S. immigration. Whenever there are more qualified applicants for a category than there are available places, the category is considered oversubscribed. Immigrant visas are issued in the chronological order in which the petitions were filed until the numerical limit for the category is reached. The filing date of a petition becomes the applicant's priority date. Immigrant visas cannot be issued until an applicant's priority date is reached. In certain heavily oversubscribed categories, there may be a waiting period of several years before a priority date is reached. Check the Visa Bulletin for the latest priority dates.

How to Apply

Step 1: File the Immigrant Petition
The U.S. citizen or permanent resident who plans to base their immigrant visa application on family relationship must submit a Petition for Alien Relative (Form I-130) to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) office nearest their place of residence. Once USCIS approves the petition, they will send the petitioner a notice of approval (Form I-797). USCIS will also forward the approved petition to the National Visa Center (NVC) which will contact the intending immigrant with further information.

Important Notice: U.S. law limits the number of family-based immigrant visas that are available every year. This means that even if the DHS approves an immigrant visa petition for you, you may not get an immigrant visa immediately. In some cases, several years could pass between the time your immigrant visa petition is approved and the time your immigrant visa is issued. Immigrant visas are issued in the chronological order in which the petition was filed until the numerical limit for the category is reached. The filing date of the petition becomes the applicant's priority date. Immigrant visas cannot be issued until the applicant's priority is reached. Check the Visa Bulletin for the latest priority dates or call in the United States (202) 663-1541. USCIS will send the approved immigrant visa petition to the National Visa Section where it will remain until the priority date is available. You do NOT need to contact the National Visa Center. The National Visa Center will contact you with the "Instruction package for immigrant visa applicants."

Step 2: Gather Required Documents and Prepare for the Immigrant Visa Interview
Once you have received the "Instruction Package for Immigrant Visa Applicants" from NVC, the intending immigrant (your relative) must follow the instructions provided regarding the visa fees and documentation. Applicants who have completed the necessary forms and submitted documents to the National Visa Center (NVC) for their visa appointments will be scheduled for interviews.

Approximately one month before the applicant’s scheduled interview appointment with a consular officer, the applicant will receive an appointment letter containing the date and time of the applicant’s visa interview along with instructions for obtaining a medical examination.

Step 3: The Immigrant Visa Interview

On the interview date, a consular officer will adjudicate the application based on the visa interview and documents submitted at the interview by the applicant. The issuance or denial of the immigrant visa is up to the discretion of the interviewing officer.

You must bring your current passport and all old passports. You must have completed your medical exam before your interview. Applications without all of these items will not be accepted.

Only applicants with appointments will be admitted into the U.S. Embassy. Due to the limited space in our interview waiting room, only beneficiaries may enter; the petitioner may accompany the applicant. Other accompanying parties, including friends, employees, or attorneys, must wait outside. Children under 18 years old may be accompanied by one parent or guardian to the interview. Beneficiaries are strongly advised not to finalize travel arrangements, dispose of their property, or give up their jobs until after they have been issued visas. Quitting a job, leaving school, selling property and/or closing bank accounts prior to visa issuance may be risky, as in certain cases visa issuance may be delayed for some time.