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Immigrant Visa Categories

U.S. immigration law provides for the issuance of Immigrant Visas (IV) in four general categories:

  • Immediate Relatives
  • Family-Preference Based
  • Employment Based
  • Diversity Immigrant Visa Program

*The purpose of immediate relative and family-based immigration is to re-unite family members in the United States. If the United States citizen does not plan to live in the United States, he/she cannot request a visa for other family members.

Immediate Relatives

The following immediate relatives of U.S. citizens are eligible to apply for immigration in the immediate relative (IR) categories and are not subject to numerical limitations under U.S. immigration law:

  • Spouse of a U.S. Citizen*
  • Minor Child of a U.S. Citizen (only if the U.S. citizen parent was not able to transmit citizenship at the time of the child's birth)
  • Minor Step-Child of a U.S. Citizen (only if the marriage that created the step-child relationship occured before the child's 18th birthday)
  • Parent of U.S. Citizen (the U.S. citizen must be over the age of 21)
  • Step-Parent of a U.S. Citizen (only if the marriage that created the step-parent relationship occured before the step-child's 18th birthday)

*American citizens can also file to bring their fiancé(e)s to the U.S. to marry and live.  This type of visa (K-1) is based on an immigrant-type petition but has some elements of a non-immigrant visa.  Fiancé(e)s moving to the United States are encouraged to review information about their rights and protections.


The following relatives of U.S. Citizens and Legal Permanent Residents (LPRs) are eligible to apply for immigration but are subject to numerical limitations under U.S. immigration law:

  • Unmarried Son or Daughter (over the age of 21) of a U.S. Citizen
  • Spouse of an LPR*
  • Minor Child of an LPR*
  • Unmarried Son or Daughter of an LPR
  • Married Son or Daughter of a U.S. Citizen
  • Brother or Sister of a U.S. Citizen (the U.S. Citizen must be over the age of 21)

*Spouses and minor children of LPRs whose petitions were filed on or before December 21, 2000 may be eligible for non-immigrant V visas. 


In general, a specific offer of employment from a U.S. based employer is required to qualify for immigration in the employment based categories

Diversity IV Program

An annual diversity immigration program makes available 55,000 immigrant visas each year by random selection to people from countries with low rates of immigration to the U.S. Eligibility to apply for this program is determined by a person's place of birth, not citizenship.  Persons born in Jamaica or the Cayman Islands are not eligible to enter the Diversity Visa Lottery. 

The U.S. Embassy in Kingston has received many inquiries from persons who are victims of a worldwide scam involving the Diversity Immigrant Visa (DV) Program, also known as the visa lottery.  The scammers behind these fraudulent emails and letters pose as representatives of the U.S. Government in an attempt to extract payment from Diversity Visa applicants.  To avoid becoming a victim of this scam, please read the following advice from the U.S. Embassy.

First, Jamaican nationals are not eligible for the Diversity Immigrant Visa program for 2014 and have not been eligible since the program's inception in 1995, owing to Jamaica's historically high rate of family-based immigration.  Therefore, Jamaican nationals should find it peculiar if they are contacted regarding their eligibility for the Diversity Visa program.   

Second, the U.S. Government never contacts visa lottery winners via the Internet.  Scammers are using increasingly sophisticated techniques that often use the Embassy’s address or name an actual person at the U.S. Embassy in Kingston as the point of contact.  This would never happen if you really had won the visa lottery. 

Third, the U.S. Government will NOT ask you to send money to them or to the Embassy in Kingston or any other U.S. embassy.  Any message that asks you to send money, by mail or by services such as Western Union, is a scam even if a legitimate Embassy address is provided.  

Finally, the only way to apply for the Diversity Visa Program is through the official U.S. Department of State website during the specified registration period which takes place annually in the Fall.  If you have never registered for the program, you will NOT be contacted in regard to this program and should find it strange if contacted regarding your winning.

If you have registered for the Diversity Visa Program, you will be required to check the outcome of your registration at the official U.S. Government website,  Other than the U.S. Department of State, no other organization or private company is authorized by the Department of State to notify visa lottery applicants of their winning entry or the next steps in the process of applying for their visa.

If you have questions about the diversity visa program or your eligibility for a diversity visa, please refer to the Federal Trade Commission’s website.  The website outlines the details of the program and provides lookouts against solicitations for the program.