7 Steps for Immigrating to the U.S.

Immigration can be a long and arduous process, and sometimes it can seem really complicated. There are several steps and forms you have to fill out along the way, but immigrating to the United States will go more smoothly if you follow these seven steps.

Step 1: File a petition for an immigration visa.
Before you can enter the United States, you need to file a petition for an immigration visa. First, complete and file a form based on your reason for entering the country. If you have family you wish to join, you file an I-130 with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). You can file for a work visa through your employer using an I-140 form. Alternatively, you can use an I-94 form to get a temporary arrival/departure visa in order to complete the following steps.

Step 2: Assemble all necessary documents for the visa interview.
According to the U.S. Department of State, you must provide originals and photocopies of the following documents for the visa interview: 

  • Appointment Letter received from the National Visa Center (if you fail to bring this letter, you will be turned away)
  • Passport(s) valid for six months beyond the intended date of entry into the United States
  • Police certificate(s)
  • Birth certificate(s)
  • Court and prison records, if applicable
  • Military records, if applicable
  • Color photographs
  • Marriage certificate, if applicable
  • Affidavit of Support (form I-134), a notarized offer of employment, or evidence of assets
  • Divorce decree or death certificate of spouse, if applicable
  • Family-based cases: All original documents establishing the relationship between the petitioner and the applicant
  • Employment-based cases: A current and valid letter from the prospective employer confirming the job offer

Step 4: Get a medical examination.
Anyone immigrating to the United States for any reason must undergo a medical examination before receiving a visa. You will receive three options of where you can have your medical examination performed. Get the medical examination at least two business days prior to your visa interview. Individuals under the age of 14 should have the exam at least four business days before the visa interview.

Step 5: Attend the interview.
On the day of the interview, do not arrive more than 30 minutes early for your appointment. Bring the original documentation with photocopies required for the interview. Do not forget your National Visa Center letter under any circumstances.

When you enter, you must undergo a security check similar to what you may encounter at an airport. Once you are allowed into the consulate, you will be given a ticket number that you'll need during the interview process.

During the interview, never give false or inaccurate information. False information can cause your application to be rejected.

Step 6: Wait for your approval or denial.
After the interview, all documents will be returned upon request if you provided photocopies. If approved, you will receive a packet from DHL. If you are found ineligible, you will be sent a letter of refusal stating the reason you didn't obtain your visa. Sometimes, it may take longer than usual to receive your letter based on when you had your medical examination.

Step 7: Carefully go through your packet and follow the instructions.
If you are approved, you will receive a packet from a DHL courier. Within this packet will be another sealed packet containing documents you must present to U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Under no circumstances should you open this packet. You will also receive your visa and passport, and you should immediately check that the information on them is correct. Carefully read the other information provided in the packet. You must travel to the U.S. before your visa expires, but before you go you will have to pay a fee to the USCIS.