How to Apply

Step 1

A relative or organization in the U.S. files a petition (I-130, I-140, or I-600) on your behalf with the BCIS office closest to them. An immediate relative (parent/child/spouse) may file an I-130 petition with the consulate in Johannesburg, Cape Town, or Durban if you are a permanent resident in South Africa. Both you and your relative must be present at the filing.

Step 2

When the petition is approved by BCIS, they send it to the National Visa Center (NVC). If visas are currently available for your type of petition, NVC will immediately contact you to start gathering your documents. If your petition is NOT current, NVC will contact you when it becomes current, which could be several years later. The following web site shows the filing dates of petitions that are now current and ready for processing. Petitions filed in South Africa are sent to Johannesburg.

Step 3

When NVC determines that you are current and documentarily qualified NVC will complete the administrative processing of the case and send out a letter notifying you of your appointment date and time along with a list of required documents to be presented at the time of your final interview date.  Information on the documents required at the time of your interview can be found here.

The medical instructions are included in the appointment letter. All medical exams must be performed by a panel physician pre-approved by the Consulate General in Johannesburg and which includes physicians in Cape Town and Durban.  Download the medical instructions and list of approved panel physicians (PDF – 1.1 MB). Immigrant visas are no longer issued on the same day and take between 4-5 working days to process after your interview.

U.S. Consulate Johannesburg does not accept I-130 petitions (for immigration of relatives) on behalf of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

Those wishing to submit such petitions should contact the Johannesburg DHS Field Office of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services at U.S. Consulate Johannesburg directly for information on how to file.  They can be reached by phone at 011-290-3230, or by email at

Two “5 cm x 5 cm” (“2 in. x 2 in.”) color passport photos are required for the interview.  However, it is a good idea to bring an extra photo.
More detailed information on photo requirements

There may be a waiting period of several years for the following categories of visas in some cases — see step 2 above.

  • F-1 Unmarried adult sons and daughters of U.S. citizens
  • F-2 Spouses, children, and unmarried sons and daughters of Lawful Permanent Residents (LPRs)
  • F-3 Married sons and daughters of U.S. Citizens
  • F-4 Brothers and Sisters of U.S. Citizens
  • Employment Based Immigrants with approved petitions filed by a company or organization in the U.S.
  • Diversity Immigrants with a winning lottery entry (see Diversity Visa Lottery section for details on this category).

Note: Derivative applicants (spouse and minor children) ARE allowed to travel on the petition of a beneficiary of the above categories.