Family reunification is an immigration policy goal. As such, US citizens (and permanent residents) may file petitions for family members residing outside the United States. They can help them acquire an immigrant visa and, eventually, lawful permanent residence. Such is signified by a document called a green card.
(Note: If your family members are foreign nationals but are already residing in the US, you must get the legal services of an immigration lawyer for a different petition. The applicable immigration process is referred to as Adjustment of Status).
Qualifying for family-based immigration visas can be complicated. Petitioning to help your foreign national family member get a green card requires a lot of patience. Knowledge of immigration issues and procedures is also necessary. As such, petitioners often seek legal counsel from an immigration attorney for a less stressful application.
Under immigration laws, whether you have US citizenship or permanent resident status, the visa application (and essentially the card application) is generally the same. The processing time may vary, however. It depends on your immigration status, the current residence and home country of the beneficiary family member, your relationship, and his or her situation. (Warning: Processing times of immigrant visas and the actual green card process have been greatly affected by the pandemic. Consult with immigration attorneys early on to manage expectations and avoid legal issues).
Who may immigrate through family-based petitions for US immigration?
Immediate relatives of US citizens
Under immigration law, the husband or wife (spousal relationship regardless of gender), unmarried children below 21, or parents of a petitioner (the citizen child must be above 21) fall under this category. If your family members qualify, getting the legal services of an immigration lawyer will ensure that you go through the process correctly.
There are no limitations on how many immigrant visas (green cards) are annually given to such beneficiaries.
Family preference of US citizens (or lawful permanent residents)
- First Preference – Under immigration laws, this refers to unmarried children of a US citizen regardless of age.
- Second Preference – This refers to the spouse and unmarried children of permanent residents. Children who are 21 or above often wait longer than other relatives in the same category.
- Third Preference – This refers to married children of US citizens, including spouses and children, if any.
- Fourth Preference – Under this category are siblings of a US citizen, including spouses and children, if any.
There is an annual quota for visas issued to the above beneficiaries. Visa applications from a country with a high interest in immigrating to the US may take longer than those from another country. It is always best to explore your options and discuss with immigration lawyers before proceeding.
How do I begin the process?
You need to file a Petition for Alien Relative (Form I-130) issued by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services or USCIS. You are to indicate the consulate or embassy where your beneficiary intends to have an interview for the immigrant visa. Supporting documents to prove the status of the petitioner and his or her relationship with the beneficiary must also be submitted. The USCIS office will then send either a Request for Evidence or Approval Notice.
The above is only the beginning of a long card application process. If you are a US citizen or green card holder who wishes to bring in your foreign national family members to the country, you probably have several immigration questions. Make sure to get immigration advice from experts.
Our law firm has extensive experience in immigration issues and has been assisting clients for years now. Contact us at Diener Law for a consultation.