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Categories of Immigrant Visas

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.

There are five general categories:

  • Immediate Relatives
  • Other Family Based
  • Special Immigrant Visas
  • Employment Based
  • Diversity Immigrant Visa Program, or "green card lottery"

To file an IV petition for a family member, you must be 21 years old or older. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, in-laws and cousins cannot sponsor a relative for immigration.

For a general overview of the immigrant visa process, please click here.

Immediate Relatives

Special Immigrant Visas (SIV)

Other Family-Based Immigrant Visas

Please note that there are annual quotas for visas in these categories -- see the Priority/Cut Off Dates section of our website for visa waiting periods.

Employment-Based Immigrant Visas

In most of these categories, the sponsoring employer in the U.S. must file a petition and the applicant must demonstrate that she/he has the requisite education, work experience and/or special skills.

Diversity Visa Program

The Diversity Immigrant Visa Program is administered on an annual basis by the Department of State. Up to 50,000 permanent resident visas are given out annually to persons from countries with low immigration rates to the United States. Persons born in Iraq qualify to apply for the Diversity Visa (DV) program. Applicants for Diversity Visas are chosen by a computer-generated random lottery drawing.  For details of the program, please refer to the Department of State's website.