For some families, there is nothing more important than being together where they can have opportunities for themselves and their future. This is particularly true when some family members are separated in different countries. Our country was founded on the concepts of freedom and family, and, fortunately, in the United States, we have laws that make it possible for families to help each other come together here to enjoy our immense opportunities.
Immigration laws are complicated for anyone, but especially for individuals who don’t speak the English language. Having the assistance of an experienced immigration lawyer can help when a family member is seeking an immigrant visa in the United States.
The Building Blocks of Family-Based Immigration
In any family-based immigration matter, there must be at least two family members involved. One is the petitioner who is either a United States citizen or a lawful permanent resident. The other is the beneficiary who is seeking an immigrant visa. In some cases, the beneficiary may also have a spouse and children who can qualify as beneficiaries.
Seeking a Family-Based Immigrant Visa
Any foreign citizen who wishes to live permanently in the United States must secure an immigrant visa. To apply for an immigrant visa, that person must be sponsored by a family member who is either a United States citizen or a U.S. green card holder.
There are two different categories of family immigrant visas. An immediate relative visa is one that is secured for a close family relationship. Close family relationships, or immediate relatives, are spouses, parents, and unmarried children under 21. These visas are unlimited to immediate family members of United States citizens.
Anything other than the immediate relative immigrant visa is considered a family preference visa. While immediate family visas are unlimited, family preference visas are limited in number each year. Consequently, there is usually a backlog of most family preference category visas.
What is the Process For Applying for an Immigrant Visa?
The basic application process begins when a citizen or lawful resident family member petitions for a family member to immigrate. When it comes to family-based immigration, immediate relatives of a U.S. citizen have a clear advantage. These immediate relatives are limited to
- A spouse
- An unmarried child
- An orphan adopted either abroad or in the United States by a U.S. citizen
- A parent of a U.S. citizen
A U.S. citizen may also sponsor a foreign fiance to come here for the purpose of marriage.
Family preference categories include all other qualifying relationships of either a U.S. citizen and some specified relationships of lawful permanent residents, including
- Unmarried sons and daughters aged 21 or older of a U.S. citizen
- Spouses and unmarried children under the age of 21 of permanent residents
- Unmarried sons and daughters aged 21 or older of a permanent resident
- Married sons and daughters of any age of a U.S. citizen
- Siblings or any adult U.S. citizen
United States citizens and permanent residents will first file a petition with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which will then be processed.
When the demand for family preference visas exceeds the limits, which it usually does, a waiting list forms, and each individual on the waiting list is placed according to a priority date. The U.S. Department of State publishes a bulletin each month where family members can check where they are in line. Depending on the category, this, unfortunately, can take a matter of months or even years.
Legal immigration to the United States is time-consuming and complicated. Consequently, many individuals choose to use an experienced immigration lawyer to ensure requirements are understood and all forms and paperwork are completely properly.
If you have questions concerning family-based immigration or any other pathways to legal status in the United States, contact our experienced immigration lawyers at KL Sanchez Law Office, P.C. Call now: (646) 701-7990.