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Immigrant Visas

General Information for Immigration to the United States

An immigrant visa is required of anyone who wishes to enter the United States to reside there permanently, whether or not that person plans to seek employment in the United States.  U.S. immigration law provides for the issuance of immigrant visas in four general categories: Immediate Relatives, Family- Based, Employment-Based and Diversity Visa Program known as the “green card” lottery.  In general, in order to be eligible to apply for an immigrant visa, a foreign citizen must be sponsored by a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident relative, or by a prospective employer. Other applicants such as certain special immigrants and diversity visa applicants (DV) can self-petition themselves.

By U.S. immigration law, immigrants to the United States are divided into two groups:

  •  Those who may obtain legal permanent residence status without numerical limitation.
  • Those who are restricted by an annual limitation on the number of persons who may enter as permanent residents.

The second group is further divided into three categories:

  • Family sponsored immigrants
  • Employment based immigrants
  • Diversity immigrants

Non-numerical limited immigrants

Immediate Relatives

  • Spouse of a U.S. citizen
  • Certain spouses (and the accompanying or following-to-join children) of deceased U.S. citizens: Petition must be filed within 2 years of the death of the U.S. Citizen
  • Minor child (less than 21 years old) of a U.S. citizen
  • Adopted Children of a U.S. citizen
  • Orphans to be adopted by a U.S. citizen residing in the United States
  • Parent of  an adult U.S. Citizen (U.S. citizen must be 21 years old or over)
  • Step-parent or step-child of a U.S. citizen: Step-parent, step-child relationship must occur before the step-child’s 18th birthday.
  • Child under 16 adopted or to be adopted under the terms of the Hague Convention

Numerical limited immigrants

Family-Based Immigration

Persons seeking to immigrate in one of the family based preference categories will qualify for an immigrant status only if they have the necessary relationship to a U.S. citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident. Visas in this category are subject to annual limitations and can only be issued when visa numbers are available. Check the following link to view the visa bulletin which is published each month at

  • Unmarried son or daughter over the age of 21 of a U.S. citizen
  • Spouse or unmarried son or daughter of a Lawful Permanent Resident
  • Married son or daughter of a U.S. Citizen
  • Brother or sister of a U.S. Citizen (U.S. citizen must be 21 years old or over)

Employment-Based Immigration

This type of immigrant visa also falls in the numerically limited visa category and is awarded to certain immigrants with extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business or athletics. Professionals with advanced degrees, ministers of religion or religious workers, skilled and unskilled workers, certain employees of U.S. Government and employment investors are eligible. Potential immigrants in this category need to have a job offer in the States and be sponsored by a U.S. company.

Diversity Immigrant Visa Program (commonly referred to as the Visa Lottery)

This category of Immigrant visa has been introduced by the U.S. Government to allow people from countries with low rates of immigration to the U.S. to immigrate to the U.S.  Qualified candidates are selected at random but are no longer notified by mail.  Each candidate should check his/her status online using the confirmation number that is obtained at the end of the registration. Every year, 50,000 immigrant visas are available for eligible candidates. Click here for more information on the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program.