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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 who are planning on moving to the US. But not all can apply for such visas, but only qualified specialists, entrepreneurs, investors and relatives of permanent residents or US citizens.

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

The validity of an immigrant visa to the USA 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.

6 months
are given to enter the USA after obtaining an immigrant visa
Immigrant visa to move to the United States
Any American visa is pasted into the applicant's passport. The visa contains the photo, name and nationality of the applicant, as well as the number, category and type of visa issued

Immigrant visa for family reunification

If a relative of the applicant resides in the United States on the basis of permanent residence status or citizenship, 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 number of IR visas is not limited by the quota.

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

Types of immigrant visas for family reunification 

VisaWho can getEligibility conditions
IR-1Spouse of a US citizenSpouses have been married for more than two years

Visa validity - 10 years
IR-2Children of US citizensUnder the age of 21

IR-3Orphans already adopted by a US citizen in another countryNo
IR -4Orphans to be adopted by a US citizenNo
IR-5Parents of US citizens US citizen must be over 21 years old
F-1Children and grandchildren of US citizensUnder 21 years old


Quota: 23,400 visas per year
F-2ASpouses and children of permanent US residentMarriage is registered

Children under 21, unmarried

Quota: about 88,000 visas per year
F-2BChildren of US permanent residentsOver 21 years of age


Quota: about 26,000 visas per year
F3Children of a US citizens, their spouses and childrenChildren are married

Grandchildren are under 21

Quota: 23,400 visas per year
F4Siblings of a US citizen, their spouses and childrenUS citizen is over 21

Children of siblings are under 21

Quota: 65,000 visas per year
CR-1Spouse of a US citizen or permanent residentIf the couple married for less than two years
CR-2Children CR-1 visa holdersUnder 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 registration of the marriage 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.

If the newlyweds have common children who were 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

VisaWho can getEligibility conditions
K-1Fiance of a US Citizen90 days to be married
K-2Children of K-1 visa holderUnder 21

K-3Spouse of a US citizenIf married outside of the United States

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 
Fiance visa and other immigrant visas to the United States
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

Immigrant visas for skilled workers

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

140,000 visas
are issued annually to professionals for work and relocation to the United States

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

E-type visas for foreign professionals

VisaWho can getEligibility conditions
E-1Recognized professionals in Science, Arts, Education, Business, or SportsConfirmation of merit and achievement is required

Recognized professionals do not need an invitation from a specific employer
Professors and researchers3 years of teaching or research experience

Got a job in an American university or research center
Heads of international companiesFor at least one year out of the last three years, they have worked in a representative office of an American company abroad
E-2Professionals 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
E-3Skilled workersOccupation requires a minimum of two years of study or work experience, but not seasonal or temporary
ProfessionalsOccupation requires a bachelor's degree from an American or foreign university
Unskilled workersOccupation requires less than two years of study or work experience, but not seasonal or temporary
E-4Special groups of workers, such as religious workers. Full List of applicantsQuota: 7.1% of total work immigrant visas
E-5InvestorsNew business investments and job creation in the United States

If an employee of a foreign company is transferred to a US branch, he or she receives 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.

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 an EB-5 immigrant visa. It is issued on a 7.1% quota of all work immigrant visas. How many EB-5 visas do investors get annually.

EB-5 visa
is issued for business investments

In order to qualify for an EB-5 visa, an investor needs to invest in a US company and create jobs for qualified professionals.

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

for rural areas and regions with an unemployment rate 1.5 times higher than the national average
in other regions

If an investor invests money and develops a business on their own, the investor also fulfills the following conditions: 

  • a business was created by an investor from scratch or the company was open before 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.

Until July 1st, 2021, investors could also invest in approved projects of regional centers. This option did not imply active participation of the investor in the management of the company. It was not required to create exactly 10 new jobs. But the regional centers program has been suspended.

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.

US Investor Immigrant Visa: San Francisco
San Francisco named the best city in the world for doing business by Resonance Consultancy

How to get a US immigrant visa

Filing a petition with USCIS
Paying a consular fee
Medical examination
Interview in a US embassy or consulate

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

  • for family reunification — by an applicant’s relative who has a Green Card or US citizenship;
  • for qualified employees — by the employer.

The investor submits the petition on his 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 website of the US government.

The consular fee is paid by the applicant. The amount of the fee also depends on the type of visa and ranges from $160 to $265.

$160 to $265
is consular fee

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.

Medical examination is paid. The cost depends on the age of the applicant. In 2021, the fee is:

  • $273 for applicants over 14 years old;
  • $246 for applicants from 2 to 14 years old;
  • $163 for children under two years old.

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

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 needs to take a printed letter with an invitation for an interview and the results of a medical examination. 

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.

How to Obtain a US Immigrant Visa: A Procedure
US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Office in Silicon Valley

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 from $200,000 in a new or existing company. It is also imperative to create at least five new jobs.

business investment amount

Investors with an E-2 visa can live, work, do business and study in the United States. The E-2 visa is a nonimmigrant visa, so its holders can not apply for a Green Card or American citizenship. However, the visa is valid for five years, after which it can be renewed an unlimited number of times. 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.

5 jobs
need to be created to get an E-2

Only citizens of countries with which the United States has a special trade agreement can obtain an E-2 visa. These are Grenada, Montenegro, Turkey, Moldova, Bulgaria and Egypt. E-2 visa applicants go through an interview, but not a medical examination. The visa procedure takes up to three weeks.

Most foreigners can not get an E-2 visa directly, but can get a second passport first. Grenada, Montenegro and Turkey offer citizenship by investment.

Conditions for obtaining citizenship by investment in Grenada, Montenegro and Turkey 

CountryInvestmentsObtaining period
a non-refundable contribution


investments in real estate for 5 years
4 to 6 months
a non-refundable contribution


purchase of a share in a property for 5 years
4 to 6 months
purchase of real estate


a bank deposit, purchase of securities or starting a business
3 to 6 months

More details on how to obtain a second citizenship and an E-2 visa, we have told in the article “How to Get US Citizenship by Investment”.

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 $500,000, you can apply for an EB-5 immigrant visa. You will need to undergo a medical examination and interview. Investors with a Grenadian, Montenegrin 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 I 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 that 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 naturalization. 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.

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What Is an Immigrant Visa to the United States: Types of US Visas and How to Obtain Them