Family-based Immigration Overview
Family has always been a cornerstone of American Immigration Policy. The United States recognizes the importance of keeping families together and one of the quickest ways to obtain permanent residency in the United States is by being an immediate relative of a U.S. citizen. If you are a spouse, parent, child, or sibling of a U.S. citizen then you may be able to become a lawful permanent resident of the United States. Additionally, you may be able to become a lawful permanent resident if you are a spouse or child of a lawful permanent resident.
If you are the fiance(e) of a U.S. citizen you may also be able to enter the United States through a K Visa.
An in-depth discussion of the qualification for family-based immigration is provided below. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact Gafner Law Firm and request a consultation.
Immediate relatives of U.S. citizens are able to obtain immigrant visas based upon their family relationship. By obtaining an immigrant visa, a foreign national can obtain permanent residency in the United States and, eventually, may pursue U.S. citizenship.
An immediate relative is defined under U.S. law as a spouse, child (under 21 years old) or parent of a U.S. citizen. Immigrant visas obtained through the immediate relative category do not fall under any preference category and are always available. Put differently, an immediate relative who obtains an immigrant visa can immediately obtain permanent residency.
A foreign national who is applying for an immigrant visa must either file an adjustment of status (if in the United States) or apply through immigrant visa processing (if outside of the United States).
An adjustment of status is obtained by submitting an I-130 and I-485 form. The I-130 form is submitted to establish the immediate relative relationship between the U.S. Citizen and the foreign national relative. The I-485 form is submitted to demonstrate eligibility for adjustment of status. Before approval, the sponsor of the foreign national must demonstrate sufficient income and/or assets to support the petitioner. Additionally, a foreign national may request work and/or travel permission by submitting forms I-765 and I-131.
The immigrant visa process requires the submission of the I-130. Once the I-130 is approved, the National Visa Center will request specific information and documentation that will be provided to a consulate officer during an interview at a consulate.
Relatives of U.S. Citizens (who are not immediate relatives) and certain relatives of lawful permanent residents in the United States are also eligible for obtaining an immigrant visa based on their familial relationship. Unlike immediate relatives of U.S. Citizens, these family-based petitioners are grouped into preference categories that determine the speed with which a family-based petitioner can obtain lawful permanent residency (a green card). The preference categories are:
First Preference: Unmarried, adult (at least 21 years old) sons and daughters of U.S. citizens.
Second Preference: Lawful permanent resident spouses, unmarried children (under 21 years old) of lawful permanent residents, and unmarried sons and daughters of lawful permanent residents.
Third Preference: Married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens.
Fourth Preference: Sisters and brothers of adult U.S. citizens.
Once a petitioner’s I-130 is approved, the National Visa Center will assign a visa number to the petitioner based on the foreign national’s preference category. The National Visa Center will notify the petitioner once that number becomes available. To view current preference category wait times, please visit the Department of State website and review the current visa bulletin. Please note, the bulletin’s dates do not move at a constant rate.