Immigrant Visas: Family-Based Immigration


Two groups of family-based immigrant visa categories, immediate relatives and family preference, are provided under the provisions of U.S. immigration law, specifically the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).  You may wish to review our Directory of Visa Categories  on to learn more about these two categories of immigrant visas, as well as other types of immigrant visas to the United States, including our Diversity Visa Program.

To apply for an immediate relative or family preference immigrant visa, follow the steps on the Immigrant Visa Process on  Once you have completed those steps, review the instructions given to you by the National Visa Center (NVC), along with the information presented on this website, for further guidance and instructions.

Click here for more information on filing a petition.

Petitioners must file Form I-130 petition by mail with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The Consulate General may only be able to accept and process Form I-130 petitions in exceptional circumstances.

I-130 Filing Instructions:

American citizen petitioners residing in Hong Kong or Macau who wish to file Form I-130 should file directly with the USCIS.

For more information, please see the USCIS website or contact USCIS by phone at 1-800-375-5283.

Exceptional Filing at the U.S. Consulate General:

Petitioners residing in Hong Kong or Macau who believe that their situation merits an exception to the I-130 filing guidelines should send their request in writing via the Visa Inquiry Form. Please explain the exceptional circumstances that warrant acceptance and processing of the I-130 application at the Consulate General in Hong Kong. Please attached scanned copies of the following to your request: evidence of exceptional circumstances, the petitioner’s Hong Kong identity card, the petitioner’s U.S. passport biodata page, marriage certificate (if necessary), the beneficiary’s Hong Kong identity card, and the beneficiary’s passport biodata page. The Immigrant Visa Unit will make a final determination on whether exceptional circumstances exist to warrant an exception to the general filing process.

The following are examples of the types of exceptional circumstances that may warrant an exception to the general I-130 filing process:

  1. U.S. military deployment or transfer: A U.S. service member overseas becomes aware of a new deployment or transfer with very little notice.
  2. Medical emergencies: A petitioner or beneficiary is facing an urgent medical emergency that requires immediate travel. This may include a situation where the beneficiary is pregnant and delaying travel may create medical risk or extreme hardship for the mother or child.
  3. Threats to personal safety: A petitioner or beneficiary is facing an imminent threat to their personal safety.
  4. Close to aging out: A beneficiary is within a few months of aging out of eligibility for the immigrant visa.
  5. Petitioner has recently naturalized as a U.S. citizen: The petitioner and family have traveled for the immigrant visa interview, but the petitioner has naturalized and the family member(s) requires a new, stand-alone petition.
  6. Adoption of a child: A petitioner who has adopted a child locally and has an imminent need to depart the country. This exception should only be considered if the child has been in the petitioner’s legal and physical custody for at least two years and the petitioner has a full and final adoption decree on behalf of the child.
  7. Short notice of position relocation: A U.S. Citizen petitioner, living and working abroad, who receives a job relocation within the same company or subsidiary to the United States, or an offer of a new job in the United States with very little notice.

If the request for an exception to the general I-130 filing process is accepted, the Immigrant Visa Unit will schedule the petitioner to submit Form I-130 and supporting documents in person. It is difficult to predict how long the immigrant visa process will take. Some cases can be processed in one or two months and others can take much longer.

According to our guidelines, USCIS does not authorize consular officers to accept a local filing abroad if the petitioner has already filed a Form I-130 domestically for the same beneficiary. If exigent circumstances exist, the petitioner should request expedited processing for the electronic or domestically-filed petition. Please visit USCIS website for information about the process to request expedited adjudication.


Last modified: May 9, 2022