An immigrant visa is required of anyone who wishes to enter the United States to reside there permanently, whether or not that person plans to seek employment in the U.S.  The filing of an immigrant visa petition is also the initial step required to receive a Permanent Resident card (also known as a “green card”).  An immigrant visa holder who successfully enters the U.S. with the intention to reside there will receive a Permanent resident card during the first year of residency.  In most cases, with the exception of the Diversity Immigrant Visa Lottery, you can only receive an immigrant visa if someone files an immigrant visa petition on your behalf.  You cannot petition for your own immigrant visa.

U.S. immigration law provides for the issuance of immigrant visas in four general categories:

  1. Sponsorship by an Immediate Relative
  2. Sponsorship by family member
  3. Sponsorship by a prospective employer
  4. Returning Resident – SB-1
  5. Winning the Diversity Immigrant Visa Lottery

All family and employment based applications start with a petition, filed with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).  Diversity visa applications start with the aspiring immigrant entering the Diversity Visa Lottery.