The US family-based immigration system has its roots in family reunification. There is a cap at 440,000 visas, which may be issued in the family preference category in a year. However, applicants must also be prepared for the 7% country-limit when they apply. Then there is the distribution of the family preference category into several sub-categories. The quota allowed for approval of F3 is 23,400 visas each year.
The F3 Visa is based on family reunification, which itself is a part of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). According to it, American citizens may sponsor certain relatives who can qualify for the LPR status. The process begins with the filing of the said petition with US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
However, plenty of things can interfere with the approval procedure. For instance, the relative of a US citizen will end up on a waitlist subsequent to a successful appeal. It is part of the F3 Visa Processing Time. That is when they must await their turn due to the cap on family-based visas. They can only apply once their number is up.
We’ll be discussing the process for third preference applications in detail below:
Family Preference Categories
The family preference visa is for people who are closely related to a US citizen. They can also go to someone in a specified relationship with an LPR. Both those classes don’t allow the following relations to sponsor:
- Aunts or uncles
Now, we’ll look at the sub-categories under the umbrella of family preference visas:
First Preference (F1)
This visa type can only be given to the unmarried and younger-than-21 child of US citizens. The cap applies once 23,400 F1 visas have been stamped in a year. The applicant might have to wait 1-2 years to come to the US via the F1 visa. Wait times for countries, such as Mexico and the Philippines, are much longer.
Second Preference (F2)
The next type is the F2 visa and unmarried, older-than-21 child, their life partners, and minor children – if they have any. Almost three quarters of the F2 visas go to children and spouses. The number for F2 visa allowed in a year is 114,200 with the same wait time as for the F1 type.
Third Preference (F3)
The married child and any family they have can apply in the F3 Visa Category. The wait time gets longer for individuals from all countries but even more so for applicants from Mexico and the Philippines. The USCIS caps this category at 23,400.
Fourth Preference (F4)
Any 21-year-old (or older) siblings of US citizens, as well as their families, could be eligible for an F4 type. The wait time, in this case, can be as long as 10 years. But luckily, the USCIS can approve 65,000 visas of the F4 type annually. The wait time for the F4 visa can be 19 years for someone from the Philippines!
Immediate Relative Immigrant Visas
We’d caution against wrongly thinking that the F-class visas are the same as those of the IR-class. That’s because only blood relatives to US citizens can apply for the latter. Moreover, there isn’t a limit on how many IR visas are granted yearly. You may be eligible if you are related in one of the following ways:
- Married (IR-1)
- Single child who is younger than 21 (IR-2)
- Orphan child adopted while abroad (IR-3)
- Same as IR-3 but for the US (IR-4)
- Parent (IR-5)
Third Preference Visa Application Process
To reach the F3 Visa Status, an applicant must clear these five main steps:
File Form I-130
The sponsor must do this. If your sponsor is outside the US at the time of application, confirm with an attorney before asking them to file on your behalf.
The Case Gets Transferred to the NVC
Third Preference Visa procedure demands the USCIS approval, after which your file goes to the National Visa Center (NVC). That’s where you get your case number. Then you must wait for the date on which you can start the pre-processing. On that day, you may file Form DS-261. You don’t have to file it if your attorney is taking care of your case.
During the pre-processing, the NVC will inform you when you must pay the fees. Later, you will have to submit:
- Your passport – make sure it will still be valid half a year later after you’re in the US
- Proof of sponsorship, i.e., Forms I-864/A/EZ/W.
- Form DS-260
- A couple of photos
- Civil documents – and any translations and photocopies you might be asked to submit
- Results of a medical exam and vaccination sessions
Wait Until a Visa Becomes Available
Should the limit still be complete when your number arrives, the Department of State (DOS) may potentially notify you to begin the adjustment of status procedure. However, besides the 226,000 visas that are issues per year, there are other things that can keep that from happening. For instance, the limit on the country of chargeability may hamper their chances. Or, the percentage of applications allowed in the F3 category may already have been used up.
On the flip side, they might lucky and get an early spot because the previous fiscal year’s allocation hasn’t run out yet.
If all went well, your next step would come after the NVC forwards your file to the US Embassy/Consulate. The consular processing stage takes place in your country. You will be asked to come for an interview to the embassy.
Attend the Visa Interview
You will be facing a consular officer who will determine your applicant’s eligibility. Usually, you get an answer from the consulate within several days-a week.
How Much Does a Third Preference (F3) Visa Cost?
The process involves the following costs:
- $535 when you file the I-130
- $325 when you get to processing the DS-260
- $220 for the USCIS Immigration fee
- Variable fees for medical examination and vaccination
- Amount you pay to get the supporting documents translated
As an F3 visa holder, your family can also apply for a visa, as well. The format remains the same, but it begins with the filing of the I-485. Don’t forget to include an approved I-485 of the principal applicant with it. If the principal applicant has successfully become an LPR, the relatives file the right forms, and their relationship falls in the right category, they will be successful.
Contact Attorney Eric Price Today!
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