The US government has always been in favor of allowing families to unite while living here. That is the main reason for the introduction of the family-based immigration categories. Moreover, there are various sub-types under the family preference visa category, as you will see below. However, here, we will focus on the 23,400 F4 visas that are allowed annually.
Like the other family preference visa, the F4 Visa is available to US citizens courtesy of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). Under it, and through the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), Americans can file appeals to get their relatives to join them. Most importantly, the relative can even become an LPR if they go through the right processes.
Before we give you the details on how you may apply for a fourth preference visa, familiarize yourself with the family preference categories:
Family Preference Categories
Under this class, certain individuals who are related to a US citizen or an LPR may be eligible for immigration to the US. The law, however, excludes the following relationships from acting as sponsors:
The divisions we see in this type of visa include:
First Preference (F1)
If a parent who is also a US citizen sponsors their unmarried but younger-than-21 child, they can do so under this visa. Each year, the government limits itself to 23,400 visas of this type. A relative may reach the US within 1-2 years of application via the F1 visa. Although the wait time for countries, such as the Philippines and Mexico, can extend to 5 and 11 years.
Second Preference (F2)
If the child has crossed 21, then the sponsor must apply for them and their families in this category. More than 75% of the 114,200 F2 visa go to spouses and children. The wait time matches that of the F1 type.
Third Preference (F3)
If the child has married, then the sponsor must choose this kind of visa. The wait time is longer, i.e., 3-4 years for most countries, but the F4 Visa Processing Time is even longer for Mexico and the Philippines. Only 23,400 F3 visa can be stamped in a year.
Fourth Preference (F4)
A US citizen may sponsor their sibling if the former are 21 or older, along with the family of the latter in this class. The F4 Visa Waiting Time is 10 years for the 65,000 visas that can be stamped in a year. It becomes 19 years in the case of the Philippines!
Immediate Relative Immigrant Visas
The IR category of visas is exclusively for those related by blood to a US citizen. It isn’t subject to any visa capping either. That makes it different from the family preference visas. You may apply for one if you satisfy one of the following:
- You’re married to a US citizen (IR-1)
- You’re 21 or younger, single and have a parent who is a US citizen (IR-2)
- A US citizen adopted you while abroad (IR-3)
- A US citizen adopted you from within the US (IR-4)
- You’re a parent to a US citizen (IR-5)
Fourth Preference Visa Application Process
The completion of the Visa F4 process occurs in the following manner:
File Form I-130
On your behalf, your sponsoring relative will file this form. If they’re out of the country at this stage, consult with an attorney to determine whether this can be done or not.
The Case Gets Transferred to the NVC
4th Preference Visa depends on the USCIS’s approval. When you have that, your case will transfer to the National Visa Center (NVC), where it acquires a case number. The case number is given in order of application priority. Thus, whoever applies earlier than you did will get their turn before you do. It gets a case number there.
When it is your turn, you might have to file the DS-261 if you’re going at it alone. There’s no need to do so with an attorney by your side. It opens the gates to the pre-processing stage, where the NVC will tell you to pay the fees.
After that, you must submit the following documents:
- Your passport – make sure it has at least 6 months of validity left
- Various forms as proof of sponsorship, either the I-864, A, EZ, or W
- Form DS-260
- A couple of photographs taken in a way that satisfies the stated rules
- Civil documents – you might also need translations and photocopies of those
- The results of your vaccination and medical examination
Wait Until a Visa Becomes Available
At this stage, you may get a visa if:
- The Department of State (DOS) can see the quota of 226,000 visas per year isn’t complete.
- The quota from last year wasn’t reached
And working against you and delaying your F4 Visa Processing Time are the following factors:
- Your priority date arrives, but the quota allowed to your country has been exhausted
- The limit on the visa class your application belongs to has been reached
Your F4 Category Visa file goes from the NVC to the US Embassy/Consulate in your country. You must, thereafter, attend an interview to get your visa.
Attend the Visa Interview
We’d recommend having your attorney coach you on the answers to questions a consular officer may ask during the interview. You’ll know how you did within a week.
How Much Does a Fourth Preference (F4) Visa Cost?
You will be paying:
- $535 when you file the I-130
- $325 when the DS-260 is processed
- $220 as the USCIS Immigration fee
- A variable amount for your medical examination and/or vaccination
As mentioned above, your family will be eligible to tag along if they file the right papers, including their own Form I-485, with your approved I-485.
Contact Attorney Eric Price Today!
The F4 Green Card visa process takes precision and timely filing of various documents. For legal help in your case, contact LA’s best immigration lawyer.