The IR5 visa is a family-based immigrant visa that allows United States citizens to sponsor their parents for permanent residence in the U.S. In order to receive an IR5 visa, the parent must be approved after an interview at the US Embassy or US Consulate in their home country. Once the visa has been issued, the parent will be given a certain amount of time to enter the US on the IR5 visa and establish residency. This type of visa is very popular for parents of US citizens who obtained their permanent residence (green card) through employment and later naturalized. Some of the more popular countries for IR5 visas are India and the Philippines.

The processing time for the IR5 visa can vary depending on the country of origin and other factors. Please note that a green card for parents of US Citizens who simply wish to visit their child in the US temporarily may not be the best option because permanent residence in the US requires a significant amount of physical presence – for short-term, non-immigrant visas, parents can apply for a US tourist visa instead.

In order for the parent to be eligible for an IR5 visa, the US citizen child must be at least 21 years old, file an I-130 petition with USCIS and provide evidence of their relationship with their parent(s), such as a birth certificate. Sponsoring a father for an IR5 visa may trigger greater scrutiny of the application, especially if the child’s biological parents were not married to each other at the time of the child’s birth.

Further, each US Citizen who wishes to sponsor a parent for an IR5 visa must show that they make enough money, or have enough assets, to financially support the immigrant. The amount needed for sponsorship varies depending on family size and the current year’s HHS Poverty Guidelines. US Citizen petitioners who do not meet this financial requirement may be able to ask a spouse, friend or other family member help meet their obligations.

Filing the I-130 Petition

Every IR5 visa case starts with the US Citizen filing an I-130 Petition for Alien Relative with USCIS (US Citizenship and Immigration Services). Along with the form itself, the petitioner must also provide proof of US Citizenship (typically either a US Passport of Naturalization Certificate), their birth certificate and, if filing for a father, the parents’ marriage certificate. Unfortunately, not all countries have maintained birth and marriage records to cover the the particular year of birth or marriage. For instance, IR5 visa applicants from India may need to submit additional documentation to supplement the application where actual certificates are not available. Your immigration lawyer should be aware of any special requirements and be able to help guide you on where to look for supplemental material.

Consular Processing – NVC

Once the parent I-130 petition has been approved, USCIS will forward the case to the State Department’s National Visa Center (NVC) for further processing. The NVC will issue a case number and initialize the CEAC portal. After the visa fees are paid, the parent’s DS-260 immigrant visa application will unlock. It is extremely important to fill this out as truthfully and accurately as possible. Mistakes on the DS-260, whether intentional or accidental, can have unfavorable consequences later on. All consular documents will be uploaded to the portal to be reviewed by the NVC and, later, the interviewing officer at the US Embassy interview.

These documents include the parent’s birth certificate, marriage certificate, and police clearance certificate. This is also the point where the petitioning US Citizen child will upload the required financial documents. If the child needs the assistance of a joint sponsor or household member to meet the financial requirements, an additional step will need to be completed to unlock that person’s portion of the portal so that additional documents can be uploaded.

The processing time from the approval of the parent’s I-130 to the NVC determining that the case has been “documentarily qualified” for interview can vary dramatically.  Not only does the NVC workload ebb and flow, sometimes creating backlogs for portal initiation and document review, but the time needed to collect, prepare and upload case documents can vary depending on the specific characteristics of each case. For instance, where birth certificates, marriage certificates or other vital records are not readily available, such as in India, the overall IR5 visa process will take longer than in a country that has been requiring the registration of life events and maintaining records routinely.

Consular Processing – IR5 Interview Prep

Once the IR5 case is “documentarily qualified” at the NVC, the parent will be put in line for an interview at the US Embassy where they live (most IR5 interviews in India will take place in Mumbai; all IR5 interviews in Philippines will take place in Manila). The wait for an interview will depend on how busy the Embassy is.

Once an interview date has been set, the parent will need to attend a medical exam with the doctor selected by the Embassy and, in some cases, a fingerprinting session at an Embassy facility. Both the scheduling of the fingerprinting session and selection of the location where the applicant would like their passport returned after visa issuance will be handled via an online account – this account should only be created once the interview date has been set.

After the IR5 Interview

Once the parent’s visa has been approved, they will return home to wait for the Embassy to return their passport with the new IR5 visa inside – the process typically takes two weeks. The visa will have an expiration date – the parent must arrive in the US by this date. It is recommended that the final fee, the green card printing fee (currently $220), be paid prior to entry so that once the parent arrives, the Lawful Permanent Resident Card (green card) and Social Security Card follow shortly in the mail.

The green card issued after arrival on an IR5 visa will be good for 10 years before it needs to be renewed; most parents will be eligible for US Citizenship after 5 years.