Family-Based Immigration to USA as a Verified Citizen

Do you know what are the requirements for family-based immigration? In this guide, we explain in detail everything you need to know about family visas.

Family-Based Immigration

On our website, you will find related articles on how to get a Green Card or expand information about the visa for the United States. If the family member wishes to obtain proof of citizenship or naturalize, please review our section dedicated to obtaining US citizenship.

Family-Based Immigration – Overview

A foreign citizen seeking to live permanently in the United States requires an immigrant visa (IV). However, to be eligible to apply for an IV, a foreign citizen must be sponsored by an immediate relative who is at least 21 years of age and is either a U.S. citizen or U.S. Lawful Permanent Resident (that is, a green-card holder).

Family-based immigration requires the participation of at least two family members, a petitioner, and a beneficiary. The petitioner must be a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident that wants to sponsor a foreign family member for a green card. The beneficiary is a foreign family member that wants to obtain a green card. In some categories, the beneficiary may have a spouse and children that qualify as derivative beneficiaries.

What is Family-Based Immigration?

Family-based immigration is the foundation of the US immigration system and the primary means by which people legally immigrate to the United States of America. Under current immigration law, U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents (LPRs) can sponsor certain family members for a visa (also known as a “green card”), which provides permanent residence to the visa recipient.

One of the most common ways for people to get a green card is through a family member. U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents can help certain family members immigrate to the United States. This is a two-step process. First, the U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident files a family visa petition. Second, the foreign national relative files an application to become a permanent resident. Each step involves different legal and factual issues.

Furthermore, there are two types of family-based immigrant visas:

  • Immediate Relative – these visas are based on a close family relationship with a U.S. citizen, such as a spouse, child, or parent. The number of immigrants in these categories is not limited to each fiscal year.
  • Family Preference – these visas are for specific, more distant, family relationships with a U.S. citizen and some specified relationships with a Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR). The number of immigrants in these categories is limited each fiscal year. 

However,  U.S. citizens can file an immigrant visa petition for their:

  • Spouse
  • Son or daughter
  • Parent
  • Brother or sister

U.S. Lawful Permanent Residents can only file an immigrant visa petition for their:

  • Spouse
  • Unmarried son or daughter

Application Process for Family-Based Immigration

Moreover, there are specific steps to follow in order for a US citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident to successfully sponsor a family member. However, these steps are as follows:

1. US Citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident Files Visa Petition:

Firstly, to begin the visa sponsorship process, the US Lawful Permanent Resident family member will need to mail a visa petition on USCIS Form 1-30, along with accompanying documents, to US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). However, the Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) must prove the family relationship is real.

2. USCIS Makes a Decision on the Visa Petition:

Then, once the USCIS receives the petition, you wait for the officers to consider whether to approve or deny the request. However, if the request is approved, the case file will be forwarded to the National Visa Center for further processing. Then if, on the other hand, the visa is denied, it is possible for the petitioner to file a new petition after determining what changes need to be made to encourage approval. Then, upon approval, USCIS will forward the immigrant’s case to the National Visa Center for further processing.

3. Family Preference Relatives Waits Until Visa is Available:

However, this third step only takes place if the petitioner was in the Family Preference group. Relatives that are not considered immediate are not eligible for permanent residence right away. This is because there are annual limits on the number of green cards that can be approved. Therefore, the immigrant joins a waiting list. This usually waits at least a year before learning if a visa is available.

4. Immigrant applies for an immigrant visa or Green Card

If the petition has been approved, and a visa has become available, then the immigrant would then submit an application for permanent residence. This is usually done by applying for an immigrant visa at a U.S. consulate outside the United States, and then once in the states, the immigrant would apply for the Green Card. During the ensuing process, called consular processing, the immigrant will be required to fill out various forms, provide documents and take part in a medical examination.

What other family members can be petitioned?

In this section you will find which family members you can claim to obtain American residency by family petition:

There are several categories of preference for non-immediate relatives. This type of family visa has the peculiarity that they are limited. Therefore, unlike visas for immediate relatives, there is not a visa number always available.

Visas are available for a certain category of preference, depending on the priority date. Here are the categories of preference:

  1. First preference. Corresponds to sons/daughters over 21 years of age, unmarried, of American citizens.
  2. Second preference (2A). It includes the spouse of a permanent resident (holder of a Green Card, and unmarried children under 21 years of age.
  3. Second preference (2B). It includes adult and unmarried sons and daughters of holders of a residence card.
  4. Third preference. Married sons/daughters, regardless of age, of American citizens.
  5. Fourth preference. Adult brothers/sisters of US citizens.
  6. For more information on visa priority dates and availability, consult the Department of State’s visa bulletin.

How to Help a family member to become a permanent resident of the United States?

US citizens by birth or naturalization can petition their immediate relatives and others.
They can do so by sponsoring the relative through a foreign relative petition and showing that they can support him financially.
For this, they must present evidence of income and/or sufficient assets.
The relative petition process begins with the filing of Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative. The form establishes the relationship between the relative and the petitioner.

Sometimes Form I-130 can be filed together with the Green Card application, through Form I-485.

While the application is being processed, the foreign relative who is outside the United States will have to wait in their country of origin to be able to immigrate legally.

If you are already within the US, then you can adjust your status to permanent resident and file Form I-130. For family members of US citizens who are members of the Armed Forces, a special statute applies.

Petitions from relatives living abroad are sent to the National Visa Center (NVC). After processing the petition, the NVC forwards it to the US consulate in the relevant country. At that moment the so-called consular process begins.

Can an American Citizen Ask for a Nephew?

It’s not possible. Although immigration law is quite broad, there are non-immediate relatives who do not qualify for this type of benefit. Citizens or permanent residents of the United States can only ask immediate family members, not a nephew.

Green Card Application Process

The family-based immigration process generally begins with the petitioner (U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident) making a request to the U.S. government to allow a family member to immigrate. The petitioner files Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, with USCIS.

The I-130 petition establishes the existence of a qualifying family relationship (within the immediate relative or family preference categories). For more details on what happens after filing the I-130 petition, view the Form I-130 processing time.

Once USCIS approves the I-130 petition and a visa number is available, the foreign family member may apply for a green card. There are two basic paths to apply for a green card: consular processing or adjustment of status. Consular processing is a means for applying for an immigrant visa (green card) through the U.S. embassy or consular office in a foreign country.

Consular processing is the most common path to obtaining a green card. In some cases, an immigrant that is already inside the United States as a temporary visitor (e.g. student, tourist, etc.) may be able to adjust status to permanent resident.

Adjustment of status is the process of changing immigration status to permanent residence (green card holder). Adjustment of status is only available to a small group of applicants.

The Advantages of Family-Based Immigration

1) Families are crucial to the social and economic incorporation of newcomers.

2) Family-based immigration has a positive impact on business development and community improvement.

3)Immigrants who come to the country on a family-based visa tend to move up the socio-economic ladder.

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Is Family-Based Immigration Permanent?

U.S. immigration law allows certain aliens who are family members of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents to become lawful permanent residents (get a Green Card) base on specific family relationships.

If you or a family member of yours want to obtain American residency for a family petition or for any case related to immigration matters, the immigration lawyers at Lluis Law are at your disposal and help you solve all your doubts. Get Your Application In progress By starting your Application Today from the US Immigration Portal.

Bottom Line

In conclusion, although the concept of family sponsorship seems straightforward, there are many exceptions and details of which to be aware. Instead of risking having your efforts rejected due to a missing detail on a document or an ineligible scenario, we recommend consulting with an experienced legal attorney who knows how to properly prepare successful family sponsorship applications.

Moreover, since there are a limited amount of visas available under the family-based immigration category. Getting the application right the first time is absolutely necessary. However, even though there are unlimited visas available for immediate relatives, a visa application needs to be prepared properly. Therefore, we recommend getting legal assistance.