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January 4th 2020

F-4 Visa: How to bring your sibling to the U.S.

Are you a citizen of the United States with a sibling in another country? It’s possible to petition on behalf of your sibling so that they may enter the U.S.. Read on to learn more about you can petition for a F4 visa on behalf of your brother or sister.

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What is the F-4 visa?

The F4 visa is a type of family preference visa that allows U.S. citizens to petition on behalf of their siblings. Eligible family members under this category include siblings as well as their spouses and unmarried children.

An F4 visa holder may:

  • be authorized to live and work in the U.S. without having to secure an employment authorization document from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS)

  • apply for a Social Security number

  • enroll in a school or a university to further their education

What are family preference visas?

Family preference visas are available to people with family members who are U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents. There are different kinds of family preference visas, depending on your relationship with the U.S. citizen.

  • F1 or family first preference visa

    : Unmarried children of U.S. citizens and their children

  • F2 or family second preference visa

    : Spouses, minor children and unmarried children of lawful U.S. permanent residents

  • F3 family third preference visa

    : Married children of U.S. citizens and their children

  • F4 or family fourth preference visa

    : Siblings of U.S. citizens as well as their spouses and unmarried children 

F2 visas are further divided into two subcategories:

  1. F2a visas

    are available to spouses and minor children of U.S. lawful permanent residents

  2. F2b visas

    are available for unmarried children of lawful permanent residents who are older than 21 years old

Who can apply for an F-4 visa?

Foreign nationals can’t apply for an F4 visa directly. Instead, a U.S. citizen or long term permanent resident must a petition on behalf of their sibling to come to the U.S.

To petition on behalf of a sibling, you must: 

  • be a U.S. citizen

  • be at least 21 years old

  • be willing to sponsor your sibling and to file a petition on their behalf

  • reside in the U.S. and have a permanent registered address in the country

  • have siblings living in a foreign country

  • be able to prove the sibling relationship with adoption records or birth certificates

Your sibling must be able to provide all the necessary documents and must not be found ineligible.

There are multiple grounds of inadmissibility under U.S. immigration law. The major categories of inadmissibility include the following:

  • Health and medical reasons

  • Criminal convictions

  • National security issues

  • Likelihood to become a public charge

  • Fraud or misrepresentation

  • Prior removals or unlawful presence

  • Miscellaneous grounds

Did you know?

You can use your foreign credit history to apply for a U.S. credit card

Credit history used to stop at the border—until now. Your existing foreign credit history could help you get credit in the United States.

What are the required documents for the F-4 visa application?

Make sure your sibling prepares the following documents before you begin processing their application:

  • Valid passport

  • Affidavit of support from the petitioner

  • F4 visa application

  • Two U.S. passport-approved photographs

  • Completed medical examination and vaccination forms

  • Civil documents

  • Birth certificate or adoption certificate

  • Any court records

  • Certified copy of marriage certificate

  • Military records, if any

  • A photocopy of the biographic information page in their passport

  • Police certificates for every country that they have lived in

The National Visa Center will inform you about any required vaccinations or medical records. A licensed doctor must complete the medical examination and give them the required vaccines. A list of necessary vaccinations is available on the U.S. Department of State's website.

Is there an application cap for F-4 visas?

Like other types of family preference visas, there’s a limit on the number of F4 visas issued each year. The F4 visa has an annual cap of 65,000.

The excess number of petitions are rolled over to subsequent years in chronological order until their priority dates become current. The U.S. Department of State publishes the cut-off dates for priority dates each month in the visa bulletin.

What is the application process for an F-4 visa?

Family preference applications first require the U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident to file the petition. Upon approval, their family members may file for a visa in their home country’s U.S. consulate or embassy.

Step 1: Filing the petition

The U.S. citizen begins the application process by filing Form I-130 and paying the appropriate fee to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS). You may also pay with a credit card by using Form G-1450.

In the petition, you must name your sibling as the “primary person.” If your sibling is married with minor children, the petition can also include their spouse and each minor child.

Step 2: Petition processed

Upon submission, the petition is processed, which can take up to several months. The USCIS then informs the petitioner whether or not their petition was approved.

If denied, you will be notified about the reason why the petition was rejected. If approved, the petition will be sent to the National Visa Center (NVC).

Step 3: Getting a case number

The NVC will send the approval documents to you and your sibling. The documents include the petition’s case number, instructions about the next steps, fees and payment instructions. 

After the NVC finishes processing the petition and sends its approval, your sibling may apply for an F4 visa.

Step 4: Fee payment and document submission

Your sibling needs to pay the application fees at their home country’s U.S. consulate or embassy. Once payment is complete, your sibling will submit the following:

  • Affidavit of support.

    The affidavit of support is filed on

    . The affidavit of support is a contract stating that you agree to use your financial resources to sponsor your sibling after they arrive in the U.S.

  • The application forms. Your sibling submits Forms DS-260 and DS-261.

  • The requested civil documents.

    Civil documents include a birth certificate or adoption certificate; any court records; certified copy of marriage certificate; military records, if any; a photocopy of the biographic information page in their passport; police certificates for every country lived in.

Form DS-260 is submitted online. To access the form, your sibling needs to enter their NVC-assigned case number to link their application to the approved petition. They will need to submit a separate Form DS-260 for their spouse and for each of their children. Your sibling also needs to file Form DS-261 (unless they have an attorney).

Note that the affidavit of support states that you will be sponsoring your sibling until they have earned 40 quarters of work in the U.S. or have become a U.S. citizen. Normally, this takes 10 years.

Step 5: Visa interview

Your sibling needs to complete a visa interview to get their F4 visa at the U.S. consulate or embassy in their home country.

Once the NVC is satisfied with the submitted documents, it will schedule an interview for your sibling, their spouse and their children. At the interview, they will be asked questions about their background.

Step 6: Visa approval

The consular or embassy official will decide whether or not your sibling receives an F4 visa.

Once approved, the consular or embassy official will stamp your sibling’s passport. They will also receive a sealed packet of documents that must not be opened. Only the immigration officer in the U.S. is allowed to open this packet as they enter the country.

What happens when the F-4 visa application is denied?

If a visa applicant is denied based on a ground of inadmissibility, it may be possible to secure a waiver of inadmissibility. Grounds of inadmissibility are:

  • Health and medical reasons

  • Criminal convictions

  • National security issues

  • Likelihood to become a public charge

  • Fraud or misrepresentation

  • Prior removals or unlawful presence

  • Miscellaneous grounds

Whether or not someone is eligible for a waiver will depend on the reason for their denial. Consult a U.S. immigration attorney for further legal advice.

How much are the F-4 visa application fees?

Currently, the fee for a U.S. citizen or long term permanent resident to submit Form I-130 on behalf of their sibling is $535.

Once the petition is approved, the application fee for a family preference visa is $325. This fee is paid per application.

You may expect to incur other expenses from medical examinations to vaccinations, passports, photocopying, translation services and other services during the application process.

How long is the F-4 visa application process?

The processing time for an F4 visa petition and application can range from 1 - 10 years to due to the annual cap on the number of visas issued.

What to do while you wait 

While your sibling waits to hear back about their visa application, they can prepare for their new life in the U.S. For example, did you know that their credit history doesn’t automatically transfer to the states after immigration? That means that U.S. companies and financial institutions will have no record of the F4 visa applicant’s previous financial history. In turn, that can make it very difficult to secure loans, secure an apartment lease, mobile phone companies, and other service providers.  

The takeaway

Nova Credit's Credit Passport® technology helps people bring their credit history with them when they move to the U.S. While this foreign credit history won’t be transferred to national bureau databases, Nova Credit partners with companies to include information from the Credit Passport® in applications to make it easier for newcomers to get approved for credit cards, loans and other products. Once you establish a U.S. credit account using the credit you’ve earned, you can start building a local credit history. Nova Credit currently connects to credit bureaus in Australia, Brazil, Canada, India, Mexico, Nigeria, South Korea and the UK.

Moved to the U.S. from Australia, Kenya, or the Philippines?

Start your U.S. credit building journey on the right foot

A strong credit score helps you access a lot in the U.S., and a credit card is an easy way to start building your U.S. credit score. Access your free international credit score, and see which U.S. credit cards could be right for you.

More from Nova Credit:

The ultimate guide to the F-1 visa

The ultimate guide to the H-1B visa

The ultimate guide to the J-1 visa

The ultimate guide to the L-1 visa

The ultimate guide to the O-1 visa

How to check your USCIS case status

How to read the Visa Bulletin

How to build credit after moving to the US

How to get a social security card

How to get an apartment with no credit history

How to immigrate to the United States

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