What is the F4 Visa?
For easy Family Reunions, the U.S. government created the F4 visa (Family Fourth Preference Visa.) It’s part of the Immigrant Visas called the Family Preference Visas. This variant allows permanent and lawful residents of the U.S. to petition on behalf of their immediate family members (siblings, their spouses, and unmarried minors) so they can enter the country.
With the F4 visa, the invited people can settle permanently, study and work without any restrictions in the U.S. However, this visa does not apply to extended family members (aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents).
The process can be tricky, so we’ve made it easier for you to understand. We’ll take you through in measured steps.
Eligibility for the F4 Visa
All parties involved in a family reunion must fulfill unique conditions—the sibling resident in the U.S. and the sibling coming from Ireland or another country. The primary requirement for the invited sibling is that the U.S petitioner must be a lawfully recognized citizen.
As a U.S. relative bringing your siblings to the country permanently, these are the
- The applicant (your sibling) must be at least 21 years old. That’s the official adult age in the United States.
- You must show proof of sibling relationships through birth certificates or adoption documents.
- You must show a valid U.S. address with proof of residency.
- You must be a U.S. citizen. Fellow Visa holders can’t apply for F4 visas on behalf of another. It doesn’t matter that your visa is valid for many years.
Application process for the F4 Visa
The F4 Visa application is a two-part process.
The first stage requires the U.S. citizen to file a petition. This petition is Form I-130. Upon a successful petition, you may proceed to apply for the F4 Visa. Here are the steps in detail;
STEP 1: FORM I-130
Filing a Form I-130: The U.S citizen files a petition by filing Form I-130 (Petition for Alien Relative) for their sibling to the U.S Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). This form proves the relationship between a petitioner (the family member) and the beneficiary (the family member seeking a Green Card.)
The petition must list the intending immigrant as the main party. Any other immediate family members – spouse and children – are secondary; however, you must indicate their existence.
Submission to Homeland Security: Next, you send the petition through the Department of Homeland Security. This step takes a few months to process, after which the consular informs the petitioner of the state’s approval or denial. You may correct your errors and try again. However, approval means the documents move to the next stage – the National Visa Center (NVC).
Document transfer to the National Visa Center: The National Visa Center (NVC), in turn, sends a package of instructions and documents containing the case and invoice ID number to the applicants (siblings) in Ireland. Use these documents at the start of your application procedure and pay fees.
Please note that an I-130 approval isn’t a visa, and it doesn’t grant someone the privilege to stay in the U.S. It’s merely a preamble to the actual F4 visa.
STEP 2: F4 VISA
After the Form I-130 petition approval, the sibling and his family (if married with
children) must apply for and submit F4 visas individually to a U.S embassy in Dublin.
Filing Form DS-260: As the intending immigrant sibling, you must file Form DS-260 (immigrant visa electronic application). If you have an immediate family (spouse and children), they must do the same individually. This form includes your background information and reasons for immigration.
After submission, you’ll get a confirmation page and number. Save it and send a copy with other relevant documents (see Step 1 above) to the NVC.
- Complete the list of compulsory medical checkups and vaccines.
- Send the results to the NVC.
- Attach a document signed by a licensed doctor indicating a complete process.
- Forward the complete documents to the NVC.
Documents required for a valid Form I-130
- Proof of citizenship or permanent resident status:
You can submit a Birth certificate, Form N-550 (Naturalization,) Form N-560 (Citizenship,) Form FS-240 (U.S. citizens born abroad,) or a valid U.S. passport.
- Proof of the bonafide relationship between the sponsor and beneficiary:
Submit a birth or adoption certificate. Any official document that proves your familial relationship would suffice.
- Proof that the relationship is legitimate:
Proof of name changes for either the sponsor or the beneficiary: The U.S. embassy understands siblings don’t always have the same last name. If you or your sibling changed your name in the past, submit a legal document proving the change. It can be a marriage certificate or affidavit.
- Proof of the beneficiary’s nationality:
As the intending immigrant, your National ID card or International Passport is a valid document to prove your nationality.
Submitting a complete document file at the embassy
The document file must contain the prerequisites to secure the application. It’s the only way to convince the consulate that you’ve fulfilled the requirements.
- Submit a valid passport, including your immediate family’s own. It must remain valid for more than six months after entry into the United States.
- Submit a signed Form I-864, including an affidavit of support from your U.S. resident sibling. This form indicates that a Green Card applicant will not depend on welfare programs. If the applicant does not have any source of income, they will be financially dependent on the sponsor.
In any case, the applicant will not be dependent on the U.S government. It’s an agreement between the applicant’s sponsor and the U.S government that he/she agrees to be financially responsible for the applicant for an indefinite period.
- Form DS-260 confirmation page
- Medical examination and vaccination documents
- Two photographs per individual
- A valid marriage certificate to prove marriage
- Birth certificates or legal adoption documents to prove a parent-child relationship
- Present your Courts and criminal records or police certificate. It would be best to have a clean record because any run-in with the law may lead to Visa revocation.
- Divorce papers or death papers; in case of dissolution of marriage or death of a spouse
- Military records if they have served in the military
Cost of the F4 Visa application
The fees and cost of applying for the F4 visa by the applicant and the petitioner varies. You’ll pay fees to the USCIS, the Department of Homeland Security, and the individual U.S Consulate.
The following are categories of fees you must pay.
- Pay a Form I-130 filing fee.
- Processing fee for the Form DS-260
- Medical examination and vaccination fees to get and translate all the supporting documents.
- USCIS immigrant fee, which you pay after receiving your visa (be
Issues that may arise during the F4 Visa process
Some unavoidable errors may occur that will mar the processing of the F4 visa petition. They are;
- Form I-130 petition for Alien relative not approved because of improper filling
- Your petition may get stuck with the USCIS.
- DS-260 wrongly filled.
- Invalid document notification
- Sometimes after filing the necessary documents, the sponsor is not financially capable of supporting the applicant. Your only solution is finding a joint sponsor, and this can delay your process.
- A case under administrative processing may take several months to complete, and sometimes the visa may be refused.
Start the process as soon as possible because it’s time-consuming. Consider
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Albeit tasking and lengthy, an F4 visa holder can transition into a green cardholder. The maximum number for this category is 65,000 yearly, so you may be lucky or not to fit into the quota.
You can access healthcare in the U.S as an F4 visa holder.
However, the cost of getting medical treatment in the U.S is a bit expensive, so we strongly advise that you pick a health insurance plan. Find one that’s affordable and wide enough to cover your needs – a family plan is ideal if you have a spouse and child(ren.)
After the embassy grants the visa and stamps your passport, you get an immigrant package. Remember to take it along until you arrive in the United States untouched. An immigration official who determines entry into the U.S or not opens the package at the entry point.
All immigration applicants must pass through an interview process at the U.S embassy in their country of residence. The NVC will schedule this interview, and if the spouse and minor children are applying, they must also be present.
The interviewer asks questions about the background and determines whether to grant the visa or not.
Due to the limited number of visas issued each year, the applicants cannot start their application until their priority date is current, which means the application is chronological. The processing time can be very long, and it ranges between 1 to 10 years.