Family-Based Immigration to the USA enables U.S. citizens and permanent residents to sponsor certain foreign-born relatives for immigrant visas. Immediate relatives include spouses, children and parents. Other relatives must be sponsored through numerically limited Family Preference categories, and demand typically exceeds supply.
The process is complex, and it can take decades for some people to receive their green cards. It is important to work with an experienced attorney.
Understanding Family-Based Immigration to the USA
For centuries, reuniting with family has motivated many newcomers to the United States. This type of immigration provides an important economic boost to communities and helps create neighborhoods with distinct cultural centers, like Little Italy and Chinatown. It also contributes to a stronger sense of community, and it allows residents to retain their heritage and traditions.
The United States offers two types of family-based immigrant visas: immediate relatives and preference visas. Immediate relatives include spouses, children under 21, and parents of U.S. citizens. These visas do not have annual caps. Preference visas are reserved each year for the adult children and siblings of U.S. citizens, as well as the spouses and unmarried children of lawful permanent residents (LPRs).
The person who sponsors a foreign-born relative for a green card is called a sponsor. The sponsorship process can be complicated, so it is important to consult with an experienced San Diego family-based immigration attorney. Contact the attorneys at KS Visa Law to learn more about the requirements and benefits of family-based immigration. They can help you navigate the complex process and ensure that all documentation is submitted properly.
Eligibility and Sponsorship
To qualify for family-based immigration, you must have a qualifying relationship with a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. Common categories include spouses, parents, children, and siblings. The sponsoring family member (the petitioner) must meet specific criteria.
The family members that can be sponsored for a green card through family-based immigration are limited to the immediate family. This includes spouses and unmarried children under 21 of United States citizens as well as the parents of adult sons or daughters who are already permanent residents.
Immediate relatives have a priority immigration status, and are generally eligible to receive their visas without any annual caps or wait times. However, other relatives of U.S. citizens (unmarried children over the age of 21, parents, and siblings) are subject to an annual cap and must wait in a family preference category.
To sponsor a family member, either a USC or LPR must submit a petition to the appropriate agency. The sponsor must complete the required forms and demonstrate that they have sufficient income to support their relative once they become a resident of the United States. This is called the “Sponsor Affidavit of Support.” The Sponsor must also sign a legally binding agreement to maintain the Sponsor’s standard of living at 125% of poverty, or higher, for the duration of the sponsor’s time in the country.
Application Process for Family-Based Visas
The application process involves several steps, including filing a petition, gathering supporting documents, attending interviews, and demonstrating the bona fide nature of the relationship. The exact process can vary depending on the family relationship and visa category.
The sponsoring family member must file a petition called Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative with USCIS (formerly known as INS or the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services). The sponsoring spouse and children must prove their relationship, meet income requirements and pass background checks, national security and health-related screenings. They must also sign an affidavit of support and pay the appropriate fee.
There are two groups of family-based immigrant visas: immediate relatives and family preference categories. Immediate relatives enjoy a priority over other applicants and don’t face annual numerical limits or caps. Applicants in the family preference categories, however, must wait until their visa is available.
Once the I-130 petition is approved, a visa becomes available for the sponsored family member. The beneficiary can then apply for permanent residence through either adjustment of status or consular processing, depending on their circumstances. The process can take years or even decades, but it is well worth the effort in the end when a family member finally receives their green card. Then, they can join their sponsors in the United States and build a better life for themselves and their children.
Waiting Times and Visa Categories
The length of time that it takes to sponsor a family member for a green card varies greatly depending on their relationship to you and the visa category they fall into. For family members who are already in the United States, the process is much quicker than for those applying from outside the country.
The number of visas granted each year for immediate relatives of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents is limited, meaning that there are wait times for family-based petitioners who do not qualify as immediate relatives. Visas for relatives in the other four preference categories are allocated based on a priority system with different annual caps and per-country limits, which leads to longer wait times.
Those waiting for a green card through the family preference category usually have to wait around 20-30 years or more before learning that they have been approved. This long wait can be very frustrating and stressful for sponsors and families, but if you understand your options, you can reduce the amount of time that you will have to wait for your loved one’s visa to become available.
Benefits of Family-Based Immigration to the USA
Family-based immigration offers several benefits to migrants and the United States. It reunites families who have been separated by decades or even centuries of living in different countries. It allows people to bring their children and other relatives into the country to live and work. Also, it helps immigrants become integrated into American culture, society and traditions more quickly. It provides financial stability to newcomers and their dependents.
Immigrants sponsored by their family members contribute significantly to the U.S economy and local communities. They account for a significant proportion of national economic growth. And are among the most upwardly mobile segments of the population. They also provide valuable cultural perspectives and enrich our national culture.
Immigrants adjusting their status from non-immigrant to permanent residency in the United States through family sponsorship can avoid lengthy and expensive processing times. However, it is important to note that family-based adjustment can still take years due to backlogs caused by insufficient visas and the bureaucratic delay of processing applications. Passing legislation to recapture unused green cards would help alleviate some of these delays.
Q1: Who can sponsor a family member for family-based immigration in the USA?
- A: U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents (green card holders) can sponsor certain family members for family-based immigration.
Q2: Which family members are eligible for family-based immigration?
- A: Eligible family members may include spouses, parents, children, and siblings. The specific relationships depend on the sponsoring family member’s status.
Q3: What is the process for sponsoring a family member for immigration to the USA?
- A: The process typically involves filing a petition (Form I-130), submitting supporting documents. Attending interviews, and demonstrating the validity of the relationship.
Q4: How long does it take to complete the family-based immigration process?
- A: Waiting times can vary widely depending on the family relationship and the visa category. Immediate relatives of U.S. citizens generally have shorter waiting periods.
Q5: Can family members work and study in the USA while their immigration application is pending?
- A: In some cases, family members may be eligible for work and study permits while their immigration application is pending. It’s important to consult with an immigration attorney to understand eligibility.
Q6: Are there any annual limits or quotas for family-based visas?
- A: Family preference categories have annual quotas, which can impact waiting times for certain family members. Immediate relatives of U.S. citizens do not face the same quotas.