Immigrants jump through hoops just to get a promise of stability in America. This is a stressful time in an immigrant’s life. Without a visa, the likelihood of staying in America is slim to none.

Although a visa doesn’t guarantee citizenship, it’s the first step to citizenship. The process is difficult and involves a lot of steps. Here’s a glimpse on what you need to do during the visa process.

Submitting the petition:

A sponsor must submit a petition for you. This sponsor must be either a relative who is a U.S. citizen, a U.S. lawful permanent resident, or your employer. They must also be a beneficiary to an already approved petition. Typically, petitions should be filed in the U.S. However, there are some instances where you can file your petition outside of the U.S., although this option is very limited.

After your petition’s approval:

The Department of State’s National Visa Center (NVC) reviews approved petitions. This is when the pre-processing stage is set in motion. The pre-processing stage includes visa fees, forms and documents. However, it may be beneficial to wait act on this paperwork until the NVC contacts you. The NVC typically gives information on the next step you should take in this process. This communication is usually between your agent and the NVC.

Your agent can be yourself, your petitioner, an attorney or any person you trust. This agent will represent you during your visa process. Once the NVC recognizes your agent, you must pay your processing fees. It takes up to a week for the NVC to process these payments. Allow this to happen before moving onto the next step.

Collecting and submitting forms:

After you have obtained an agent and paid your fees, you must submit your visa application online. A confirmation page will appear. You must bring this page to your interview. If you need a financial sponsorship, certain financial documents will be necessary at this time. The NVC will instruct you to complete an Affidavit of Support form and collect documents that show your petitioner could financially support you.

Other supporting documentation to include with your application include:

  • Birth certificates
  • Marriage certificates
  • Military records
  • Photocopies of valid passports or identification

. Make sure to send all your documents to the NVC in one package.

Interviewing:

Once the NVC reviews your forms and documents and you’ve made your payments, the NVC and U.S. Embassy will schedule an interview. Your spouse and children need to participate in the interview if they are immigrating with you. You must bring your appointment letter, passport, photographs, a medical exam result and all documents to your interview. If any of these documents are in another language, they will need an English translation. You will pay any unpaid fees at this time. The consular officer will determine your visa eligibility during this interview.

This process is time consuming and will take weeks, even months, to complete. It can be scary to put all this time into a process that may or may not end the way you want it to. It’s important to remember that this process is in-depth for a reason: it can lead to citizenship. Once your visa is accepted, you are that much closer to gaining citizenship.