The Immigration and Nationality Act or INA, is a United States law that determines the number of family-based visas the Department of State can issue each year. These family-based visas are determined using a number of factors and categories. Hiring a Family-Based Immigration lawyer can help you navigate this process successfully.
The family-based immigration process typically has two or more family members involved. The family member requesting the visa, known as the petitioner; and the non-citizen family member is seeking legal immigration status, known as the beneficiary. The Petitioner must be a United States citizen or legal permanent resident. In certain cases the beneficiary may also have a spouse or children that can use the family-based immigration process as derivative beneficiaries of the primary beneficiary.
It’s important to note that U.S. citizens can apply for a visa for their spouse, child, parent or sibling. However, a U.S. legal permanent resident can only apply for a visa for their spouse or unmarried children.
What are the two categories of Family-Based Immigration?
Every family-based immigration application is separated into one of two categories, Family Preference or Immediate Relative. There are unlimited visas available to immediate relatives of United States citizens, however there are only a limited number of family preference visas accepted each year. This limitation makes it very hard to receive a family-based visa based on family preference and means hiring a Family-Based Immigration lawyer to help you complete the process accurately and timely is critical.
What qualifies as Immediate Relative?
- Spouse of a U.S. citizen
- Unmarried child (under 21 years of age) of a U.S. citizen
- Orphan adopted abroad by a U.S. citizen
- Orphan to be adopted in the United States by a U.S. citizen
- Parent of a U.S. citizen (who is at least 21 years old)
What qualifies as Family Preference?
- Unmarried, adult sons and daughters (age 21 or over) of U.S. citizens
- Spouses and unmarried children (under age 21) of permanent residents
- Unmarried adult sons and daughters of permanent residents
- Married sons and daughters (any age) of U.S. citizens
- Brothers and sisters of adult U.S. citizens
What is the family-immigration process?
Typically this type of immigration process starts with the current U.S. citizen or permanent resident filing a form I-130 (Petition for Alien Relative) with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The I-130 application designates the qualifying familial relationship between the petitioner and the person requesting the visa. If the I-130 petition is approved and there is an available visa number, the beneficiary can then apply for their green card. This application can be done through either Consular Processing or Adjustment of Status.
- What is Consular Processing?
- Consular processing is one type of green card application by going through a United States embassy or consulate office in a foreign country.
- What is an Adjustment of Status?
- Adjustment of Status is the process by which a person changes from a nonimmigrant immigration status to a permanent resident.
There is almost always more family preference immigration applications than there are visas available because of the yearly cap. This creates a waiting list of people hoping to receive their green card. Your place on this waiting list is determined by your priority date, which is the date the I-130 petition is accepted. This makes completing and submitting your I-130 petition correctly very important. Our family immigration lawyers can help you make sure you get your place in line.
How long does it take to process a I-130 form?
The actually processing time for a I-130 petition varies dramatically on the type of relationship the petitioner and beneficiary have, the number of cases the USCIS has and ultimately on whether or not your I-130 petition is completed correctly the first time. Based on these factors it can take anywhere from five months to several years to complete the entire process.
Each year nearly 250,000 I-130 petitions are filed with USCIS, and that number is expected to rise. Of that number close to 20,000 are rejected and 16,000 are denied outright. Preparing your I-130 petition properly is one of, if not, the most important parts to obtaining a family-based visa. Our qualified and experienced Family Immigration lawyers can help make sure your first step is done right and increasing your chances of getting approved the first time.