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U.S. Department of State 
95/08/01 Visas: Family-Based Immigrants 
Bureau of Consular Affairs 
                              FAMILY-BASED IMMIGRANTS 
The Immigration and Nationality Act allows for the immigration of 
foreigners to the United States based on relationship to a U.S. citizen 
or legal permanent resident.  Family-based immigration falls under two 
basic categories:  unlimited and limited. 
Immediate Relatives of  U.S. Citizens (IR):  The spouse, widow(er) and 
unmarried children under 21 of a U.S. citizen, and the parent of a U.S. 
citizen who is 21 or older. 
Returning Residents (SB):  Immigrants who lived in the United States  
previously as lawful permanent residents and are returning to live in 
the U.S.  after a temporary visit of more than one year abroad. 
Family First Preference (F1):  Unmarried sons and daughters of U.S. 
citizens, and their children, if any. (23,400) 
Family Second Preference (F2):  Spouses, minor children, and unmarried 
sons and daughters (over age 20) of lawful permanent residents. 
(114,200)  At least seventy-seven percent of all visas available for 
this category will go to the spouses and children;  the remainder will 
be allocated to unmarried sons and daughters. 
Family Third Preference (F3):  Married sons and daughters of U.S. 
citizens, and their spouses and children. (23,400) 
Family Fourth Preference (F4):  Brothers and sisters of United States 
citizens, and their spouses and children, provided the U.S. citizens are 
at least 21 years of age. (65,000) 
Relatives of intending immigrants who plan to base their immigrant visa 
applications on family relationship must obtain a Form I-130, Immigrant 
Petition for Relative, from the Immigration and Naturalization Service 
(INS).  The petitioning U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident must 
submit the Form I-130 to the INS office.  Forms and instructions are 
available from INS.  Once INS approves the petition, they will send the 
petitioner a notice of approval, Form I-797.  INS will also forward the 
approved petition to the Immigrant Visa Processing Center, which will 
contact the intending immigrant with further information. 
The immigration laws of the United States, in order to protect the 
health, welfare, and security of the United States, prohibit the 
issuance of a visa to certain applicants.  Examples of applicants who 
must be refused visas are those who:  have a communicable disease such 
as tuberculosis, have a dangerous physical or mental disorder, or are 
drug addicts;  have committed serious criminal acts;  are terrorists, 
subversives, members of a totalitarian party, or former Nazi war 
criminals;  have used illegal means to enter the United States;  or are 
ineligible for citizenship.  Some former exchange visitors must live 
abroad two years.  Physicians who intend to practice medicine must pass 
a qualifying exam before receiving immigrant visas.  If found to be 
ineligible, the consular officer will then advise the applicant if the 
law provides for some form of waiver. 
Documents for a Visa Application 
All applicants must submit certain personal documents such as passports, 
birth certificates, police certificates, and other civil documents, as 
well as evidence that they will not become public charges in the U.S.  
The consular officer will inform visa applicants of the documents needed 
as their applications are processed. 
Medical Examinations 
Before the issuance of an immigrant visa, every applicant, regardless of 
age, must undergo a medical examination.  The examination will be 
conducted by a doctor designated by the consular officer.  Costs for 
such examinations must be borne by the applicant. 
Visa Fees 
The cost of each formal immigrant visa application is U.S. $170 for 
application and $30 for issuance.  Fees must be paid for each intending 
immigrant regardless of age, and are not refundable.  Local currency 
equivalents are acceptable.  Fees should not be sent to the consular 
office unless requested specifically.  The INS charges additional fees 
for filing petitions. 
Numerical Limitations 
Whenever there are more qualified applicants for a category than there 
are available numbers, the category will be considered oversubscribed, 
and immigrant visas will be 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.  For the latest priority dates, call (202) 663-1541. 
Since no advance assurances can be given that a visa will be issued, 
applicants are advised not to make any final travel arrangements, not to 
dispose of their property, and not to give up their jobs until visas 
have been issued to them.  An immigrant visa can be valid for four 
months from date of issuance. 
With few exceptions, a person born in the United States has a claim to 
U.S. citizenship.  Persons born in countries other than the U.S. may 
have a claim, under United States law, to U.S. nationality if: 
--  Either parent was born or naturalized in the U.S., or 
--  Either parent  was a U.S. citizen at the time of applicant's birth. 
Any applicant believing he or she may have a claim to U.S. citizenship 
should not apply for a visa until his or her citizenship has been 
determined by the consular office. 
Further information about the specific categories of immigrant visas 
listed above and which category a relative may fall under can be 
obtained from your local INS office.  Questions on the visa application 
procedures at the American consular office overseas should be addressed 
to that consular office. 
Bureau of Consular Affairs 
Visa Services Directorate 
August  1995 

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