USA and the UK
What are the family-based options to immigrate from India to the USA?
You can apply for an Immigrant Visa (IV) as an Indian citizen through a member of your family who is either a U.S citizen or Green Card holder (U.S. Lawful Permanent Resident).
Your family member, who must be at least 21, will be your sponsor to come to the USA.
There are various pathways for coming to the USA from India through family-based immigration:
- Immediate relative (IR Visa)
- Family preference
- Fiancé Visa (K-1 Visa)
Immediate relative (IR)
Immediate Relative Visas can be given to close family members of US citizens (spouses, unmarried children under 21, and parents).
The relatives of Green Card holders cannot apply for IR Visas for Indian citizens. Also, it is impossible to sponsor friends for a visa from India.
The most common IR Visas are IR-1 Visas, also known as marriage Green Cards, and IR-2 Visas (for unmarried children under 21 of a U.S. citizen).
IR-1 Visas are often confused with CR-1 Visas (conditional relative). Although the two are very similar, IR-1 Visas are only given to couples who have been married for at least two years.
CR-1 are given to recent couples if they remain married for at least two years. After two years in the USA, the foreign spouse will lose their conditional status and can apply for a 10-year Green Card. There can be no break in the marriage during this time.
There are multiple levels of family preference visas for Indian citizens:
- First preference (F1): the unmarried children under 21 years of age of US citizens.
- Second preference (F2A): the spouses and unmarried children under 21 years of age of Green Card holders.
- Second preference (F2B): the unmarried children aged 21 and over of Green Card holders.
- Third preference (F3): the married children of US citizens.
- Fourth preference (F4): the siblings of a US citizen who is at least 21.
U.S. citizens can sponsor their spouses, kids, parents, and siblings. Green Card holders can only sponsor their spouses and unmarried children.
For immediate relative and family preference visas, the sponsor must file an I-130 form (“Petition for Alien Relative”). It’s an essential part of the application process. The form can be filed online or sent by post.
The I-130 form serves to prove that a marriage is authentic in the case of a marriage visa. A successful application will require authentic marriage certificates and a valid passport for each applicant. It is essential that all the documentation with correct information is present in each application.
The US government will require valid birth certificates and a valid passport for an application process. Do not forget to do any passport corrections before starting your application to come to the USA from India.
After the I-130 form has been approved, the applicant has to file an I-864 form in order to prove financial stability. This is to make sure that the applicant won’t be relying on US government funds.
For all family visas, the next step is to file form I-485, which is the application for the Green Card. Once form I-485 has been processed and accepted, the applicant is officially a permanent resident in the USA.
K-1 fiancé(e) Visa
The K-1 Visa lets a US citizen bring back their Indian fiancé(e) back to the USA with a 90-day visa. During these 90 days, the couple will have to be married in the US. After the end of the 90 days, the foreign fiancé(e) will have to apply for a Green Card.
K-1 Visas are available to couples who can prove that they have met at least once before in the past two years, that they intend to be married within the 90-day period, and who can meet the income requirements.
The U.S. citizen has to prove with valid documents that they can financially support themselves and their foreign fiancé(e). They only have to prove that they will be living above the poverty line before coming to the USA from India.
The U.S. citizen will have to file a I-129F form (“Petition for Alien Fiancé(e)”) in order to prove that the relationship is real.
After the form has been validated, the foreign fiancé(e) must complete a DS-160 form (“Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application) for the K-1 Visa.
The couple will then be interviewed in a U.S. consulate. If the interview is successful, the foreign fiancé(e) can come to the USA from India to be married and settled.
The next step is to file form I-485, which is the application for the Green Card. Once form I-485 has been processed and accepted, the applicant is officially a permanent resident in the USA.
Can I work in the USA during my family-based visa application?
If you are living in the USA and have an ongoing application, you need to apply for a work permit in order to find employment legally. If you work without permit before you are settled, you will be infringing the law and may need to leave the country.
With a 90-day K1 Visa, you can apply for form I-765 that lets you work for 90 days. At the end of the visa, you will have to apply for another work permit (I-765) with your Green Card application.
There can be a $410 filing fee for the work permit and a potential biometrics test. These fees must be paid from a bank account in the USA. The work permit will be valid for up to two years during the application process. Once the application is accepted, there will be no need for a work permit.
There are many immigrants coming to the USA, since the USA is known for its exciting job opportunities. Employment is not the only way to get a visa for the USA, Indian students come to the country to benefit from American culture and the top-tier education system.
Coming from India, the main visas that can be obtained through employment or study are:
- Permanent (Immigrant) Worker Visas (EB)
- Student Visas (F)
- Intracompany transfer Visas (L)
- Specialty worker Visas (H-1B)
Permanent (Immigrant) Worker Visas
These visas allow workers to come to the USA from India to find existing employment. People from India who get these visas have to prove that they are priority workers, that is to say that they have an exceptional skill set and are not taking jobs away from U.S. citizens.
The US employer has to provide the right documents (ETA Form 9089 that provides a “labor certification”) to prove that the person from India is eligible to come into the country through employment. The form will have to be approved by the Department of Labor.
There are five levels of EB Visas:
- First preference (EB-1): For people with “extraordinary ability” like academics, scientists, athletes, or business professionals. EB-1 Visas do not require an ETA Form 9089 to be accepted.
- Second preference (EB-2): For expert workers who have either an advanced degree, ten years experience in a given field, or who can be of national interest to the USA. The first two options require labor certification.
- Third preference (EB-3): For people from India with a bachelor’s degree, or skilled and unskilled workers with a non-temporary job offer from an employer in the USA. EB-3 Visas require labor certification.
- Fourth preference (EB-4): For specific people from India, like religious workers.
- Fifth preference (EB-5): For investors from India, who spend at least $1.8 million in investments in the USA. They do not need labor certification.
F-1 Visas apply to students who are enrolled at an academic institution in the USA. In order to work, they need to complete at least one year of study. If they carry on studying, they can work wherever they wish, even off campus.
The F-1 Visa is only valid for the duration of the degree, after which the visa-holder will have to leave the country. This is because they are cultural exchange visas. Extra visas may let you stay longer in the USA.
Intracompany transfer Visas
These visas are specifically for employees or managers and executives who work in a company in India that has a branch in the USA. With L-1 Visas, workers can come to the USA from India to work for the American branch and live their life in the USA.
There are two types of L-1 Visas: L-1A Visas are for managers or executives in the company, and L-1B are for employees with specialized knowledge. L1 Visas will only let people in the country if it can be proven that the worker from India is not taking away jobs from U.S. citizens.
The documents that must be provided are labor certifications, filed by the U.S. employer.
Afterwards, the employer will file a I-140 Form so that the worker can come to the USA from India to work.
L-1A Visas let you stay in the country for 3 years and can be renewed for an extra 2 years for up to 7 years in total. L1-B Visas let you stay in the country for 3 years as well, but can only be renewed to a total of 5 years.
If you do not wish to go back to India during your visa period, you can apply for a Green Card.
Specialty Worker Visas
Specialty Worker Visas, or H-1B Visas, are nonimmigrant visas that let people into the country from India for a specific amount of time. The visas are only valid for specialty jobs that require a bachelor’s degree, such as architecture, IT, or finance.
Specialized workers from around the world want these visas, so there is a cap at 65,000 per year. It limits the amount of people who can come to the USA from India with these visas.
Which visas let me apply for a Green Card?
The only visas that will let you come to the USA from India and then apply for a Green Card are immigrant visas. That means that only EB and L Visas offer the option of later applying to be a permanent lawful resident.
Whilst your visa is valid, you will have to file form I-485, which is the application form for the Green Card. Bear in mind, however, that processing times can be quite long, as the U.S. immigration services have to deal with applications from all over the world.
Failing medical examinations
Most visas to come to the USA from India require medical examinations, such as a chest X-ray, a physical examination, and blood tests. You will also need to provide a medical history review. Medical examinations are conducted to determine how expensive your health insurance will be.
Certain criminal violations
Your visa application to come to the USA from India will be denied if you have a criminal record that is considered too severe. If you have been previously arrested and convicted, you may be permanently blocked from applying for a visa.
If you have entered the country illegally, you will not be eligible for a visa.
The most common reason for unsuccessful applications is that they are incomplete. It can be difficult to know what to include in your application, as there are many required documents and the information provided by the U.S. isn’t always clear.
The documents you will have to provide during your visa interview are:
- A valid passport – an international driving permit or driving license will not work
- Proof of financial stability – this can include income tax logins
- A confirmation of the DS-160 Form
- A photograph for the passport
- Proof of having paid the fees
- Medical examination results
- Proof of ties in India for when the visa expires
Having a complete application is essential to getting your visa. We understand, however, that it can be confusing and difficult at times.
IAS is here to help you in your application process. We have experienced immigration lawyers who are there to answer your questions and understand your unique situation.
Your dedicated lawyer will help you have a complete application with all the necessary paperwork that will meet USCIS standards.
In addition to helping you with your application, we will write a letter of recommendation to explain why you are a good candidate for a visa.
With our help, your application will have the greatest chance of success.
Last modified on February 27th, 2023 at 7:23 am
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The Green Card lottery randomly awards 50,000 Green Cards every year. The lottery only applies to countries that are below the visa threshold, so Indian citizens cannot benefit from it.
Getting a Green Card is also an expensive process, as there are multiple fees along the way that will need paying. The fees cannot be paid with cash or with an Indian debit card. Instead, the fees have to be paid from a valid bank account in the USA.
K-1 Visa: $800
IR Visa when applicant is living in India: minimum $1,200
IR Visa when applicant is living in the USA: minimum $1,760
EB Visas: $700 (paid by employer)
F Visa: $510
L-1 Visa: at least $1,120 with additional fees for the employer depending on the size of the company.
I-465 form (Green Card): $1,140
Medical examinations: $60-$300
K-1 Visa: 6-10 months
IR Visas: 4 months to 4 years
EB Visas: 6 months, with the option to have premium processing for an additional fee of $1,225
F Visas: a few weeks to a couple months
L-1 Visa: 6-12 months, with the option to have premium processing for an additional fee of $1,225
Processing times can vary largely based on the details of your application. Use this government tool to see how long your application may take to process.