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U.S. Department of State  
95/08/01 Visas: Immigrants   
Bureau of Consular Affairs  

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 latter 
category is further divided into (A) family-sponsored, (B) employment-
based, and (C) diversity immigrants. 
A.  Immediate Relatives:  The spouse, widow(er) and minor unmarried 
children of a United States citizen, and the parents of a United States 
citizen who is 21 or older. 
B.  Returning Residents:   Previous U.S. lawful permanent residents who 
are returning to the U.S. after a stay  of more than one year abroad. 
Subject to certain transitional laws, immigration into the United States 
beginning in 1995 will be limited to 675,000 persons per year.  That 
figure is divided into three distinct sub-categories. 
A.  Family-Based 
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 miminum limits in parentheses)  include: 
1.  First Preference:  Unmarried sons and daughters of U.S. citizens, 
and children if any. (23,400) 
2.  Second Preference:  Spouses, children, and unmarried sons and 
daughters of lawful permanent resident aliens. (114,200) 
3.  Third Preference:  Married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens, and 
their spouses and children. (23,400) 
4.  Fourth Preference:  Brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens, and their 
spouses and children, provided the U.S. citizens are over 20. (65,000) 
B.  Employment-Based  
A total of 140,000 immigrant visas yearly are available for this 
category which is divided into five preference groups (percent of yearly 
1.  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%). 
2.  Members of the Professions:  Professionals holding advanced degrees, 
and persons of exceptional ability in the sciences, arts, and business 
3.  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%). 
4.  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%).  
5.  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 
C.  Diversity Immigrant Visa Lottery 
The Diversity Lottery makes available 55,000 immigrant visa numbers 
annually to persons selected at random from countries with low rates of 
immigration to the United States.  There is a separate registration for 
each year's visas.  Information on registration for the lottery is 
announced each year by the State Department. 
Certain applicants such as priority workers, investors, certain special 
immigrants, and diversity immigrants can petition on their own behalf.  
All others must have a relative or potential employer petition for them. 
3  Applicants for family-sponsored immigrant visas should request the 
U.S. citizen relative to file a petition Form I-130 with the nearest 
Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS).  In some cases, if the 
U.S. citizen  is residing abroad, he or she may file the petition with a 
consular officer at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate. 
3  Applicants for employment-based immigrant visas may require an 
approved petition Form I-140 from the INS.  Priority  workers  may 
petition on their own behalf with the INS, while others must have their 
prospective employers file the petitions.  Prior to filing a petition 
with the INS, members of the profession, professionals,  skilled and 
unskilled workers, must obtain certifications from the Department of 
Labor that there are no qualified workers available for the proposed 
employment in the U.S. 
3  Special immigrant returning residents and U.S. Government employees 
must apply to the Secretary of State through a U.S. consular office 
abroad.  All other special immigrants must file the I-360 petition with 
3  An investor must file a Form-I-526 petition with the INS. 
3  Diversity immigrants must file an application with the U.S. 
Department of State.  Information on  registration will be announced 
each year by the State Department. 
The State Department will advise the beneficiary of the petition (the 
applicant for a visa) when it is received from the approving office.  
The visa applicant will receive further instructions at that time. 
The immigration laws of the United States, in order to protect the 
health, welfare, and security of the U.S., prohibit visa issuance to 
certain applicants.  This includes persons who  have a communicable 
disease such as tuberculosis, or have a dangerous physical or mental 
disorder, or are drug addicts;  have committed serious criminal acts, 
including crimes involving moral turpitude, drug trafficking, and 
prostitution or procuring;  are terrorists, subversives, members of a 
totalitarian party or former Nazi war criminals;  are likely to become 
public charges in the U. S.;  have used fraud or other illegal means to 
enter the U.S.; or are ineligible for citizenship.  Some former exchange 
visitors must live abroad 2 years.  Physicians who intend to practice 
medicine must pass a qualifying exam before receiving immigrant visas. 
If any of the above restrictions might apply, then a statement regarding 
the facts should be submitted to the consular officer, who will  advise 
the applicant if the law provides for some form of waiver. 
Documents for 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.  Examination 
costs must be borne by the applicant. 
Visa Fees 
The cost of each formal immigrant visa application is $170 and issuance 
is $30.  Fees must be paid per person regardless of age, and are not 
refundable.  Local currency equivalents are acceptable.  Fees should not 
be sent to the consular office unless specifically requested.  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 priority date.  
Immigrant visas cannot be issued until an applicantŐs priority date is 
reached.  In certain oversubscribed categories, there may be a waiting 
period of several years before a priority date is reached.  The latest 
priority dates are available in the monthly "Visa Bulletin."  The "Visa 
Bulletin" can be obtained the following ways:  The Internet address is (Select "Travel Information" to locate the 
Bulletin.), by fax at (202) 647-3000 from a fax phone and entering in 
code 1038 or from the Consular Affairs Electronic Bulletin Board at 
modem number (202) 647-9225.  The monthly priority cut-off dates can be 
heard by calling (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 is valid for four months 
from date of issuance. 
With few exceptions, a person born in the U.S. has a claim to U.S. 
citizenship.  Persons born in countries other than the U.S. may have a 
claim, under U.S. law, to U.S. nationality if: 
3   Either parent was born or naturalized in the United States, or 
3   Either parent was a U.S. citizen at the time of the applicant's 
Any applicant believing that he or she may have a claim to United States 
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 are available from the nearest American consular office 
abroad or local INS. 
Bureau of Consular Affairs 
Visa Services Directorate 
August 1995 

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