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Immigrant Visa Application at a U.S. 
Embassy or Consulate, and Form I-485 Adjustment of Status

1. How to Get the Immigrant Visa after Form I-130 Approval for Brother/Sister Immigration

After USCIS approved the sibling (brother or sister) immigrant visa petition of Form I-130, the U.S. citizen's brother or sister will receive a "priority date," based on the day USCIS first received the Form I-130 petition. Then, the long waiting for immigrant visa will begin. If the brother or sister has children who want to come along to U.S. on this immigrant visa, these children must not get married before entering the United States with the immigrant visa. Because turning 21 years old will make them ineligible for the immigrant visa.

U.S. citizen petitioner then should start tracking the progress of priority dates in the family-based 4th preference immigration category, by monitoring the U.S. State Department's Visa Bulletin. When the dates shown on the family-based immigrant visa chart for the 4th preference category start to get close to your sibling's priority date, then U.S. citizen petitioner should look for letters coming from the National Visa Center (NVC), or contact the National Visa Center if you forgot to send them a change of address form.

If your sibling is in the United States on a valid visa, such as H-1B visa, J-1 visa,  or F-1/J-1 visa, when the priority date becomes current, he or she should be able to adjust status inside the United States, to get the green card without leaving the United States. But if your brother or sister has only a tourist visa, such as B visa, and hope of adjusting status in the United States, it may constitute a fraudulent use of the tourist visa, and potentially lead to the green card application being denied.

For most cases, the U.S. citizen's brother or sister needs to go through the "consular processing", by having an immigrant visa interview at a U.S. consulate in his or her home country. If the interview goes well, he or she and family members will be issued immigrant visas to the United States. After entering the U.S., they will become permanent residents of United States, and receive their actual Green Cards a few weeks later.

2. Get Immigrant Visa at U.S. Embassy or Consulate

As a brother or sister of a U.S. citizen, if your Form I-130 application has been approved, and a visa number is immediately available for you, you can apply for an immigrant visa at U.S. embassy or consulate

The Immigrant Visa Unit at U.S. embassy or consulate will process your application for an immigrant visa. While no assurance can be given regarding the appointment date of your visa interview, you should prepare for that appointment and obtain the documents required for your visa application. 

When you have obtained all of the required documents and are prepared for the interview, you should notify U.S. embassy or consulate. You may notify them that you are prepared for the interview by mailing to the Immigrant Visa Unit, using form and document checklist. 

The DS-260 contains questions regarding specific biographical information required for the immigrant visa. Each family member that is eligible to travel to the United States is required to complete the DS-260.

3. The Form DS-260 for Online Immigrant Visa Application and Registration

After your form I-130 is approved by USCIS, the form U.S. Department of States form DS-260 is used to apply for a U.S. immigrant visa. The form DS-260 is an online Immigrant Visa Application and Registration form used to collect the needed application information from persons seeking U.S. immigrant visas. This form is completed and submitted online to the Department of State via the Internet through the Consular Electronic Applications Center (CEAC).

You can access the DS-260 from the Consular Electronic Application Center (CEAC) website, by going to Immigrant Visas.state.gov and clicking on “Submit Visa Application and Civil Documents,” or on the website of the U.S. embassy or consulate where you will apply.

After you pay your fees, you and each qualified family member immigrating with you must complete the Application for Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration (Form DS-260) in the Consular Electronic Application Center (CEAC). You may wish to preview a sample  DS-260 before beginning.

    * Submitting Form DS-260 does not formally execute a visa application.  The visa application is not formally made until the visa applicant is interviewed by a U.S. consular officer.

    * You will need your NVC Case Number, Beneficiary ID Number, and Invoice ID Number from your NVC Welcome Letter, to access CEAC.

    * After submitting Form DS-260 online, you must print the confirmation page and bring it to your interview. You can print this from CEAC any time after you complete your DS-260 application.

It is important to distinguish the mandatory use of the DS-260 for processing at all U.S. embassies and consulates worldwide from the "Electronic Processing Program" used for electronic submission of documents and the I-864 Affidavit of Support for processing at select embassies and consulates. Under this program, the I-864 is downloaded, completed, signed, scanned, saved as a PDF file and e-mailed to the NVC.

Also, the required civil documents and supporting documents must be converted to PDF files and then e-mailed to the NVC. For these select consular posts it is not required to mail the I-864, civil documents, and other supporting documents to the NVC, but the applicant must be prepared to present the original physical documents at the time of the visa interview. For all other posts, the I-864 and documentation are still mailed to the NVC.

For additional information on the DS-260, DS-261 and Electronic Processing Program, you should go to travel.state.gov and read the FAQs on DS-260 Immigrant Visa Electronic Application and the instruction pages on Required Electronic Processing and Optional Electronic Processing.

4. How to Fill the Electronic Immigrant Visa Application Form DS-260

The Form DS-260 Immigrant Visa Electronic Application (also called "Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration Application") replaces the paper-based DS-230 Application for Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration (parts I and II); while the Form DS-261 Choice of Address and Agent will replace the DS-3032 Choice of Address and Agent.

The Department of State (DOS) has implemented use of the DS-260, Online Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration Application, and the DS-261, Choice of Address and Agent. These two forms are used for immigrant visa applicants processing at all U.S. embassies and consulates abroad. The online forms are submitted to DOS through the Consular Electronic Applications Center (CEAC) website at https://ceac.state.gov/ceac/. In order to access the online forms, the applicant must input his or her NVC case number and invoice I.D. number.

All of the information entered online is accessible by the National Visa Center (NVC) and the consular posts, the applicant is not required to submit a paper version to the NVC or bring a copy to the visa interview.

    *  Most fields on the DS-260 must be completed before the application can be submitted to DOS. The system will not allow you to continue without providing the required information unless the field is specifically marked "Optional."

    * If a mandatory field is left blank, an error message will appear and the applicant must complete the required field before proceeding with the form. A partially completed application can be saved by clicking on the "Save" button at the bottom of each page.

    * It is recommended that data be saved often to ensure information is not lost. A saved application can be accessed by returning to the website and selecting View/Edit from the Alien Registration section of the Immigrant Visa.

    * The applicant can continue completing the form by clicking on the "Edit" button on the right side of the application's listed status. Once all of the fields are completed, the applicant submits the form by clicking on the "Sign and Submit Application" button.

    * Should the applicant need to make any changes to the form after submission, he or she will have to contact the NVC to request access to the form. If a case has already been sent by NVC to the appropriate U.S. embassy or consulate interview, any changes to the form will have to be made at the post. 

5. Application Related Fees for Filing USCIS Form I-130

Immigration application related fees are charged for different services, such as fees for Department of State government services, fees for Visa Services, and fees for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS):

  • Filing an immigrant Petition for Alien Relative, Form I-130, this fee is charged by USCIS;
  • Processing an immigrant visa application, Form DS-260;
  • Medical examination and required vaccinations - costs vary.
  • Other costs may include: translations; photocopying charges; fees for obtaining the documents you need for the immigrant visa application (such as passport, police certificates, birth certificates, etc.); and travel expenses to go to the embassy or consulate for the interview. Costs vary from country to country and case to case.
Also, Form I-864 is required for most family-based immigrants and some employment-based immigrants to show that they have adequate means of financial support and are not likely to rely on the U.S. government for financial support. There is no fee when filed with USCIS or abroad with the Department of State (DOS). DOS does charge a fee when this form is filed in the U.S.  

6. Form I-864 and Public Charge 

The USCIS Form I-864 - Affidavit of Support is required for family-sponsored immigration. An affidavit of support is a guarantee to U.S. government that an immigrant will not become a public charge. The affidavit could be offered by the petition sponsor or someone who could provide financial assistance to the immigrant in the event that such help would be necessary. 

All petitioners, regardless of whether or not they have been working or living in the U.S. since the past three years, must submit a notarized Form I-864, Affidavit of Support, for the beneficiaries of the petitions. The determination of a possible public charge must be made in all cases. A public charge is defined as someone who cannot support him or herself, and may therefore become reliable on the adopted country - the United States. 

7. The Differences Between Sponsor, Joint Sponsor, and Substitute Sponsor for USCIS Form I-864 - Affidavit of Support

An affidavit of support, USCIS Form I-864, is a document an individual signs to accept financial responsibility for another person, usually a relative, who is coming to the United States to live permanently. The person who signs the affidavit of support becomes the sponsor of the relative coming to live in U.S.  The sponsor is usually the petitioner of an immigrant petition for a family member. An affidavit of support is legally enforceable; the sponsor's responsibility usually lasts until the family member or other individual either becomes a U.S. citizen, or can be credited with 40 quarters of work - usually 10 years.

A joint sponsor is someone who is willing to accept legal responsibility for supporting the family member with you. A joint sponsor must meet all the same requirements as you, except the joint sponsor does not need to be related to the immigrant. The joint sponsor, or the joint sponsor and his or her household, must reach the 125% income requirement alone. You cannot combine your income with that of a joint sponsor to meet the income requirement.

If the visa petitioner has died after approval of the visa petition but U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) decides to let the petition continue, a substitute sponsor must file a Form I-864 in place of the deceased visa petitioner.

Some other eligibility requirements apply to the substitute sponsor as well. He or she must be a U.S. citizen or a lawful permanent resident of at least 18 years of age who has a domicile in the U.S. And the sponsor must be a relative of yours. In order to be a substitute sponsor, you must be related to the intending immigrant in one of the following ways: Spouse; Parent; Mother-in-law; Father-in-law; Sibling; Child (if at least 18 years of age); Son; Daughter; Son-in-law; Daughter-in-law; Sister-in-law; Brother-in-law; Grandparent; Grandchild; Legal guardian of the beneficiary.

Serving as a substitute sponsor is a primarily financial relationship, and it involves filling out an Affidavit of Support on USCIS Form I-864. The Affidavit must indicate that the new sponsor is able to support the immigrants and his/her own household, at a level that is at or above 125% of the federal Poverty Guidelines. In fact, by filing Form I-864, the substitute sponsor promises the U.S. government to pay back any need-based public assistance that the named immigrants receive for approximately the first ten years of their having a green card.

8. The Form I-485 Adjustment of Status for Brothers or Sisters inside U.S.

The Form I-485 adjustment of status application is for an applicant who is in U.S. already on a non-immigrant visa. If your Form I-130 application has been approved, and a visa number is immediately available for you, you can submit Form I-485 to get your Green Card. 

If the eligibility of your I-485 application is based on an immigrant petition, you need to attach a copy of the approval notice for an immigrant petition that makes a visa number immediately available to you. If your eligibility is based on the Form I-130 approval, you need to attach a copy of the Form I-130 approval notice.

The medical examination, endorsed by a civil medical doctor on Form I-693, Medical Examination of Aliens Seeking Adjustment of Status, is a necessary part of the Green Card application process. The examination is submitted in connection with the Form I-485, to ensure that the individual does not have any "communicable diseases of public health significance" or other medical conditions that may pose a danger to the individual or to others. The medical examination includes proof that the foreign national has had vaccinations against a specified list of preventable diseases.

9. The Form I-485 Adjustment of Status in United States and the Form I-944 Declaration of Self-Sufficience

USCIS has issued a Form I-944, Declaration of Self-Sufficiency, that must be filed with all applications for adjustment of status postmarked on or after February 24, 2020.

Form I-944, also known as the “Declaration of Self-Sufficiency,” is a form used by green card applicants to provide information about their financial situation. It was introduced as part of the Trump administration’s overhaul of the public charge rule, and must be included with any green card applications filed once the rule goes into effect.

The declaration of self-sufficiency is somewhat similar to Form I-864 (“Affidavit of Support”), which is completed by a green card applicant’s sponsoring relative and used to show that the sponsor has the means to support the applicant. Unlike Form I-864, however, the new I-944 form provides a snapshot of the applicant’s own financial situation, not that of their sponsor.

Form I-944 is used by USCIS to decide whether an immigrant is likely to be able to support themselves and their household without relying on public benefits. The ultimate goal is to determine whether an immigrant is more likely than not to need to use public benefits for more than 12 months within any 36-month period. This test is applied “in aggregate,” meaning that using 2 separate benefits simultaneously for 6 months, or 4 separate benefits for 3 months, would count as 12 months of total benefit use.

The public charge decision is made based on the “totality of circumstances,” which means that USCIS officials will weigh all positive and negative factors against one another before reaching a decision. The decision is not just made based on your income or financial resources, but also includes factors like your employability, your age, and your health.

Some factors are “heavily weighted,” or seen as more important, while others are considered “regular,” or less important factors. Unfortunately, there is still some uncertainty around how USCIS will weigh an applicant’s positive and negative factors against one another. That means it is important to make sure you complete Form I-944 accurately and completely, and do not forget to include any details that could tip the balance in your favor.

10. Working in United States with or without Work Permit (EAD)

If your brother or sister is outside the United States, they will receive a passport stamp upon arrival in the United States. This stamp will prove that they are allowed to work until a Green Card (Permanent Resident Card) is created.

1) If your brother or sister is outside the U.S.: your brother or sister does not need to apply for a work permit (EAD) once they are admitted as an immigrant with their Green Card (or immigrant visa), or have already been approved for adjustment to permanent resident status. As a legal permanent resident, your brother or sister should receive a Permanent Resident Card (commonly referred to as a 'Green Card') that will prove that your brother or sister has a right to live and work in the United States permanently. Also, your brother or sister will receive a passport stamp upon arrival in the United States. This stamp will prove that they are allowed to work until a Green Card (Permanent Resident Card) is created.

2) If your brother or sister is in the U.S. in other visa: they can apply to adjust to permanent resident status (by filing USCIS Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status), they are eligible to apply for a work permit (EAD) while their case is pending. Your brother or sister should use USCIS Form I-765 to apply for a work permit.



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