United States immigration law enables certain family members of U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents to become permanent residents (obtain a green card) via specific familial relationships. A citizen of the United States can petition on behalf of their sibling, so they can enter the country from the U.K.
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- What is the F4 Visa?
- Who is eligible for the F4 Visa?
- What are the Sponsor Requirements for an F4 Visa?
- What is the F4 Visa Application Process?
- What is the Petition Stage?
- Medical Examination and Vaccinations
- What is the Immigration Interview?
- What are the Required Documents for an F4 Visa?
- What are the Fees for an F4 Visa?
- Frequently Asked Questions
What is the F4 Visa?
The F4 visa or family fourth preference visa is among the group of immigrant visas to the U.S. known as Family Preference Visas. They enable citizens of the U.S. or lawful permanent residents (LPRs) of the U.S. to reconnect with family members. The U.S. citizen must be 21 years of age and older to petition for the F4 visa.
The family members that are eligible under the F4 category include siblings and their spouses as well as their unmarried children. A holder of an F4 visa is:
- Authorized to work and reside in the United States without the need to obtain employment authorization documents (EAD) from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS)
- Able to apply for a Social Security number
- Allowed to enrol in a university or school to further their education
The F4 visa maintains a yearly cap of 65,000 visas, limiting the visa applications that the relevant authorities can process and approve. The pending excess petitions are rolled over to the following year in chronological order until the priority dates are current. The U.S. Department of State publishes the priority date cut-off dates every month in the visa bulletin.
Who is eligible for the F4 Visa?
The Immigration and Nationality Act outlines the conditions that must be adhered to before any applicant can obtain a particular type of immigrant visa. U.K. nationals cannot apply for an F4 visa directly. Instead, a citizen of the U.S. or lawful permanent resident must petition on behalf of their sibling in the U.K. to move to the U.S.
The eligibility requirements for the sibling visa include requirements for the U.K. sibling seeking to move to the United States and for the citizen in the U.S. seeking to reunite with them. The main eligibility requirement for a U.K. citizen is that they have a sibling residing in the U.S. who is a lawful citizen.
The U.K. citizen may have a spouse and children. The spouse and children are also eligible for the F4 visa. The siblings residing in the U.K. must be able to produce all the required documents and should not be found ineligible.
Under the U.S. immigration law, there are various grounds of inadmissibility. The main categories of inadmissibility include:
- Criminal convictions
- National security issues
- Medical and health reasons
- Fraud or misrepresentation
- Unlawful presence and prior removals
- Likelihood to become a public charge
- Miscellaneous grounds
What are the Sponsor Requirements for an F4 Visa?
The United States citizen seeking to bring their siblings living in the U.K. to the United States must fulfil certain conditions to petition on their behalf.
These conditions include:
- They should be a United States citizen
- They should be 21 years of age or older
- They must be willing and able to sponsor their siblings and to file a petition on their behalf
- They must reside in the United States and hold a permanently registered address in the U.S.
- They must have siblings living in the U.K.
- They must be able to provide proof of the siblings’ relationship with birth certificates or adoption records
- They should be able to financially support an immigrant incapable of doing so or pay back the government if the immigrant receives need-based public assistance.
What is the F4 Visa Application Process?
The process for applying for the F4 visa commences with the United States citizens petitioning for their siblings in the U.K. to join them. The petition must be approved before the siblings in the U.K. can start applying for the F4 visa. A UK citizen seeking to move to the U.S. will not be eligible if they file an application for the visa without the USCIS first approving the petition. As such, the F4 visa application process involves several steps:
- The citizen of the United States files a petition for their sibling, spouse, and unmarried children to the USCIS
- After approval of the petition, the U.K. citizen applies to the Consulate or U.S. Embassy in the U.K.
What is the Petition Stage?
The United States citizen seeking to reunite with their sibling from the U.K. has to petition for the F4 visa to USCIS, which involves filing a Petition for Alien Relative (Form I-130). Form I-130 is necessary for any family-based immigrant petition. The sibling in the U.K. is considered the beneficiary. The U.S. citizen must also pay the appropriate fees to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
The petition names the U.K. sibling as the primary person. If the beneficiary in the U.K. has a spouse and unmarried children, the U.S. sponsor must list them in the petition. Doing so simplifies the process for the entire family to obtain F4 visas in case USCIS approves the petition. The U.S. sponsor is not required to fill out a separate petition for the beneficiary’s spouse and minor children.
Form I-130 contains questions about sibling relationships, U.S. citizen biographical information, beneficiary biographical information, other relatives’ petition history, and contact information. The Petition for Alien Relative is filed through the DHS, and processing may take several months.
The U.S. sponsor must also submit an Affidavit of Support (Form I-864), which is accompanied by recent federal tax returns and W-2s. USCIS will notify the U.S. petitioner of the approval or denial of the petition. If the petition is denied, the USCIS will provide the reasons for the denial, and the U.S. sponsor can submit another corrected petition.
If the USCIS approves the petition, they will send the appropriate documents and instructions to the National Visa Center (NVC), after which the beneficiary in the U.K. can start applying for the F4 visa. The NVC will send a package containing documents and instructions to the visa applicant in the U.K. The documents include the invoice number, fees, payment instructions, the case number, and instructions concerning the next steps.
The sibling in the U.K. can apply for the F4 visa once the NVC sends the approval. The U.K. citizen is required to pay the application fees at the U.S. embassy or consulate in the U.K. Once payment is complete, they will be required to submit the appropriate application forms (Form I-693, Form 1-864, and Form DS-260), submit the requested civil documents, complete the visa interview and wait for the visa approval.
Medical Examination and Vaccinations
All applicants for immigration from the United Kingdom to the United States, or any other foreign country for that matter, must adhere to the medical and vaccination requirements before they can reside in the U.S. permanently. Among the documents and instructions, the NVC sends after approving the petition is information on the medical exams and vaccinations the beneficiary and their family have to complete to apply for the F4 visa.
The beneficiary in the U.K. must visit a USCIS-approved doctor and fill in the documents the doctor signs. They must attach these documents with other supporting documents when they file their application to the NVC through the U.S. Embassy or consulate in the U.K.
The medical examination includes a mental and physical assessment, medical history review, drug and alcohol screening, tests for various diseases, and immunization records. Some health-related issues can render the U.K. beneficiary inadmissible. These include communicable diseases, mental or physical disorders that may result in substance abuse, and harmful or dangerous behaviour.
What is the Immigration Interview?
All immigration applicants have to undertake an interview with an official at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in the U.K. The NVC ensures that all the documents are in order and schedules an interview that the U.K. beneficiary must attend in time. If the spouse and minor children of the beneficiary were listed in the petition, they also must attend the interview.
The beneficiary must present copies of the civil document they submitted to the NVC. The interviewer will determine if the applicant is eligible for the F4 visa and also determine the accuracy of the provided documentation. They will also inquire about the background of the beneficiary.
What are the Required Documents for an F4 Visa?
British F4 visa applicants must produce all the necessary documents supporting their case. The applicant has to convince the Consulate or U.S. Embassy in the U.K. and the NVC that they (and their family) fulfil all the requirements necessary for eligibility for the F4 visa. The document file must contain:
- Valid passports for over six months following their entry into the United States
- A signed Affidavit of Support (Form I-864) from the sibling petitioner in the U.S.
- Form DS-260 confirmation page
- Two current photographs per individual
- Medical exam and vaccination documents
- Valid marriage certificate to prove marriage
- Birth certificate or adoption documents of minor children
- Police certificate or court and criminal records certificate
- Divorce certificate or death certificate to prove official termination of any previous marriage
- Military records if the applicant served in the military
What are the Fees for an F4 Visa?
Throughout the F4 visa application process, there are several fees that the U.K. applicant and the U.S. petitioner have to pay. The fees are determined by the USCIS, the DHS, and the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in the U.K. The main categories of fees to be paid include:
- Form I-130 filing fee ($535)
- Form I-864 filing fee
- Form DS-260 processing fee
- Medical exam and vaccination fees
- USCIS Immigrant Fee (must be paid after the applicant receives their visa before travelling to the United States).
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Frequently Asked Questions
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The F4 visa is an immigrant visa (aka, green card) that grants the holder to stay in the United States indefinitely. Green card holders who have lived in the United States continuously for at least 5 years are eligible to apply for U.S. Citizenship if they choose to do so.
As there is a yearly cap for the number of F4 visas issued per year, visa applicants must wait for their priority date to become current before continuing on to the application stage.
Applicants who apply from countries where the visa demand is low could have their applications processed more quickly than other counties where demand is high. Some visa applications take years to be processed. In some extreme cases, it can take 10 years to be approved for an F4 visa.