Immigrants to the United States are divided into two categories:
(I) those who may obtain permanent residence status without numerical limitation, and
(II) those subject to an annual limitation.
The second category is further divided into:
(B) employment-based, and
(C) diversity immigrants.
Note that as of November 23, 2010, the fee schedule for the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will change. Please consult the updated fee schedule at the USCIS website.
I. Immigrant Visas without Numerical Limitation
A. Immediate Relatives: The spouse, widow(er) or minor unmarried children of a U.S. citizen, or the parents of a United States citizen who is 21 years of age or older.
B. Returning Residents: Previous U.S. Lawful Permanent Residents (LPR) who return to the United States after a stay of more than one year abroad. Click here for additional information on how to apply for a Returning Visa at consular section.
II. Limited Immigrants
Since 1995, immigration into the United States has been limited to 675,000 persons per year. That figure is divided into three distinct sub-categories.
Preference relatives may receive all of the visas not used by Immediate Relatives, but no less than 226,000 visas per year. Family-based preference categories (with minimum limits in parentheses) include:
First Preference: Unmarried sons and daughters under 21 of U.S. citizens, and their children. (23,400)
Second Preference: Spouses, children, and unmarried sons and daughters under 21 of lawful permanent resident aliens. (114,200)
Third Preference: Married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens, and their spouses and children. (23,400)
Fourth Preference: Brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens, and their spouses and children, provided the U.S. citizens are over 20. (65,000)
Employment-based visas require a labor certification from the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), and the filing of a petition with the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services in the Department of Homeland Security (BCIS). For more information on employment based immigrant visas please visit http://www.uscis.gov.
A total minimum of 140,000 immigrant visas yearly are available for this category which is divided into five preference groups (percent of yearly limit):
- Priority Workers: Persons of extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics; outstanding professors and researchers; and certain multinational executives and managers (28.6%).
- Members of the Professions: Professionals holding advanced degrees, and persons of exceptional ability in the sciences, arts, and business (28.6%).
- Professionals, Skilled and Unskilled Workers: Professionals holding baccalaureate degrees, skilled workers with at least two years experience, and other workers whose skills are in short supply in the United States (28.6%).
- Special Immigrants: Certain religious workers, ministers of religion, certain international organization employees and their immediate family members, and qualified, recommended current and former U.S. Government employees. (7.1%).
- Investors: Persons who create employment for at least ten unrelated persons by investing capital in a new commercial enterprise in the United States. The minimum capital required is between $500,000 and $1,000,000, depending on the employment rate in the geographic area (7.1%).
C. Diversity Immigrant Visa Lottery
The Diversity Lottery provides a maximum of 55,000 immigrant visa numbers annually to applicants selected at random from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States. Information on registration for the lottery is announced each year by the State Department and applicants are required to register each year for the lottery (prior registrations are not carried over to the following year). Please consult the official U.S. State Department website for more information at: http://www.dvlottery.state.gov/
Notice for Libyan applicants
- Effective April 1, 2013, the Consular Section at the U.S. Embassy in Tunis will no longer process new immigrant or fiancé(e) visa applications for Libyan nationals residing outside of Tunisia. For more details, please visit the Libyan applicant section.