Applying for an Immigrant Visa
Step 1: File a petition
The first step in applying for an immigrant visa is for the U.S. citizen or permanent resident to file a petition with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). U.S. citizens residing in Iraq and filing petitions for a spouse/child/parent may be able to submit their paperwork at the Embassy in Baghdad (please see our page on filing an immigrant petition for details.) U.S. citizens residing in the United States or temporarily visiting Iraq should contact their local USCIS office to file a petition. The I-130 petition form and mailing addresses of the USCIS offices can be downloaded at www.uscis.gov. A petition for a fiancée (Form I-129F) must be filed with a USCIS office in the States – the petition cannot be filed overseas.
Please note that petitions are only required for family-based, special immigrant, and employment-sponsored immigrant visas. Diversity visas are handled via a lottery system and do not require petitions filed with USCIS.
Step 2: Begin assembling the necessary documents and completing the visa forms
If the petition has been filed in the U.S., the petition will be evaluated by USCIS. After the petition is approved by USCIS, it will be sent to the National Visa Center (NVC). NVC processes all approved immigrant visa petitions after they are received from USCIS and holds them until the cases are ready to be interviewed. Petitions may remain at NVC for several months or for many years depending on the visa category and country of birth of the applicant. When an applicant's case is about to become current (a visa number is likely to be available within the year), NVC will notify the applicant to submit the required civil documents, police clearances, affidavits of support and other key documents. The file will then be forwarded to Embassy Baghdad.
Step 3: Scheduling of the visa interview
Visa interviews are conducted by appointment only from Sunday to Thursday at 7:00 AM, except on U.S. and local holidays. Applicants should plan to spend several hours at the Embassy. Please do not purchase a plane ticket or quit your job until you have the approved visa in hand. Please click here to review a list of the documentation which you will need to present to a consular representative at the time of your interview.
Petitions Required to be Filed in the United States
U.S. citizens and lawful permanent resident sponsors residing in the United States file Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, with the USCIS Chicago Lockbox facility, following instructions on the USCIS website. U.S. employers file Form I-140, Petition for Alien Worker, as instructed on the USCIS website.
Effective August 15, 2011, petitioners residing outside the United States will no longer be able to routinely file Forms I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, with U.S. embassies and consulates. Petitioners residing overseas in countries where USCIS does not have a public counter presence will be required to file their Forms I-130 by mail with the USCIS Chicago Lockbox at one of the addresses below.
P.O. Box 804625
Chicago, IL 60680-4107
Express mail or courier delivery:
131 South Dearborn - 3rd Floor
Chicago, IL 60603-5517
For additional information about how to file a Form I-130 with the USCIS Chicago Lockbox, please visit the USCIS website or call USCIS at 1-800-375-5283.
Filing Immigrant Petitions Outside of the United States
Some petitions may be filed outside of the United States. Review Filing Immigrant Visa Petitions Outside of the United States to learn more.
Diversity Visa applicants
For diversity visa applicants, the Kentucky Consular Center (KCC) handles the scheduling of interview appointments. KCC will send the applicant a letter with the time and date of the visa interview. For more information on the Diversity Visa Program (Visa Lottery), please click here.
Rescheduling an interview
If you can't appear at the Embassy for your scheduled interview date, you should contact the Immigrant Visa Unit to ask for a different date. Please explain why you cannot attend the scheduled appointment. Applicants whose appointments are rescheduled may be placed at the back of the queue of waiting cases, so moving your appointment date may result in a significant delay to processing your visa case.
Step 4: Medical examination
All immigrant and fiancée visa applicants, regardless of age, are required to undergo a medical examination before receiving a visa. All applicants must undergo a examination administered by one of the Embassy’s designated doctors before the visa interview. Please bring the unopened examination results to the interview. If you need information about the location and contact information for our panel physicians, please contact the Immigrant Visa Unit.
Step 5: Day of the interview
Please appear at the Embassy for the interview at the appointed time. Late arrivals may not be processed. When you arrive, a consular representative will accept your documentation to include in your file. Afterwards, your fingerprints will be captured through a simple collection process which is done electronically; this is a requirement from all applicants age 14 and over. After your fingerprints have been collected, you will proceed to the final step during your appointment, which is the visa interview with the consular officer.
You can find a list of the documents that each applicant must present at the time of the visa interview by visiting our Preparing for your Visa Interview website. Children under 14 years of age do not need to appear in person, unless they are the sole beneficiary of a petition (such as an IR2, CR2, IH3, IR3, IH4, IR4 or F22). If you are unsure whether your child must attend the visa interview, please contact us.
Please do not bring any electronic equipment or large bags/suitcases to the Embassy. Cameras, cell phones, computers and other electronics are not allowed inside the building.
Please do not purchase a plane ticket or quit your job until you have the visa in your hand. Successful applicants will have their passport with the visa and other documents returned through the courier service. If a visa cannot be approved on the day of the interview, applicants will be informed of whether any additional documents are required to continue the process. You may submit missing documents by dropping the items off at the Embassy or by sending the documents to the Immigrant Visa Unit through a courier service or the U.S. mail.
Step Six: After the visa is approved and issued
Once you have received your immigrant visa, please note the expiration date. You must enter the United States before your visa expires. When you fly to the U.S., the immigration officials will stamp your passport and make a notation that you are registered for a permanent resident card (also known as a greencard). It normally takes several months for USCIS to process and send the permanent resident card to you. In the interim, the passport stamp, valid for a year, permits employment and travel as you await your green card. You may depart and re-enter to the U.S. before you receive the permanent residence card, as long as the stamp in your passport has not expired. If the stamp is close to expiring and you have still not received your permanent resident card, you should contact USCIS in the U.S. well before your departure to obtain permission to return to the U.S.