The relationships that we have with our family members often make up the foundation of who we are. When we become separated from our family members, it can be devastating for everyone involved. While there are options available for family members of United States citizens and Green Card holders, navigating the family immigration process is rarely straightforward. 

At the Law Office of Jennifer L. Bennett, we have taken notice of this issue and dedicated our practice to helping immigrant families stay together on American soil. To learn more about how we can help, consider speaking with one of our experienced Chicago family immigration lawyers at (312) 972-7969 today.

What is Family-Based Immigration? 

Family-based immigration refers to the process of securing a visa to the United States on the basis of family relationship with a U.S. citizen or U.S. Lawful Permanent Resident. Due to the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), a number of family-based immigrant visas are granted to foreign nationals every year. 

There are two types of family-based immigrant visas, including:

  • Immediate Relative: Foreign nationals who have a close family relationship with a United States citizen are eligible for this type of family-based immigrant visa. There is no limit on the number of visas in this category that can be granted each year.
  • Family Preference: These visas are available for certain, more distant family relationships of United States citizens and specific family relationships with United States Lawful Permanent Residents. There is a limitation on the number of family preference visas that are available per year. 

All individuals who are applying for a family-based immigrant visa, one of these two categories will be applicable in your case. The avenue that you pursue for family-based immigration depends entirely on the unique factors of your case. For this reason, speaking with a Chicago family immigration lawyer can be beneficial. Seeking assistance from a dedicated professional can be helpful to avoiding common pitfalls that commonly arise during the application process. 

Comprehensive Family Immigration Services

Before pursuing a family-based immigrant visa, it is important to understand the different options that may be available to you. The following are three broad categories that almost all family immigration cases fall into. 

Family of United States Citizens

United States citizens are able to petition for specific family members to receive either lawful permanent residency (Green Card) or a family-based immigrant visa. In these cases, there are three different options available. 

Green Card (Lawful Permanent Residency)

A Green Card grants permanent residency. This option may be available for the following family members of American citizens:

  • Spouse
  • Children
  • Parents
  • Siblings 

When submitting a petition, the United States citizen will be required to produce evidence that proves their relationship with their family member. Once the appropriate forms are filed and the qualifying relationship has been proven, the relative will be placed in line with people from the same country or region with the same relationship. There is no waiting period for an immediate relative of United States citizens, which include: 

  • Spouses
  • Parents
  • Unmarried children under 21

For other relationships such as siblings or married children, there is a waiting period. Once the relative reaches the front of the line, they may be able to officially immigrate after passing the necessary background checks. 

Fiancé(e) Visa (K-1 Visa)

This option is available for the fiancé(e) of an American citizen who is currently living outside of the United States, as well as the children of this family member. The K-1 visa allows the fiancé(e) to enter the United States for 90 days, during which the wedding ceremony may take place. When seeking this visa, there are basic eligibility requirements that must be met:

  • The petitioner is a United States citizen
  • There is an intention to marry within 90 days of your fiancé(e) entering the United States
  • Both individuals are free to marry
  • You have met your fiancé(e) within two years before filing the petition, with certain exemptions

Family of Green Card Holders (Lawful Permanent Residents)

Green Card holders are able to pursue permanent residency for certain family members. Unfortunately, only specific family members may qualify for this option, which includes:

  • Spouses
  • Unmarried children under 21

United States Lawful Permanent Residents who are seeking a Green Card for family members are more limited in their options. 

Family of Refugees & Asylees

Individuals who came to the United States as a refugee or were granted asylee status within the past two years may petition for certain family members to also obtain the same status. The family members of refugees and asylees who may qualify for this option include: 

  • Spouses
  • Children, unmarried and under 21 when you initially applied for refugee or asylee status

Frequently Asked Questions

How Do I Apply for Family-Based Immigration in the United States?

Either a United States citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident may petition on behalf of their family member using the Form I-130, the Petition for Alien Relative. Most family immigration cases are filed with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), but in select cases, it may be necessary to file with the Department of State. If applicable, a Green Card application may also need to be filed. Once all the necessary forms and supplemental documentation are supplied, the application will be processed. 

In the United States, the application process for family-based immigration is incredibly complex. Depending on the circumstances of your case, a variety of forms may be needed to prove your family relationship and successfully immigrate your loved one. Every year, thousands of family-based visa applications are denied but seeking assistance from an experienced immigration lawyer can help greatly to overcome the chances of denial. 

How Long Does the Family-Based Immigration Process Take?

Applying for and obtaining a family-based immigrant visa takes time. The length of time that the process takes depends on a variety of factors, including the type of family relationship, your family member’s country of origin, and whether the petitioner holds U.S. citizenship or permanent residency. 

Unfortunately, this makes it extremely difficult to put a timeframe on the process. Generally, the family-based immigration process can take anywhere from a few months to several years. The USCIS allows petitions to view their processing time online. 

Speak With a Chicago Family Immigration Lawyer at JLB Law Group Today

Navigating the family immigration process in the United States is complex and challenging. It can also be frustrating when applications are denied or delayed with little explanation as to why. This is why hiring a Chicago family immigration lawyer is so valuable and helpful. An experienced attorney will know firsthand the legal complexities of family immigration and be prepared to handle the hurdles along the way. 

After spending over a decade representing family immigration cases, attorney Jennifer L. Bennett and her team of dedicated attorneys and legal professionals have encountered a wide variety of family immigration cases. We understand that beginning the immigration process can be daunting, however, our Chicago family immigration lawyers are committed to providing honest and respectful guidance at every step. For more information on how we can help with your case, consider scheduling a consultation with our team today at (312) 972-7969.