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Immigration Series Part IV - Family-Based Immigration

Permanent resident status provides a family member with the privilege of permanently working and living in the United States. U.S. Citizens or Lawful Permanent Residents (in other words, Green Card holders) have the option to petition for their immediate family members to bring them to the United States to they may work and live in the US as permanent residents as well. In this post, you’ll find out what that process looks like and what requirements need to be met. This post will be focused on cases in which the family member being petitioned for is residing abroad still. Eligibility, requirements, and the process will not be the same if your family member is already in the US. 



Overview


Family-based immigration is by far the most common way of obtaining lawful permanent residency in the United States - also known as the Green Card. There are two groups of family-based immigrant visa categories: the immediate relatives and the family preference categories. 


The number of immigrants in the ‘immediate relatives’ categories is not limited each year and includes the following:


  • Spouse of a U.S. Citizen - (read about the Marriage Green Card in our recent post)

  • Unmarried Child Under 21 Years of Age of a U.S. Citizen

  • Orphan adopted abroad by a U.S. Citizen

  • Orphan to be adopted in the U.S. by a U.S. citizen

  • Parent of a U.S. Citizen who is at least 21 years old

The family preference categories include categories for some spouses and children

who are not listed above as immediate relatives, and also for more distant family relationships, such as siblings, and the number of visas is limited each year. The following are included:


  • Family First Preference (F1): Unmarried sons and daughters of U.S. citizens, and their minor children, if any.

  • Family Second Preference (F2): Spouses, minor children, and unmarried sons and daughters (age 21 and over) of lawful permanent residents (“LPRs”).

  • Family Third Preference (F3): Married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens, and their spouses and minor children.

  • Family Fourth Preference (F4): Brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens, and their spouses and minor children, provided the U.S. citizens are at least 21 years of age.


Please note, that Grandparents, aunts, uncles, in-laws, and cousins cannot sponsor a relative for immigration.


Step One - Filing a Petition 


If you have been following this blog series, you know by now that the first step to any visa is filing a petition. It’s no different with Family Immigration. The  Form I-130 needs to be filed with the USCIS. Unlike other kinds of immigration, in the family-based immigration process, the petitioner (which is the U.S. citizen relative or the lawful permanent resident) files the petition for their family member. The petitioner needs to be at least 21 years of age to file a petition for a sibling or parent. There is no minimum age for all other family-based immigration visa categories, however, the petitioner must be at least 18 years old and have a residence in the U.S. (must be living in the U.S.) before they can sign an Affidavit of Support, (Form I-864 or I-864-EZ) which  is required for an immigrant visa for a spouse and other relatives of U.S. sponsors.


Be aware that bringing your relative to the United States means, that you are accepting responsibility to financially support them.



Step Two - Affidavit of Support, and Visa Application


Once the petition is approved by USCIS, it is forwarded to the National Visa Center (NVC)

where a case number is assigned and the pre-processing of the applicant’s case begins. The applicant and the petitioner are provided with instructions and are asked to submit the appropriate fees. Once the fees are paid, the NVC will request that the applicant submit the necessary immigrant visa documents, which will include, at minimum, among other items which may be required on a case by case basis (each case is unique): 


  • Passport(s) valid for six months beyond the intended date of entry into the United States, unless longer validity is specifically requested by the U.S. Embassy/Consulate in your country.

  • Affidavit of Support (Form I-864, I-864A, I-864 EZ, or I-864W, as appropriate) from the petitioner/U.S. sponsor.

  • Form DS-260, Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration Application.

  • Two (2) 2x2 photographs

  • Civil Documents 

  • Completed Medical Examination Forms – These are provided by the panel physician after you have completed your medical examination and vaccinations.



Step Three - The Interview


Once the NVC determines the applicants file is complete, they schedule the interview appointment at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate. A medical examination needs to be completed and the sealed envelope received after the examination is to be brought to the interview.


Before the interview, digital fingerprint scans are taken and a consular officer will interview the applicant and determine whether or not the applicant is eligible for an immigrant visa.


If you are issued an immigrant visa, the consular officer will give you your passport containing the immigrant visa and a sealed packet containing the documents which you provided. Do not open the sealed packet, only the U.S. immigration official should open this packet once you enter the United States. You are required to enter the United States before the expiration date printed on your visa.


Once in the United States, the new environment, rules and regulations can be overwhelming, the Guide for new Immigrants provided by USCIS can help  settle in.




Frequently asked questions



What are the reasons my application would get denied? 


Every case is different and there is no way to guarantee that an application for an immigrant visa is successful. The following situations, however, are just a few examples of factors that are likely to cause you difficulty, complications, or possibly even a denial in your application process:

  • drug trafficking

  • overstaying a previous visas

  • submitting fraudulent documents


Is there a limit on how many of my family members I can bring to the United States?


There is no limit on how many family members a U.S. citizen or legal resident can sponsor, but of course there must be sufficient financial means to support each family member to ensure that they do not become a public charge.



What if my petition gets denied? 


In case your application gets denied, depending on the scenario, there are a few different routes to consider -you may have some options available to you to challenge the denial, but time is of the essence. For those who have options available to file a Motion to Reopen, Motion to Reconsider or Appeal, there are always strict deadlines by which one must take action. Hence, if you find yourself in this situation, we encourage you to contact an experienced immigration lawyer for consultation as soon as possible!



What if my son/daughter gets married during the process of immigrating them to the U.S.?


When a petition is filed to bring your unmarried sons/daughters to the U.S. and they get married while the application is still being processed, they may no longer be eligible to qualify for a family-based immigration visa, as their status will change to married son/daughter of U.S. citizen or LPR. In some cases it will result in a delay or denial altogether.


Does the educational background of the Family member trying to migrate matter?


No, generally speaking, the applicant’s educational background, as well as their work experience, is not taken into consideration when it comes to Family Based immigration. 

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