Alien petitions for family members can be filed by U.S. citizens and by permanent residents. They apply to immediate relatives only, being limited relatives of U.S. citizens such as spouses, parents, and children. If the marriage is fewer than two years, special rules will apply to spouses. Additionally, there is such a case as a “preference relative,” which applies to married and unmarried sons and/or daughters over the age of 21 and siblings, in addition to the spouses, minor children, and unmarried sons and/or daughters over the age of 21. These relatives can apply but cannot receive permanent residence until priority dates are current.
Family-based Green Card Requirements
Within the U.S., form I-130 must be filed by the sponsoring relative on behalf of the qualifying foreign relative. If outside of the U.S., this must proceed through consular channels. Each immediate relative must have their own separate I-130 filed, and the family relationship must be proven through sufficient documentation. It is also wise to pursue an affidavit of support, as these are often required.
Benefits for Immediate Relatives
Immediate relatives do not have to go through a waiting period to be eligible for a visa; instead, if in the United States, they may file Form I-485 to adjust their status. By contrast, preference relatives do often have to wait for long periods due to a small number of visas available for these groups. The wait time will rely on which family preference category is appropriate as well as country of origin and any terms and conditions on that end.
Immediate Relative Requirements
The term “immediate relative” refers to spouses, parents, and children of U.S. citizens, in which a person considered a “child” is unmarried and under the age of 21. Furthermore, only U.S. citizens over the age of 21 may file for immediate relative status for parents. There is always immediate availability of visa numbers subject to the immediate relative category. People applying in this category are not subject to the quotas and backlogs which apply to preference relatives. The following are necessary to qualify as an immediate relative:
- Form I-130 must be filed by the sponsoring U.S. citizen relative on behalf of the foreign national.
- If the foreign national lives in the U.S. already, it may be possible to adjust their status using Form I-485. Otherwise, the case must proceed by consular processing to obtain an immigrant visa.
- There must be qualifying documentation of the relationship. For instance, biological relationships can be proven through birth and related records.
The marriage must be legally proven as existent and bona fide, i.e., not entered into for the purpose of gaining immigration benefits.
If married for fewer than two years, permanent residence will be granted on a conditional basis for two years. To remove these conditions, the marriage must be filed again as bona fide. Filing for a relative generally requires an affidavit of support to show that the sponsor is responsible for the relative and they will not become a public charge or in other ways abandoned.
“Preference Relative” Requirements
Relatives of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents (LPRs) who fall into the preference categories below may be subject to limitations based on the annual number of visas that can legally be issued. There are also specific cutoff dates that indicate the availability of immigrant visa numbers. This information and more can all be found in a monthly Visa Bulletin released by the U.S. Department of State. The categories are, in order of preference:
1. Unmarried sons and daughters (any age) of U.S. citizens
2. Spouses and unmarried sons and daughters of lawful permanent residents
3. Married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens
4. Brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens
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Our firm has managed thousands of permanent resident cases and the immigration attorneys for KPPB Law can help you and your family in preparing for the process of and representation during interviews at USCIS offices or U.S. consulates abroad. We will also advise on legal issues on the whole and are willing to provide aid in all types of family-based immigration cases at local USCIS offices, service centers, and consulates, to ensure that this process moves along quickly and successfully so that your family may stay together on the long road of immigration.
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