Family immigration is the primary basis for legal immigration to the United States. Under current immigration law, U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents (LPRs) can sponsor certain family members for a visa that provides permanent residence, also known as a green card.
What Is the Purpose of a US Family Visa?
A green card allows you to work and live in the United States as a permanent resident. Adjustment of Status gives applicants the opportunity to obtain a green card by using the eligible visa they already have and without the need to go back to your home country.
If you are outside the United States and wish to have permanent residency in the U.S., you will go through another process called consular processing. The nearest U.S. embassy will process your green card. If you are currently outside of the United States, we are available to answer questions.
Who Qualifies for a US Family Visa?
There are two groups of family-based immigrant visa categories: Immediate Relative and Family Preference.
These visa types are based on a close family relationship with a United States citizen.
- IR-1: Spouse of a U.S. Citizen
- IR-2: Unmarried Child Under 21 Years of Age of a U.S. Citizen
- IR-3: Orphan adopted abroad by a U.S. Citizen
- IR-4: Orphan to be adopted in the U.S. by a U.S. citizen
- IR-5: Parent of a U.S. Citizen who is at least 21 years old
These visa types are for specific, more distant, family relationships with a U.S. citizen and some specified relationships with an LPR.
- Family First Preference (F1): Unmarried sons and daughters of U.S. citizens, and their minor children, if any.
- Family Second Preference (F2): Spouses, minor children, and unmarried sons and daughters (age 21 and over) of LPRs.
- Family Third Preference (F3): Married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens, and their spouses and minor children.
- Family Fourth Preference (F4): Brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens, and their spouses and minor children, provided the U.S. citizens are at least 21 years of age.
There are unlimited visas available in the Immediate Relative group, whereas there is a specific amount of Family Preference visas available annually.
Note: U.S. citizens and LPRs cannot sponsor other family members such as grandparents, aunts, uncles, in-laws, and cousins for immigration.
Family Visa Process
Step1: Determine Your Eligibility
Identify if your current visa status can be used to apply for adjustment of status. Your current visa also directs you to which form to use for your immigrant petition.
Step 2: File an Immigrant Petition
To begin the sponsorship process, the U.S. Lawful Permanent Resident family member will need to mail a visa petition on USCIS Form I-130, along with accompanying documents, to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The LRP must prove the family relationship is real.
Petition forms and filing fees are:
- Form I-130 — family and relative green card: $535 fee (You can check current fees here.)
There are many other required forms that vary depending on your current status. Once submitted, the USCIS must approve your petition. The timeline for immigrant petitions can be different for each individual applicant — lasting from a few months to over a year.
Step 3: Decision
Once USCIS receives the petition, the officers will consider whether to approve or deny the request. If approved, the case file will be forwarded to the National Visa Center for further processing. If denied, it is possible for the petitioner to file a new petition after determining what changes need to be made to encourage an approval. Upon approval, USCIS will forward the immigrant’s case file to the National Visa Center (NVC) for further processing.
Step 4: Preference Relatives Wait for Visa Availability
This 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, as there are annual limits on the number of Green Cards that can be approved. Thus, the immigrant joins a waiting list, and will usually wait at least a year before learning if a visa is available.
Step 5: Immigrant Applies for Visa or Green Card
If the petition has been approved, and a visa has become available, the immigrant would then apply 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.
Step 6: I-130 Status Updates
You can track your Family Visa application status during your green card process.
Family Visa Timeline
On average, the I-130 (family sponsorship visa) filed by your sponsor takes between 6 to 12 months to be processed. The USCIS processes the petition on a first-come, first-served basis. Your sponsor can expedite the process by submitting the form as early as possible. Your immigration attorney will be able to clarify your individual time frame.
Working with an Immigrant Attorney
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.
Having an attorney to help gather evidence, conduct thorough reviews of documents, assess individualized timelines, and support you can make all the difference in applying for a Family Visa. Since there are a limited number of visas available under the Family Preference category, getting the application right the first time is vital. The experienced immigration lawyers of Lynnwood & Snohomish County are seasoned in green card applications and can direct you each step throughout the entire process.
Contact Immigration Lawyers Serving Lynnwood & Snohomish County Today
Steven Palmer of Curtis, Casteel & Palmer, PLLC is here to help you every step of the way in the process of adjusting your status to obtain permanent residency. Speak with a Bankruptcy Lawyer today to start your adjustment of status application.
Frequently Asked Questions
The process for obtaining a family-based US visa involves submitting an immigrant visa petition to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and then attending an interview at the US Embassy or Consulate in the country of origin.
The required documents vary depending on the type of visa requested, but generally include proof of relationship (such as a birth or marriage certificate), evidence of financial support, and any other applicable documents to prove eligibility.
The processing time for a family-based US visa varies and depends on the type of visa requested, the availability of resources and staffing, and the amount of information submitted. Generally, the processing time can range from a few months to several year
An immigrant visa is issued to foreign nationals who intend to live in the United States permanently. This type of visa grants foreign nationals the right to live and work in the United States on a permanent basis.
A nonimmigrant visa is issued to foreign nationals who intend to visit the United States temporarily. This type of visa grants foreign nationals the right to enter the United States for a specific purpose, such as tourism, study, or business, and for a limited period of time.
You could save processing time by getting married first, if that’s a possibility for you, by avoiding the wait times for K1 visas to become available.
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