Question: My brother who is a U.S. citizen filed papers for me to join him five years ago. We have not heard or received any information. From which agency can I receive an update?
Answer: Your issue is a very common one and we are happy to provide insight into the process. Due to close family ties, many Trinbagonians are now legal permanent residents and citizens of the United States after being “petitioned” by a family member. U.S. immigration law is designed to reunite families in the United States. There are two parts to the process, the petition and the visa, and there can be several years between the two parts.
In most cases, obtaining an immigrant visa starts with the filing of a petition on behalf of the applicant by a family member in the United States. In your case, the family relationship makes you initially eligible to receive an immigrant visa.
After approval of the petition by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS), it is forwarded to the National Visa Center (NVC) which does all processing and accepts fees before sending it to the Embassy. However, most petitions do not move directly to this stage. As there are annual numerical limits for most immigrant visa categories, it can take several years until the petition can be used for a visa application. Each petition has a “priority date” based on when USCIS approved the petition. Visa processing will begin when the petition’s priority date is reached. When the priority date begins to approach, the NVC will initiate processing by providing information packets to the beneficiary at various stages in the preparation process and by requesting additional supporting documents. Some of the supporting documents must come from the petitioner.
Current priority dates are shown in the Visa Bulletin at travel.state.gov. Since your U.S. citizen brother filed the petition, your case is an F4. As of today, the priority date for F4 immigrants is December 22, 2004. This means that if your petition’s priority date is on or before December 22, 2004, the visa process may begin and NVC will schedule your interview and transfer your file to the Embassy.
Please ensure that changes to the petitioner’s U.S. address or contact information are reported to NVC to ensure that information packets and instructions are received in a timely manner. Updates can be provided by phone at 1(603) 334-0700. You can also check the status of your application online by entering the petition receipt number at egov.uscis.gov .
In preparation for your interview at the Embassy, you and each qualified family member immigrating with you must complete a visa application with current information. At the interview, a Consular Officer will review your case for any potential ineligibility which may include legal, medical and financial matters. Original documents to demonstrate your relationship to the petitioner will also be requested at the interview so take time now to ensure documents such as passports, birth certificates, marriage certificates, divorce decrees and immunization records are updated, complete and in a safe place.
Additional information on the process is available at www.uscis.gov. For case specific inquires, send an email to PTSIV@state.gov, and remember to provide the full names of the beneficiaries, petitioner, case number and a daytime phone number along with your question.