A beneficiary is a foreign national who gains sponsorship or petition for an immigration benefit, such as temporary or permanent residence. There are two types of beneficiaries: principal beneficiaries who are the ones named on immigration applications and petitions, while derivative beneficiaries are immediate family members of the principal beneficiary. They are usually eligible for the same immigration benefits as the principal beneficiary on account of their family relationship.

In order to receive the requested immigration benefit, the details of the beneficiary have to first be proven. For instance, if a family member petitions for permanent residency of a nuclear family member currently residing in another country, part of the documentation process would involve certifying that the two parties are related in the manner that they describe. Various methods including documentation and interviews are used to determine this. The beneficiary may also be required to fulfil other requirements depending on the nature of the petition.

In most cases, the legal standing of the beneficiary will also be examined and used to determine the possibility of entering the country. Beneficiaries who have criminal records or are associated with individuals with criminal records are usually denied the requested immigration benefit.

Once an immigration petition has been filed, the beneficiary is usually required to file the requisite documentation in the US embassy in their home country. They may also be required to undergo an interview as part of the screening process. Once cleared, the beneficiary will then likely be put on a waiting list, after which they will gain the immigration benefit they had been petitioned for.