Each year, hundreds of thousands of people immigrate legally to the United States. They come from every country and from diverse ethnic, religious and racial backgrounds. The United States was built by immigrants, and Americans are generally proud of that heritage.
The decision to immigrate to the United States is a complex one that goes beyond questions of visa eligibility. Unlike the situation that faced previous generations of immigrants, modern transportation and communications allow immigrants today to maintain substantial ties to their countries of origin. But immigration still requires commitment to a new life in the United States and all the lifestyle changes that entails. Research and advance planning are essential. The US Citizenship and Immigration Services publication "Welcome to the United States: A Guide for New Immigrants" is available in several languages and provides helpful advice which prospective immigrants may wish to review.
What are the types of immigrant visa?
Generally, you need prior ties in the U.S. to immigrate -- a U.S. citizen or permanent resident family member or U.S. employer willing to sponsor you. Qualifying family members include spouses, fiancé(es), parents, children and siblings. Further information on family-based immigration is available here. Information on employment-based immigration can be found here.
In order to increase the diversity of the immigrant population, the U.S. also issues 50,000 immigrant visas each year based on a lottery. Not all nationalities are eligible to participate, but Malaysians are. Information on this Diversity Visa Program can be found here.
Fraud Warning: Some companies posing as the U.S. Government have sought money in order to complete lottery entry forms or otherwise assist with the entry process. Be advised that there is no charge to download and complete the Electronic Diversity Visa Entry Form. There have also been cases where individuals have been fraudulently informed, usually by e-mail, that they have "won" the lottery, and payment has been solicited to start the application process. Be advised that the Department of State notifies successful Diversity Visa applicants by letter, NOT by email, and applicants will be asked to pay fees only at the Embassy on the day of their interview. To learn more, see the Department of State Warning and the Federal Trade Commission Warning. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you believe you are the victim of a scam involving the visa lottery program.
It is also possible to bring adopted children to the U.S. See "Adopting in Malaysia" on the Citizen Services section of this website for details.
How do I apply for an immigrant visa?
The process of obtaining an immigrant visa is complicated and can take significant time to complete.
In general, the process starts with the filing of a petition by the applicant's family member or prospective employer. In almost all cases the petition must be filed in the U.S. with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
Once approved, petitions filed with USCIS will be sent to the National Visa Center (NVC) in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, which will contact the petitioner and/or applicant with required forms and further instructions. Once NVC has received all the required forms and documents, it will schedule an interview appointment for the applicant at the Embassy in Kuala Lumpur. Until an appointment is scheduled, the Embassy will not have any information on a case and will not be able to answer any questions about it.
If a petition is accepted and approved at the Embassy, we will provide the applicant and petitioner the required forms and full instructions on applying for the visa.
When filing a petition, most applicants will need the following. (We are providing this list only to give applicants a general idea of what to expect and to help them prepare. Please do not send anything to NVC until requested.)
- Form DS-260
- Two copies of Form G-325A (PDF - 513kb)
- One color photograph of the petitioner and each beneficiary. The photo must be 2 inches x 2 inches on a white or off-white background. The photo must have been taken within the past 6 months and show your full face.
- Form I-864 Affidavit of Support from the petitioner, with the petitioner's most recent U.S. federal tax return. There are several versions of the I-864; do not complete until NVC or the Embassy tells you which one is appropriate for your case. Further information can be obtained here.
- Originals and photocopies of civil documents such as birth and marriage certificates. See here for details on documents which must be provided.
- For applicants 16 years and older, a police certificate from any country where the applicant resided for more than one year. Information on how to obtain a Malaysian police certificate is available here. Information on obtaining police certificates from other countries can be found here.
- All applicants must undergo a medical exam by an Embassy-approved physician approved by the Embassy. Information on the medical exam can be found here. You will receive instructions on how to make an exam appointment from NVC or the Embassy. Do not try to make an appointment before receiving these instructions.
Other items may be required in specific cases.
How long will I have to wait?
Every immigrant visa case is different, so it is difficult to estimate how long the process will take for any individual. But in general, there are three factors that contribute to the time required:
Time required to process petition. The time it takes for USCIS to approve a petition varies according to the type of petition and the specific USCIS office involved, but it generally takes at least 5-6 months for an immediate relative petition. Estimates for specific offices are available here.
Time to process through NVC and the Embassy. Once a petition is approved it is largely up to you how long it takes to get an interview appointment. The quicker you submit all requested documents to NVC, the sooner an appointment can be scheduled. Appointments are usually scheduled for the month after all documents are submitted. Visas are normally available within a few days of the interview.
Time for case to become current. For certain categories of immigrants, the law allows only a limited number of visas to be issued each year. These cases are processed strictly in order of the date the petition was filed (the priority date). Visas cannot be issued until an applicant's priority date is reached (becomes current). This could take several years. While it is impossible to say exactly how long it will take, the Visa Bulletin, published monthly, lists the priority dates currently being processed, which may provide an indication.
NOTE: If the petitioner was a legal permanent resident (LPR) when the petition was filed, and subsequently becomes a U.S. citizen, the applicant's immigrant visa category will probably change, and a visa may be available much sooner. If this applies to you, send a copy of your Certificate of Naturalization (not the original) to the NVC with a letter containing the applicant's name and case number of the petition you want to upgrade.
- Remarks by President Barack Obama, November 20, 2014 | Video
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