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US Immigrant Visa Application for Nigerians

American visas fall under two categories: immigrant visas and non-immigrant visas. If you are planning to stay in the United States permanently, you will need to follow an immigrant visa route, which will allow you to stay in the country indefinitely. Immigrant visas do not expire, and holders are able to live, study and work in the US on a permanent basis.

For more information about the US immigrant visa system and personalised advice regarding specific visa options, get in touch with the Immigration Advice Service team in Nigeria on +23413438882, gain access to advice from the international team at +44 (0) 3316300929 or contact us online. Nigerian clients can also visit the IAS office in Lagos.

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    Overview of US Immigrant Visa Applications

    Immigrant visas allow holders to stay in the US permanently and eventually apply for US citizenship if they remain in the country for a set period of time without any violations. These terms differ from those of US non-immigrant visas, which allow the holder to stay in the United States for specific reasons and a set amount of time.

    There are multiple versions of the US Immigrant visa available and the type you apply for will depend on your specific circumstances.

    Immigrant visa holders are not required to remain in the United States and travel outside of the country is permitted as long as the visa holder also has a re-entry permit. An immigrant visa does not need to be extended or renewed, though it can be revoked if the holder engages in illegal activity.

    The application process for a US Immigrant Visa is a little different to that of a non-immigrant visa, so it is vital that applicants thoroughly read through all steps and requirements in order to fully understand the process before beginning their application. The specifics of each step will depend on the type of immigrant visa you are applying for, so ensure you are following the correct method for your circumstances. The general steps are as follows:

    1. Filing a petition
    2. Case preparation
    3. Medical examination
    4. Visa interview
    5. Approval/rejection stage

    In the sections below, this guide will explore the application process in more detail.

    What Are Immigrant Visas?

    As mentioned, there are several versions of the US Immigrant Visa which cover your personal circumstances and how you are applying for your permanent permit. These options can be easily split into two segments: those obtained by family sponsorship, and those obtained by employer sponsorship.

    Family Sponsorship Immigrant Visas

    Immediate Relative Visas and Family Immigrant Visas are held by those wishing to join family members who live in the United States permanently. If you have blood relatives in the US or you have become engaged or married to a US citizen, this is the category of US Immigrant Visa you will be applying for. There are multiple options within this category, including:

    • IR-1 and CR-1 visas (marriage visas). These are applicable to those who have legally married a US citizen. If you have been married for less than two years, your visa will be conditional (CR-1) until the two-year date has passed, upon which you will switch to immediate relative status (IR-1) and conditions are dropped.
    • K-1 visas, which are held by fiancees who are due to be married to a US citizen. This visa allows for a 90-day stay in the US, during which the couple is expected to be legally married in order to begin a CR-1 application.
    • K-2 visas, which are given to unmarried children (under 21) of K1 visa holders.
    • K-3 visas, which allows the spouse of a US citizen to stay in the United States for longer while their application for a marriage visa is processed.
    • K-4 visas, which are held by unmarried children (under 21) of K-3 visa holders.
    • IH-3 visas. These visas are part of a collection of US Immigrant Visa options which are designed for the intercountry adoption of orphan children by US citizens. The IH-3 is held by children who are adopted from a country on the Hague Convention list, and only to those under 18 years of age at the time of their first entry into the US. Holders gain US citizenship status upon entry.
    • IH-4 visas, which are the same as the IH-3 visa except the holder does not gain US citizenship until their adoption is complete.
    • IR3 visas. These visas are given to children once their adoption process has been completed, but they must be from a country that does not require readoption after they have entered the United States.
    • IR4 visas, which are held by children who can expect their adoption process to be completed after they have entered the country.
    • IR2 visas. These visas are given to unmarried children (under 21) of IR-1 holders.
    • CR-2 visas, which, as above, are given to the unmarried children of a spouse of a US citizen, but only for as long as the parents have been married for less than two years.
    • IR5 visas, which are for the parents of a US citizen over 21 years of age.
    • F1 visas, which are limited to 23,400 handouts to unmarried children of US citizens and their children.
    • F3 visas, which are limited to 23,400 handouts to married children of US citizens, their spouses and children.
    • F4 visas, which are limited to 65,000 handouts to the siblings (over 21) of US citizens, their spouses and children.
    • F2A and F2B visas, which are given to the minor children, spouses and unmarried children of those carrying immigrant visas.

    Employment Sponsorship Immigrant Visas

    This segment of US Immigrant Visa options is work-based and is therefore of a limited capacity. The US government only gives out an estimated 140,000 employment-based visas every year, and these visas are ordered based on service priority. These visa options include:

    • EB-1 visas. These are given to professionals that are labelled as first-priority workers, covering internationally recognised researchers and professors, those with recognised talent in the art, science, education, sport or business sectors, and multinational managers of overseas US bodies who have been working away from the US for at least one of the last three years.
    • EB-2 visas. Employees who are eligible for this permit include professionals holding a bachelor’s degree alongside five years of work experience in their field, or those who have completed a higher education degree beyond their bachelor’s. Applicants with demonstrable excellence in the fields of business, arts and science can also apply for this visa.
    • EB-3 visas, which are given to skilled workers with at least two years of field experience or training in their area and professionals who need a bachelor’s degree to work in their profession.
    • EW-3 visas, which are given to unskilled workers who do not require two years of training or experience for work in a particular area.
    • EB-4 visas, which are given to religious workers, broadcasters, some foreign medical graduates, current or former employees of the US government, Iraqi or Afghan translators and employees of the US government, and family members of those working for international organisations.
    • EB-5 visas, which are for investors who spend at least $1,000,000 on investments in a US company or area, or $500,000 in a rural US area or area with high unemployment levels.

    Our experts are here to provide personalized guidance, ensuring a smooth and successful US Immigrant Visa Application process.

    Applying for an Immigrant Visa

    As you can see, there are many options to choose from, so applicants will need to thoroughly check their suitability for their chosen visa route well before they apply and pay their fees.

    The US Immigrant Visa application process can be quite demanding, and it can take a long time for a decision to be reached. Ensure that you are allowing yourself an appropriate amount of time to receive your visa before you travel to the US. The below guide details each step of the application process.

    Step 1: Filing a Petition

    A US citizen (family or employer) must file a petition for the applicant using Form I- 130 with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), which can be submitted online or in paper form. This form provides the immigration services with details about the applicant and their relationship to the US citizen or employer that is sponsoring them.

    Petitioners will need to submit several documents as evidence, including:

    • Evidence of US citizenship, such as a birth certificate, a valid US passport, a citizenship certificate, a copy of Form FS-240, a front and back copy of a green card (permanent resident card) or an original statement from a US consular officer which verifies your citizenship.
    • Evidence of family relationship to the applicant, including a copy of a marriage certificate, child’s birth certificate, or other relevant birth certificates.
    • Evidence of marriage (if applicable) including documentation of shared ownership of a property or shared tenancy, evidence of shared finances, birth certificates of shared children, affidavits affirmed by marriage witnesses including their personal information.
    • Passport-style photographs.
    • Proof of legal name change (if applicable).
    • For an adopted child, a copy of the adoption decree, evidence of legal custody, evidence of joint tenancy, and evidence that the Hague Adoption Convention does or does not apply to you depending o which specific visa is being applied for.

    Applicants must then wait for their petition to be approved by the responsible authority, which can take between 12-33 months.

    Step 2: Case Preparation

    Once your petition has been approved, the applicant’s case will be transferred to the National Visa Center (NVC) where it will be processed. They will be contacted with sign-in details for the online system known as the Consular Electronic Application Center (CEAC) which will be used to check the status of the application, receive and send messages and manage the case.

    The NVC will contact the petitioner regarding the submission of all required documentation, records, financial support details and other supporting evidence. This is the point at which the fees will be paid.

    The Immigrant Visa Application Processing Fee stands as follows:

    • $325 for immediate relative and family preference applicants
    • $345 for employment preference applicants
    • $205 for those under the special immigrant category
    • $330 for those under the diversity immigrant category
    • $180 for returning residents
    • $265 for those under the K visa category

    You will also need to pay the Affidavit of Support Fee, which stands at $120 per case. This affidavit is a vital form that informs the immigration service of the petitioner’s financial responsibility for the applicant. It is accompanied by financial documentation that supports the petitioner’s ability to support the applicant upon arrival in the US. The most common piece of evidence required is a copy of the petitioner’s IRS tax transcript from the most recent tax year, though more supporting evidence may be needed.

    Once the applicant’s CEAC status has changed to ‘paid’, each qualifying applicant must fill out the online registration form (Form DS-260). Submitting this form does not constitute a formal application, as this can only be completed after the interview stage. The completed form should be brought with the applicant to their interview.

    At this stage, applicants must collect all their supporting documentation. Any documents not written in English must be accompanied by a certified translation and a statement by the translator confirming their validity.

    The list of minimum required civil documents includes:

    • An original birth certificate or certified official copy for each applicant
    • Original marriage certificates or certified official copies of each marriage (if applicable)
    • A certified copy of an adoption decree and accompanying support documents including evidence of residency (if applicable)
    • A copy of each court and prison record for any applicant who has been convicted of a crime
    • An original or certified copy of a legal divorce decree, death certificate or annulment decree if previously married
    • A copy of the applicant’s military record (if applicable)
    • An original or certified copy of the petitioner’s birth certificate if applying as a relative
    • A copy of the biographic data page of a current passport
    • Relevant police certificates stating your previous residences (if applicable)

    These documents will then need to be scanned, saved and submitted online. Once this is completed, the applicant will be sent an interview appointment letter detailing the date, time and location of their interview. For Nigerian applicants, this will take place in Lagos or Abuja, so you will need to be prepared to travel to one of these locations.

    Contact us today to kick-start your path to permanent residency in the United States!

    Step 3: Medical Examination

    Before attending your visa interview, each applicant will need to schedule a medical examination from an authorised physician in the country where they will be interviewed. It must be performed by a US embassy-approved professional, who will either send the results back to the embassy directly or provide the applicant with an envelope. If the physician gives the results to the applicant, they must not be opened. Instead, the applicant must bring them to the visa interview and deliver them to the interviewing officer.

    Step 4: The Visa Interview

    Before attending the appointment, ensure that all the required documents have been collected. This includes:

    • The appointment letter provided by NVC
    • A valid passport
    • Passport photographs
    • A DS-260 confirmation page
    • Copies of all civil documents uploaded to CEAC

    If applicants are unable to provide all documents, the application can be delayed by weeks or even months. The interviewing officer will take all documents from the applicant during the interview and keep them on record. Applicants are only allowed to be accompanied by the petitioner except for cases including the disabled, elderly or minors.

    The applicant will be subject to security checks similar to regulations in place at airports. Failure to comply will further delay the application.

    Applicants must arrive at least ten minutes early and should appear in good health, with no visible cuts and bruises, and be dressed appropriately. It is important to give a good impression and come across as confident.

    The applicant will be asked several questions regarding their reasons for wanting to live in the United States, their relationship with the petitioner, and they will be expected to provide extensive information regarding their plans once they arrive in the country. There are sources available online which provide example questions, and it is a good idea for applicants to study these before attending their interview so they know what to expect.

    Step 5: Approval

    If the visa has been approved, the applicant will be able to collect their visa and passport around 10 days after the interview. The visa will be added to their passport on its own page and should be reviewed for errors immediately.

    Immigrant visa holders must pay the USCIS Immigrant Fee before using their visa to travel to the United States. The fee stands at $220.

    What Do I Do If My Application Has Been Refused?

    If the applicant has been denied a visa, they will receive a letter detailing the reasons why their application was rejected. In some cases, there may be a waiver attached to this rejection which can be applied for. Not all rejections come with a waiver.

    Some cases may need additional administrative processing, and in this instance, a letter will be provided stating what further evidence is required.

    How Can IAS Help?

    Here at IAS, we have extensive experience in providing Nigerian clients with the highest-quality immigration support available. Our incredible team can provide unique advice regarding the application process, important dates and helpful details to get clients set up in their new home country.

    No matter how complex your circumstances are, we are determined to provide you with a personalised, sympathetic support system that will maximise your chances of finding success. Call our Nigerian team today on +23413438882, or +44 (0) 3316300929, or contact us online. You can also find us at our office in Lagos, Nigeria.

    We offer immigration advice sessions as face to face appointments at our Lagos office, all of our UK offices, or via the phone.

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