Visa Petitions and Embassy Approvals

By Attorneys Robert L. Reeves and Jeff L. Khurgel

Petitioning for a loved one to immigrate to the United States can be a difficult and confusing process. U.S. immigration involves three or four different U.S. government offices in different parts of the world, numerous government forms and dozens of supporting documents, multiple layers of discretion and protracted delays.

A good starting point is a thorough explanation of a case by an experienced immigration law firm, which is a crucial step. A U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident intending to immigrate his or her family member is known as the “petitioner”. Petitioners should have a full understanding of the steps to be taken and all the costs and approximate waiting time involved. Once this has been established, a petition is filed before the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to certify the relationship between the petitioner and the beneficiary (the family member whom the petitioner wants to immigrate).

Once the USCIS approves the petition, it is forwarded to the National Visa Center, an office of the U.S. Department of State. The U.S. Department of State is the U.S. government agency tasked with issuing permission (i.e. visas) for foreigners to enter the U.S. The approved petition is sent to the National Visa Center (NVC) for the visa classification and to be current for processing. Meanwhile, the NVC collects required documents and visa fees from the parties and compiles the visa registration file.

How long the beneficiary will wait depends on the relationship between the person filing the petition and the beneficiary, as well as the beneficiary’s age and marital status. Immediate relatives, a category limited to parents, spouses and children under 21 of a U.S. citizen, can immigrate without waiting for a visa number. For example, a U.S. citizen petitioning his or her parent can expect the parent to arrive in the U.S. between 10 and 12 months from the time the initial petition is filed. However, a U.S. citizen petitioning a sibling can expect a wait of between one and two decades or more.

When the visa registration is completed and a visa number is available, the visa file is sent by the NVC to the U.S. Embassy where the beneficiary resides and an interview is scheduled. The interview step is one of the most critical for visa issuance. If the interview is successful, the beneficiary could be in the U.S. as a permanent resident within a matter of days. If the interview is unsuccessful, the beneficiary could be facing an indefinite delay to their immigration plans, or worse yet, a permanent bar. Factors that can delay or prevent the issuance of a visa include a criminal record, past fraud or misrepresentations, and health-related bars, among many others.

It is for these reasons that good preparation for the Embassy interview is an absolute essential. The beneficiary must be ready to know what the interview will consist of, what documents must be on hand, and what items of interest they should be prepared to discuss. Because such a large part of the interview is discretionary, a simple missing document or question improperly answered may cause a protracted delay in a case. The beneficiary must answer all questions honestly and to the best of his or her ability, but should be prepared to know what information will be sought. If an Immigrant Visa is denied, a legal motion requesting that the Embassy reconsider its decision may be submitted. Further levels of review of a denial may also be available.

Assuming there is no further delay, and the immigrant visa has been approved, the beneficiary can tie up their life in their home country and enter the U.S. to become a permanent resident. At the U.S. port of entry airport where the immigrant arrives, he or she will be given instructions for receiving their “Green Card” and social security number.

All current and future immigrant visa applicants undergoing overseas processing would benefit greatly from the assistance of a qualified immigration attorney. The facts of each case need to be carefully examined so as to determine the proper course of action to ensure successful issuance of the visa.