Immigration through a Family Member
Overview and Process
A lawful permanent resident is a foreign national who has been granted the privilege of permanently living and working in the United States. If you want to become a lawful permanent resident based on the fact that you have a relative who is a citizen of the United States, or a relative who is a lawful permanent resident, you must go through a multi-step process.
The USCIS must approve an immigrant visa petition, I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, for you. This petition is filed by your relative (sponsor) and must be accompanied by proof of your relationship to the requesting relative.
The Department of State must determine if an immigrant visa number is immediately available to you, the foreign national, even if you are already in the United States. When an immigrant visa number is available, it means you can apply to have one of the immigrant visa numbers assigned to you. You can check the status of a visa number in the Department of State’s Visa Bulletin.
If you are already in the United States, you may apply to change your status to that of a lawful permanent resident after a visa number becomes available to you. This is one way you can apply to secure an immigrant visa number. If you are outside the United States when an immigrant visa number becomes available, you must then go the U.S. consulate servicing the area in which you reside to complete your processing. This is the other way to secure an immigrant visa number.
Eli Kantor has helped to reunify hundreds of families. On one occasion, a husband and wife were separated for more than 3 years, while the American Embassy was investigating their case. The husband came to Eli Kantor after no success with two other lawyers. We sued the State Department and in less than 3 months, the wife received her immigrant visa and the family was reunited. In another case, Immigration wanted to deport the husband, due to a technical defect in the application that the couple had prepared themselves. Our office filed an I-601 Waiver of Excludability based upon the hardship that would have been imposed on the US citizen wife and their US citizen baby. Immigration granted the waiver and the husband received his green card. In another case, a Columbian woman came to our office after her I-601 Waiver of Excludability, filed by another attorney had been denied. We had her U.S. citizen husband have a psychological examination to demonstrate the hardship that he would suffer if his wife were to be deported. We also extensively researched the country conditions in Columbia to demonstrate the physical risk that she would suffer. We also documented the financial hardship that he would suffer. As a result, she received her green card and the family was able to stay together.
In order for a relative to sponsor you to immigrate to the United States, they must meet the following criteria:
- They must be a citizen or lawful permanent resident of the U.S. and be able to provide documentation providing that status.
- They must prove that they can support you at 125% above the mandated poverty line, by filling out an Affidavit of Support.
The relatives which may be sponsored as an immigrant vary depending on whether the sponsor is a U.S. Citizen or a lawful permanent resident.
If the sponsor is a U.S. Citizen, they may petition for the following foreign national relatives to immigrant to the U.S.:
- Husband or wife
- Unmarried child under 21 years of age
- Unmarried son or daughter over 21
- Married son or daughter of any age
- Brother or sister, if the sponsor is at least 21 years old, or
- Parent, if the sponsor is at least 21 years old.
If the sponsor is a lawful permanent resident, they may petition for the following foreign national relatives to immigrate to the U.S.:
- Husband or wife, or
- Unmarried son or daughter of any age.
In any case, the sponsor must be able to provide proof of the relationship.
If you wish to immigrant as a relative of a U.S. Citizen or lawful permanent resident, you must obtain an immigrant visa number based on the preference category in which you fall.
People who want to become immigrants are classified into categories based on a preference system. The immediate relatives of U.S. citizens, which include parents, spouses and unmarried children under the age of 21, do not have to wait for an immigrant visa number to become available once the visa petition filed for them is approved by USCIS. An immigrant visa number will become immediately available. The relatives in the remaining categories must wait for an immigrant visa number to become available according to the following preferences:First Preference:
Unmarried, adult sons and daughters of U.S. citizens. Adult means 21 years of age or older.Second Preference:
Spouses of lawful permanent residents, their unmarried children (under 21 years of age), and the unmarried sons and daughters of lawful permanent residents.Third Preference:
Married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens.Fourth Preference:
Brothers and sisters of adult U.S. citizens.
Once USCIS receives your visa petition (Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative) it will be approved or denied. USCIS notifies the person who filed the visa petition if the petition was approved. USCIS will then send the approved visa petition to the Department of State’s National Visa Center, where it will remain until an immigrant visa number is available. The Center will notify the foreign national when the visa petition is received, and again when an immigrant visa number is available. You do not need to contact the National Visa Center, unless you change your address or there is a change in your personal situation, or that of your sponsor, that may affect eligibility for an immigrant visa, such as reaching age 21, marriage, divorce, or death of a spouse.