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June 26, 2023

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What is an immigrant visa to the United States: types of US visas and how to obtain them

Immigrant visas are obtained by foreigners planning to move to the US. But not all can apply for such visas; only qualified specialists, entrepreneurs, investors, and relatives of permanent residents or US citizens.

The US immigrant visa validity period may be different, but you need to enter the United States with it within six months from the date of receipt. The owner of an immigrant visa can then receive permanent residence in the United States — a Green Card, and five years after permanent residence — American citizenship.

Albert Ioffe
Albert Ioffe

Spoke about immigrant visas to the United States

What is a US immigrant visa and how to get it

What is an immigrant visa to the United States: types of US visas and how to obtain them

What kind of visa do investors get if they want to move to the USA?

Foreign investors who want to do business and move to the USA get EB-5 immigrant visas. They are issued on a 7.1% quota of all work immigrant visas. A limitation for 2023 is 13,987 EB-5 visas, which is slightly more than the usual 10,000.

To qualify for an EB-5 visa, an investor must invest in a US company and create 10 jobs for qualified professionals.

The minimum investment amount depends on the location of the company:

  • $800,000 — for rural areas and regions with an unemployment rate 1.5 times higher than the national average;

  • $1,050,000 — in other regions.

If a visa applicant invests money and develops a business on their own, the investor also fulfils the following conditions:

  • a business was created by an investor from scratch, or the company was open after November 29th, 1990;

  • the purpose of the business is to make a profit, it is a commercial enterprise;

  • in two years, at least 10 jobs were created for qualified employees, which do not include the investor himself or his relatives;

  • the investor participates in the management of the company.

EB‑5 visa applicants can also invest in approved projects of regional centres that are private or government organisations that promote the economic development of specific states. This option neither implies active participation of the investor in the company management nor requires creating 10 new jobs.

Regional centres often work with companies in rural areas or places with high unemployment, so the investment threshold is $800,000. Due to these advantages, most foreign investors apply for an EB‑5 visa through the regional centres. They mainly invest in commercial real estate: hotels, retail and office buildings.

EB‑5 visa holders are allowed to live, work, conduct business, and study in the United States.

The investor’s family can obtain a visa: a spouse and children under 21 years of age.

If, after two years, the investor’s business shows successful results, the EB‑5 visa holder will receive a Green Card for 10 years.

E‑2 nonimmigrant visa as an alternative for investors

The E‑2 visa is issued for investment in a business, just like the EB‑5 visa. The minimum investment amount is not clearly established, but as a rule, it is enough to invest at least $200,000 in a new or existing company. It is also imperative to create at least five new jobs.

Investors with an E‑2 visa can live, work, do business and study in the United States.

The E‑2 visa is nonimmigrant, so its holders can not apply for a Green Card or American citizenship. However, the visa is valid for five years and can be renewed unlimitedly. Moreover, if the investor’s goal is a US passport, they can switch to an immigrant visa after the expiration of the E‑2 visa.

E‑2 visa applicants go through an interview but not a medical examination. The covid‑19 vaccine certificate is no longer necessary for nonimmigrant visas. The visa procedure takes up to three weeks.

Only citizens of countries with which the United States has a special trade agreement can obtain an E‑2 visa. Among them are Grenada, Turkey, Moldova, Bulgaria, and Egypt. Therefore, most foreigners can not get an E‑2 visa directly but can get a second passport first. Grenada and Turkey offer citizenship by investment.

Conditions for obtaining citizenship by investment in Grenada and Turkey

Country

Investments

Obtaining period

  • $150,000+ — a non-refundable contribution

  • $220,000+ — investments in real estate for 5 years

4 to 6 months

  • $400,000+ — purchase of a real estate

  • $500,000+ — a bank deposit, purchase of securities or starting a business

3 to 6 months

Immigrant visa for family reunification

Suppose a relative of the applicant resides in the United States based on permanent residence status or citizenship. In that case, such an applicant can apply for an immigrant visa and move to the United States. The type of visa depends on the degree of relationship with the American resident or citizen.

An IR visa is issued only to the immediate family of US citizens: spouses, children under 21, and parents. The quota does not limit the number of IR visas. It is the longest visa to the US as it is valid for 10 years.

Category F visa is for spouses and minor children of permanent residents and other relatives of American citizens, such as siblings. A quota limits the number of F-category visas. For example, F‑2 visas are issued no more than 114,200 per year.

Types of immigrant visas for family reunification

Visa

Who can get

Eligibility conditions

IR-1

Spouse of a US citizen

Spouses have been married for more than two years, including common‑law marriage where applicable

Visa validity — 10 years

IR-2

Children of US citizens

Under the age of 21

Unmarried

IR-3

Orphans already adopted by a US citizen in another country

No

IR-4

Orphans to be adopted by a US citizen

No

IR-5

Parents of US citizens

US citizen must be over 21 years old

F-1

Children and grandchildren of US citizens

Over 21 years old

Unmarried

Quota: 23,400 visas per year

F-2A

Spouses and children of permanent US residents

Marriage is registered

Children under 21, unmarried

Quota: 21,984 visas in 2023

F-2B

Children of US permanent residents

Over 21 years of age

Unmarried

Quota: about 26,000 visas per year

F3

Children of US citizens, their spouses and children

Children are married

Grandchildren are under 21

Quota: 23,400 visas per year

F4

Siblings of a US citizen, their spouses and children

US citizen is over 21

Children of siblings are under 21

Quota: 65,000 visas per year

CR-1

Spouse of a US citizen or permanent resident

If the couple has been married for less than two years

CR-2

Children CR-1 visa holders

Used if a child has been a part of a family for less than two years

Under 21 years old

Not married

What kind of visa is obtained by the groom or the bride of a US citizen

If the foreigner is going to marry a US citizen to enter the country, he gets a K‑1 type visa. It is considered nonimmigrant because, after the marriage registration, the newly‑made spouse must change the visa to CR‑1.

90 days from the date of entry into the United States on a K visa is given to a foreigner to register a marriage with a US citizen. For violation of the terms, the foreigner faces deportation.

Between 35,000 and 45,000 K‑1 visa holders move to the USA, get married to US citizens and obtain Green Card each year.

If the newlyweds have common children born before marriage, they can also go with a parent to the United States on a K‑2 visa.

If the spouses are already married but still awaiting a decision on their CR‑1 or IR‑1 visa petition, the foreign spouse can obtain a K‑3 visa. It allows you to go to the United States and live in the country until you receive an immigrant visa.

K-type visas for future spouses of US citizens

Visa

Who can get

Eligibility conditions

K-1

Fiance of a US Citizen

90 days to be married

K-2

Children of K-1 visa holder

Under 21

Unmarried

K-3

Spouse of a US citizen

If married outside of the United States

The spouse is a foreigner and is awaiting a decision on a CR-1 or IR-1

The visa is issued for 2 years with an extension of another 2 years

Immigrant visas for skilled workers

When a foreigner gets a job in the United States, he receives a category EB visa. About 140,000 visas are issued annually for skilled workers who move to live and work in the United States.

  • The EB visa is of several types, depending on the applicant’s qualifications, education and work experience. In most cases, to obtain an EB visa, you must first conclude an employment contract with an American employer. The exception is internationally recognised professionals and investors.

E-type visas for foreign professionals

Visa

Who can get

Eligibility conditions

EB-1

Recognised professionals in Science, Arts, Education, Business, or Sports

Confirmation of merit and achievement is required


Recognised professionals do not need an invitation from a specific employer

Professors and researchers

3 years of teaching or research experience

Got a job in an American university or research centre

Heads of international companies

For at least one year out of the last three years, they have worked in a representative office of an American company abroad

EB-2

Professionals with:

  • academic degree;

  • exceptional ability in science, art, or business

Bachelor's or a higher degree with five years of work experience in a chosen field

Certification required from the US Department of Labor

EB-3

Skilled workers

Occupation requires a minimum of two years of study or work experience, but not seasonal or temporary

Professionals

Occupation requires a bachelor's degree from an American or foreign university

Unskilled workers

Occupation requires less than two years of study or work experience, but not seasonal or temporary

EB-4

Special groups of workers, such as religious workers. Full List of applicants

Quota: 7.1% of total work immigrant visas

EB-5

Investors

New business investments and job creation in the United States

How to get a US immigrant visa as an investor and move a step closer to a Green Card

If an employee of a foreign company is transferred to a US branch, they receive an L visa. It is nonimmigrant but allows the holder to live and work in the USA.

An L visa is usually issued for three years, and if the applicant opens a new office in the United States, then for one year. After the expiration of the validity period, the category L visa must be replaced with an immigration one.

How to get a US immigrant visa

A petition for the issuance of an immigrant visa is completed and submitted by:

  • for family reunification — an applicant’s relative who has a Green Card or US citizenship;

  • for qualified employees — the employer.

The investor submits the petition on their own.

Petitions are accepted by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). What kind of petition to submit depends on the category and type of visa. It is better to check the necessary documents for each type of visa before preparing the documents on the US government’s website.

The applicant pays the consular fee. The fee also depends on the type of visa and ranges from $160 to $265.

A medical examination is passed by all applicants for immigrant visas. The examination can not be taken at any local hospital: certificates are accepted only from medical institutions approved by the American embassy.

A medical examination is paid. The cost depends on the age of the applicant. In 2023, the fee is:

  • $275 for applicants over 14 years old;

  • $240 for applicants from 2 to 14 years old;

  • $165 for children under two years old.

Applicants must present vaccination certificates against diseases like hepatitis, meningitis and influenza. From October 1st, 2021, a coronavirus vaccination certificate is also required.

The results of the physical examination are provided in a sealed envelope. It can not be opened.

An interview at the US Embassy or Consulate is scheduled in advance: the applicant receives an official invitation and can not be late. An applicant must take a printed letter with an invitation for an interview and the medical examination results.

The applicant must also have documents, the list of which depends on the type of visa. A standard package of documents includes:

  • a passport;

  • a receipt for payment of the consular fee;

  • a certificate of good conduct;

  • a bank statement;

  • a certificate or a diploma of higher education;

  • an employment history;

  • a military ID for men.

Applicants with a family will need a marriage certificate and birth certificates for children. Applicants for a work visa need a copy of the employment contract, and investors need proof of investment.

The process of obtaining an immigrant visa takes from several weeks to several months and even years. The speed depends on the quota, the accumulated queue of applications and the available dates for the interview. If the applicant has successfully completed all stages of the procedure, he will receive a passport with a completed visa within 5 days after the approval of his application.

Individual cost calculation of the US EB-5 visa

Individual cost calculation of the US EB-5 visa

To sum up: key points about US immigrant visas

  1. There are several ways to immigrate to the United States. For example, foreign investors can apply for an EB‑5 immigrant visa. By investing either 800,000 or 1,050,000, investors and their families can move to the US. After two years, a Green Card can be obtained.

  2. Another option is the E‑2, a nonimmigrant visa for investors, allowing its holder to live in the country. For E‑2, the investment requirement is much lower, only around $200,000, and creating at least 10 new jobs is needed. Transitioning to an immigrant visa is possible after the E‑2 visa expires.

  3. Family members of US citizens and US permanent residents can apply for visa types IR, F, CR and K, depending on their status and relativity.

  4. Another way to move to the US is by employment. In this case, an EB visa is issued for skilled workers with a job offer from an American company, with exceptions for internationally recognised professionals and investors. L visas are for employees of foreign companies transferred to a US branch.

  5. Obtaining an immigrant visa takes several weeks, months, and even years.

Immigrant Invest is a licensed agent for citizenship and residence by investment programs in the EU, the Caribbean, Asia, and the Middle East. Take advantage of our global 15-year expertise — schedule a meeting with our investment programs experts.

Will you obtain a EB-5 visa to the USA?

Practical Guide

Will you obtain a EB-5 visa to the USA?

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How do I get an investor visa to the USA?

    Invest in a business, either new or existing.

    If you invest from $800,000, you can apply for an EB‑5 immigrant visa. You will need to undergo a medical examination and interview.

    Investors with a Grenadian or Turkish passport can obtain an E‑2 nonimmigrant visa. It is also issued for investment in a business, but from $200,000. Applicants do not go through a medical examination, but are interviewed.

  • I already have a Green Card but haven't been to the US for over a year. Do I need to get an entry visa again?

    Yes, you need to get an SB‑1 immigrant visa. However, only applicants who prove they intended to return to the United States within a year after departure, but could not for reasons beyond their control are eligible for this visa. Everything about immigration visas to the USA

  • If a child is a US citizen by birth, can his parents become US citizens?

    Yes, but only by naturalisation. When a child turns 21, they can petition their parents for immigrant visas. After that, parents have the right to go to the United States and receive a Green Card. If they have lived in the United States for five years, they will be able to apply for citizenship.

  • Is a US immigrant visa the same as a green card?

    No, it is not the same. A US immigrant visa approves its holder as a future applicant for a green card. A green card is a residence permit. An immigrant visa is an initial step in obtaining a green card, while a green card is a final authorisation to live and work permanently in the United States.

  • Do you get a green card after an immigrant visa?

    Yes, after obtaining an immigrant visa, individuals are typically eligible to apply for a green card, which is officially called a Permanent resident card in the United States. The green card grants permanent residency status.

    A US immigrant visa’s validity period is normally limited to 10 years, while a green card allows the individual to live and work in the country indefinitely, only with the necessity to renew it every 5 years.