Forms and Documents Needed for a Family Immigrant Visa at a U.S. Consulate

A review of the paperwork an incoming family-based immigrant needs to file with the National Visa Center and then a local U.S. consulate in order to successfully receive an immigrant visa and U.S. lawful permanent residence.

The process of sponsoring an overseas family member for U.S. immigration begins with the U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident submitting paperwork to U.S. government agencies. The immigrating family members must, however, step in at some point to prepare and submit various forms and documents of their own.

This article focuses on that part of the process—specifically, after the U.S. citizen or resident has filed a visa petition on Form I-130, and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has approved it. This USCIS approval is important, but doesn't give the immigrant any immediate rights to U.S. entry or residence. It's up to would-be immigrants to prove to the U.S. government that they can be approved for U.S. admission.

(Note: This article does not discuss the green-card application process for immigrants already lawfully in the U.S. who can and wish to apply for permanent residence without departing, using a procedure called "adjustment of status.")

Forms and Fees Needed to Help Transfer Immigrant's Case to U.S. Consulate

When the U.S. relative filled out the I-130 petition, the information there included the incoming immigrant's address. That told the U.S. government which consulate would be most appropriate or convenient. An office known as the National Visa Center (NVC) will then take over, and be responsible for transferring the file to that consulate.

To prompt the NVC to act, the immigrant must visit the Consular Electronic Application Center (CEAC) and complete Form DS-261, Online Choice of Address and Agent. Choosing an "agent" means deciding to whom and how all the important notices from the U.S. government will be sent—to the immigrant or to the petitioner, via regular mail or email.

Next, the NVC will send the U.S. family member petitioner a bill for the Affidavit of Support review ($120 as of early 2023) and send either the immigrant or agent a bill for the immigrant visa processing fee ($325 per immigrating family member—2023 figure).

Once the fees are paid, the immigrant must submit Form DS-260, the online immigrant visa application. This asks biographical questions, such as addresses where the immigrant has lived and worked, as well as questions to determine the immigrant's admissibility to the United States. (See How to Fill in Online Form DS-260 for Consular Visa Processing.)

The DS-260 is submitted only online, in English. The immigrant will need to print out the confirmation page to bring to the visa interview.

After the NVC is satisfied with the various documents and fee payments, it will schedule an interview and transfer the visa file to the U.S. consulate. The immigrant will receive further instructions and a checklist on what else the NVC needs before the interview.

Forms And Documents Needed Once Immigrant's Case File Is at U.S. Consulate

Here's a summary of what the immigrant will need to give to either the NVC or to the consulate in order to prepare for the visa interview:

  • Confirmation page for Form DS-260 (filed online).
  • Copies of current passports.
  • Birth certificates for everyone immigrating, with English translations if they are not in the language of the country in which the interview will be held.
  • Police clearance certificates for each immigrating person over age 16, from the country of nationality or current residence if the applicant has lived there for more than six months or been arrested there, and from any other country where the applicant lived for more than one year or been arrested.
  • Marriage certificate, death certificate, divorce or annulment decree—whichever shows the immigrant's current marital status and history.
  • Any military records, including certified proof of military service and of honorable or dishonorable discharge.
  • Certified copy of court and prison records if any immigrant was convicted of a crime.
  • Affidavit of Support; either on Form I-864 or, if only one person is being sponsored and the petitioner can meet the sponsorship requirements based on their income alone, a shorter version called I-864EZ. If exempt from the affidavit of support requirement, the sponsor should instead fill out Form I-864W.
  • Financial documents to support Form I-864, including sponsor's employment verification letter or other proof of income such as a "year-to-date" pay stub, latest U.S. income tax transcript and W‑2s (or the last three years', if it will strengthen the case), and if the sponsor is relying on assets to meet the U.S. poverty guidelines, proof of assets, such as bank statements.

If the NVC is coordinating this, you will need to upload all these documents through the CEAC system, as described in detail in What Happens Between I-130 Approval and Consular Interview.

Forms and Documents Immigrant Must Bring to Visa Interview at U.S. Consulate

The final set of documents each family member who is immigrating will likely be required to prepare and bring to the interview at the U.S. consulate includes:

  • Two color photographs, passport style.
  • Current, original passports for everyone in family who is getting an immigrant visa (they must not expire earlier than six months after interview date).
  • Medical examination report. During the exam, each immigrant will undergo blood tests and X-rays.
  • U.S. income tax transcripts from immigrants who have worked in the U.S., as proof of having filed income tax returns for every year worked.
  • Visa fees, if not already paid, or a receipt showing the fees were paid online.

See The Day of Your Consular Interview for a U.S. Visa for what happens next.

And if you're approved, there will be one more fee to pay, either before or after you reach the United States. It's called the immigrant fee, and is necessary to pay to USCIS before it will actually produce your green card. (This was $220 in early 2023.)

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