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Immigrant Visas

How to Begin the Immigrant Visa Process

An immigrant visa is a document issued by a U.S. consular officer abroad that allows you to travel to the United States and apply for admission as a legal permanent resident (LPR). An immigration inspector of U.S. Customs and Border Protection of the Department of Homeland Security makes the final decision as to whether or not to admit you as an LPR. Once you are admitted as an LPR, you generally have the right to live and work in the United States permanently. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services of the Department of Homeland Security will mail your permanent resident card (often called a “green card”) to your new address in the United States, usually within three months of your entry into the United States. Please see 22 CFR 42.11 for a list of immigrant visa classification symbols and a brief description of each.

What are the basic paths that lead to an immigrant visa?

There are three basic methods for obtaining an immigrant visa:

  1. Through a family relationship with a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident or
  2. Through employment
  3. Through the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program (the visa lottery).

Most applicants in Colombia obtain their immigrant visas via family relationships.

How do I start the process of obtaining my immigrant visa?

The first step in obtaining a family-based immigrant visa is for your relative (the petitioner) to file a Form I-130 (Petition for Alien Relative) U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) of the Department of Homeland Security. Your relative generally must file the petition by mail at the USCIS Service Center in the United States with jurisdiction over his or her place of residence. Once your relative has filed a petition for you, you may check its status by accessing the USCIS Case Status Search Page. with

You may obtain an immigrant visa through employment rather than through a family member. More information on obtaining an immigrant visa through employment rather than through a family member is available from USCIS.

Please see the Instructions for the 2008 Diversity Immigrant Visa Program (DV-2008) for more information on the visa lottery. Note that natives of Colombia do not qualify as principal applicants in the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program.