Immigration policy enables US citizens and permanent residents to file an immigration petition and process visas for family members residing outside the country. By qualifying for family-based immigration, they may be able to get an immigrant visa and eventually acquire a green card (lawful permanent residence).

Below are five questions on family-based US immigration and permanent residency that you might also have. These will help you as you prepare to file with the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Office.

1) I have US citizenship; who among my family members are considered immediate relatives?

Immigration law limits ‘immediate relatives’ to spouse; unmarried children below 21; and parents, provided that the petitioner is above 21 years old. As would be explained by your immigration lawyer, one advantage is that there is no annual limit on the number of immigrant visas or green cards given to beneficiaries under this category. Nonetheless, it is helpful to get immigration advice on how to best proceed with your petition.

2) Will immigration laws allow my non-immediate relatives to immigrate the same way?

Family ImmigrationFamily members of US citizens and lawful permanent residents that were not mentioned above may proceed with their visa and green card application under the following family preference scheme:

  • First preference: a US citizen’s unmarried children, regardless of age
  • Second preference:  a permanent resident’s spouse and unmarried children, ideally below 21
  • Third preference: a US citizen’s married children, including their spouses and children
  • Fourth preference:  a US citizen’s siblings, including their spouses and children

If you are immigrating from a country with a lot of visa applications, this may take a while. Note that there is an annual quota for the visas issued to the beneficiaries in this category. As such, before proceeding, it is best to discuss your plans and explore your options with immigration lawyers from reputable law offices.

3) What immigration forms should I file?

You must accomplish a Petition for Alien Relative (Form I-130) and file it with the USCIS. Indicate in the petition form the specific embassy or consulate where your family members intend to have an immigration interview for their immigrant visa application. After completing the paperwork, help them prepare for possible immigration questions.

The USCIS office will evaluate the application and supporting documents submitted and will likely send either an Approval Notice or a Request for Evidence.

4) How long is the processing time for this?

The visa application and green card process for your family members are generally the same, regardless if you have US citizenship or permanent resident status. However, your immigration status, your relationship, and the current residence, home country, and situation of the family member you are petitioning will influence processing times for immigrant visas. It is advisable to consult with immigration attorneys early on to avoid any legal issue that could further delay your petition.

5) How important is it to get an experienced immigration attorney?

If you are a US citizen or green card holder planning to bring to the country your foreign national family members, you need assistance in preparing for a tedious visa and green card application process. Furthermore, if your family members are already residing in the US, you must get legal services for a different immigration process called adjustment of status.

Our law firm has extensive experience in immigration issues. For questions on getting a green card and legal immigration in general, talk to a trusted immigration lawyer. Contact us at Diener Law for a consultation.