If you are a U.S. citizen, you may be able to petition for certain family members to immigrate to the United States as a lawful permanent resident. Immigrating to the United States a lawful permanent resident is a two-part process which includes the petition you file for your relative (Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative) and your relative’s application for an immigrant visa through the Department of State (Consular Processing).
Immigrating to the United States as a lawful permanent resident is a two-part process:
United States citizens start their family member’s immigration process by submitting Form I-130 and other relevant immigration forms. This is the first step towards securing their future in this country.
In general, you should expect to receive the following notices after filing your Form I-130:
Note that approval does not mean the immigrant will be allowed to enter the U.S. The approval of the I-130 is the first step towards securing lawful status. If your preference relative is in a foreign country, he or she will apply for an immigrant visa through the Department of State after your Form I-130 is approved.
When your Form I-130 is approved, USCIS will forward your approved petition to the National Visa Center (NVC). Within a certain period, depending on your relative’s preference category, NVC will contact your relative for additional information.
Usually, NVC contact the spouse, unmarried child under 21 years old, and parents of a US citizen within a few weeks (almost immediately). However, siblings and adult children of U.S. citizens must wait a longer period for NVC to contact them. As there is an annual limit to the number of visas available to siblings and adult children, wait times vary by country and preference category.
NVC is primarily responsible for collecting relevant fees and supporting documents from your relative. When the time comes, your relative will be provided clear instructions on how to make the visa fees and submit the supporting documents. Once NVC determines that your relative is documentary eligible for an immigrant visa, the consulate post will schedule the visa applicant (your relative) for a visa interview. The consular officer will review the case and decide whether or not your relative is eligible for an immigrant visa.
When your relative(s) is granted an immigrant visa, they can travel to the United States within the validity period of the visa. At the arrival, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer will review relevant immigration document (inspection process) and determine whether or not to admit your relative into the United States as a lawful permanent resident (LPR). If admitted, your relative will receive a Green Card in the mail and can live and work in the United States permanently.
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In addition to petitioning for immediate relatives, U.S. citizens may also petition for the following “preference” relatives:
Unlike immediate relatives, however, these relatives are not given the same priority and must wait for a visa to become available. There is also a cap on the number of visas that may be granted for these relatives each year.
Rather, these relatives are given what is called preference. There are four family-based preference categories. Three of those preference categories are designed for relatives of U.S. Citizens. Meanwhile, one family preference category is reserved for immediate relatives and unmarried adult children of Legal Permanent Residents (LPRs). When a petition is filed for a non-immediate relative, that relative is assigned to his or her corresponding preference category. For example, petitions for unmarried sons and daughters of U.S. citizens are given first preference. Currently, there is a limit of 23, 400 visas per year available for relatives eligible under the first preference category. Petitions for married sons or daughters of U.S. citizens are given third preference. The number of visas that can be granted annually to relatives under the third preference category is also 23, 400. Finally, petitions for brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens are given the fourth preference. In order to petition for a sibling, the U.S. citizen must be at least 21 years of age. The number of visas available for siblings of U.S. citizens is capped at 65,000 per year.
These preference categories also allow the spouse and/or minor children of the main relative beneficiary to be included in the petition. Once the priority date has been reached, your relative’s immediate relatives may apply for their visas simultaneously. However, their inclusion is added toward the cap of visas granted for that year.
Because there are generally more applicants than visas available, an immigration wait is created. When a petition is filed for any of the family-based category preference relatives, the beneficiary is given what is called a priority date. The priority date is the date the petition was filed. Visas are then awarded chronologically according to the priority and when priority date is reached. The beneficiaries of family preference petitions could wait years for the priority date to be reached. For this reason, petitioners and beneficiaries must be aware of their priority date and review the monthly Visa Bulletin from the Department of State regularly to verify if a visa has become available.
The application process for other relatives is similar to that for Immediate Relatives. To begin the process, the petitioner first files a Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative and the required documentation and fees with the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. If the relative is present in the United States, he or she may be eligible for adjustment of status. If not eligible for adjustment of status, the relative will be referred to the appropriate consulate or embassy to complete processing of his or her application. For relatives outside the United States, their visa will be processed through the appropriate consulate or embassy. Once the visa is approved, the relative may travel to the U.S. and become admitted through a U.S. port of entry.
Proof of familial relationship is accomplish by submitting a copy of a birth certificate indicating the name, birth date, and parent of your relative along with your petition. Copies of the marriage certificate and decree(s) of dissolution of any prior marriage for both the petitioner and beneficiary are required to show spousal relationship. Marriage certificates of parents can also be used to show parental and sibling relationship.
Not necessarily. If you were an LPR and filed a petition for your spouse or unmarried child under the age 21, then those relatives would now be considered immediate relatives upon you becoming a U.S. Citizen. However, unmarried adult children will be moved up to the first preference category. If the petition has already been approved, then you must notify USCIS of the change in your status from LPR to citizen and provide the proper documentation for the change in classification or category to actually become effective. Similarly, if the petition has not yet been approved, provide USCIS the documentation proving the change in your status so that the petition may be approved with the correct classification or preference category.
Furthermore, as a U.S. citizen, you will also be able to petition for your parent as an immediate relative and for married sons or daughters under the third preference category.
Finally, children of U.S. citizens under the age of 18 may be eligible to become a U.S. citizen upon their parent(s) becoming U.S. citizen(s).
Yes, lawful permanent residents may petition for certain family members to immigrate to the Unites states as permanent residents, subject to visa restrictions. A permanent resident may petition for their:
-Spouse; -Unmarried children under 21; and -Unmarried adult sons and daughters of any age.
While the husband or wife of a US citizen can apply for a green card immediately, the husband or wife of a green card holder (LPR) must wait a period of time after filing Form I-130 before a green card becomes available. As there is an annual limit to the number of marriage visas available to spouses of LPRs, the current wait time is approximately five years. Often times, it is much easier to have the green card holder naturalize first before petitioning for family members. An immigration attorney can help evaluate the best way to sponsor a family member.
If a family petition has been previously filed and the visa is current, you may be eligible to adjust your status now. See the Adjustment of Status section for more information.
Yes. File a Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative for each relative you want to sponsor.
Yes. As the petitioner you are obligated to financially support your relative when he or she immigrates. An Affidavit of Support (Form I-864) is required for each relative. If you do not meet the income requirements, a co-sponsor will be necessary. Consult one of our attorneys of to determine if you meet the income requirements for the affidavit of support.
Yes. Marriage of son or daughter under the age 21 will affect their status as immediate relatives. If a son or daughter of U.S. citizen under age 21 marries, he or she will no longer be considered an immediate relative. Rather, the relative will be placed into the corresponding family-based preference category for married sons or daughters of U.S. citizens and become subject to an immigration wait.
Furthermore, marriage will also affect the preference category in which the beneficiary adult son or daughter is going to be placed. Unmarried adult children are given higher preference than married children. Visa availability and waiting periods may vary depending on the family preference category. Marriage will bump down your relative to a preference category three and cause further delays in a visa becoming available.
If your relative is unmarried and is contemplating marriage, then he or she may consider postponing marriage until after a visa has become available. Any change in marital status after the petition has been filed and prior to a visa becoming available must be reported to USCIS.
No. There is no family-based category that allows for Legal Permanent Residents (LPRs) to sponsor married children, parents, or siblings. Currently, there are four family-based categories that are subject to quotas and which require that visa be available: Unmarried adult sons and daughters of U.S. citizens and their children (F1); spouse and minor children (F2A) and unmarried sons and daughters of LPRs (F2B); married sons and daughter of U.S. citizens and their spouses and minor children (F3); and brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens and their spouses and minor children (F4).
If you are currently and LPR and would like to sponsor a married son or daughter, a parent, or a sibling, the only option is to wait to file a petition until after obtaining citizenship. Usually, LPRs are eligible for citizenship after five (5) years of obtaining their permanent residency. If you obtained LPR status through marriage, you may be eligible for citizenship after three years. It is worth nothing that in addition to the time frame requirements, LPRs must meet further criteria to become eligible for citizenship. Consult one of our immigration attorneys to confirm that you are eligible for citizenship.
If you become a U.S. Citizen after a petition for an eligible relative has been filed, you can have the preference of your relative reclassified to that of an immediate relative or unmarried son or daughter of a U.S. citizen. See the Other Relatives of U.S. Citizens Frequently Asked Questions section for further information.
If you were an LPR and filed a petition for an unmarried son or daughter, the petition will be automatically revoked, as there is no established category for married children of LPRs. However, if you become a U.S. citizen before your relative marries, then you may continue the process by filing a new petition.
Until the U.S. citizen child reaches 21 years of age, he or she will be unable to sponsor their parent.