Obtaining an Immigrant Visa
If you would like to live permanently in the U.S., you must obtain an immigrant visa (IV) which is a permission to seek entry into the U.S. as a Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR).
There are four key stages that almost all prospective immigrants must go through to obtain an immigrant visa. While the length of time and procedures may change depending on the visa category, all prospective applicants pass through some version of each of the following stages to obtain an immigrant visa.
Preparation for the Immigrant Visa Interview
The Immigrant Visa Interview
Returning the Passport and Immigrant Visa Packet
These stages are described in general terms below:
Stage 1: Petition
In most cases, the immigration process starts with someone filing a petition on your behalf with the Department of Homeland Security/ U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The purpose of the petition is to establish that you fit into one of the classes of individuals permitted to legally immigrate to the U.S.
Diversity Visa (DV) applicants do not have to file a petition. Instead, your entry into the Diversity Visa Lottery will serve as your petition.
The person or business that files the petition is called the petitioner, and the person on whose behalf it is filed is called the principal beneficiary. Spouses or children who might be permitted to travel based on the beneficiary's petition are called derivatives.
Petitions must be filed with the USCIS Service Center having jurisdiction over the petitioner's place of residence. To obtain more information about how to file a petition and the required documentation, please visit the USCIS website.
If you are an American citizen and have been legally resident in the Democratic Republic of the Congo for at least six months immediately preceding your filing date, you can only file your petition for an immediate family member at the U.S. Embassy in Kinshasa under special circumstances. Petitioners residing overseas in countries where USCIS does not have a public counter presence are required to file their Forms I-130 by mail with the USCIS Chicago lockbox.
Stage 2: Preparation for the Immigrant Visa Interview
Once USCIS approves your petition, you will be notified that the petition is being sent to the State Department's National Visa Center (NVC) or Kentucky Consular Center (KCC). NVC and KCC will assign the beneficiary a case number starting with KIN followed by the year and case number (KIN2013123456). KCC will assign case numbers for Diversity Visa applicants that begin with the year with AF in the middle and a number at the end (2013AF12345).
If your petition is current, meaning that the State Department can process your visa application, NVC or KCC will send you instructions on how to prepare for your visa interview. If NVC or KCC has notified you that your case file has been sent to the U.S. Embassy in Kinshasa and you have not yet received instructions, please email AEKinshasaConsular@state.gov, and please be sure to include your case number in the subject line of your email. Once we receive your case file, we will email you instructions on how to prepare for and schedule your immigrant visa interview.
Not all beneficiaries move immediately from petition filing and approval stage to the preparation of the immigrant visa interview stage. Some classifications of immigrants are subject to annual numerical limits. If your classification is numerically limited, you will be given a priority date based on when your petition was filed and may have to wait anywhere from two to twelve years before the State Department can process immigrant visas with your priority date. The State Department issues a visa bulletin every month listing the priority dates being processed. You may check the visa bulletin at the following link: http://travel.state.gov/visa/bulletin/bulletin_1360.html
Stage 3: The Immigrant Visa Interview
In some cases, NVC and KCC will schedule your interview at the U.S. Embassy in Kinshasa once your case file is complete and, for numerically limited classifications, as soon as your priority date is reached. In other cases, such as expedited or aging out cases, the U.S. Embassy in Kinshasa will schedule your immigrant visa interview and send you instructions with the list of required documents, including how to get medical examinations. If you missed your visa interview or would like to reschedule your visa interview to a later date, you may send us an email at AEKinshasaConsular@state.gov or call us at the immigrant visa line at 081-880-5847 on Mondays from 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. or Thursdays from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.
The purpose of your interview with a consular officer is to evaluate your and any of your derivatives' eligibility for an immigrant visa. At this time, the consular officer will confirm that all required documents have been presented and that you have a legal basis for immigration. A legal basis can be the required family relationship with the petitioner, the required professional skills, or the educational or work requirements for a diversity visa. You may bring an attorney or family member to your interview, but the consular officer may request that the individual not be present during the interview.
The consular officer must also review your file for any legal ineligibility you may have that would prevent you from receiving a visa. This could include, but is not limited to, misrepresenting a material fact either in your current or a previous visa application, criminal convictions, overstaying a previously issued visa, or a medical ineligibility.
At the end of the visa interview, you will be told whether you have established your eligibility for the immigrant visa. If you have not brought a required document such as a police clearance, you will be given a 221g letter with instructions on what additional documents are required. Once you have all of your required documents you may stop by the Consular Section any Thursday at 1:00 p.m. to drop them off. If you have not established your eligibility for an immigrant visa, you may be required to provide additional evidence of your relationship with the petitioner, finances or other or the officer may recommend a DNA test.
Stage 4: Return of Passport, Immigrant Visa Packet and Original Documents
If you establish your eligibility at the time of your visa interview, the consular officer will retain your passport and documents. The passport then has the visa placed inside it and copies of your documents and the original of your police certificate are placed in a sealed packet. You can pick up your passport, sealed packet and original documents any Tuesday after your interview at 3:00 p.m.
When you receive the sealed document packet it must not be opened by anybody. It must remain sealed. If the document packet is opened, you must send an email to AEKinshasaConsular@state.gov or call us at the immigrant visa line at 081-880-5847 on Mondays from 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. or Thursdays from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.to schedule an appointment to have the packet resealed. You can use the visa and accompanying document packet to travel to a U.S. port of entry and seek admission as a Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR).