You may have heard that some politicians are lobbying to stop or reduce family-based immigration to the United States so that green card holders and even U.S. citizens will no longer be able to sponsor foreign relatives for permanent residency or citizenship in the United States. This, however, is still only a proposal and the future of family-sponsored immigration to the United States is not set.
Only the U.S. Congress can change U.S. immigration law and, so far, both U.S. citizens and green card holders can still sponsor certain family members to receive green cards and non-immigrant visas to come to the United States. This article presents a short overview of U.S. immigration law as it pertains to a lawful permanent resident’s ability to sponsor a family member to come to the United States.
Green Card vs. Non-Immigrant Visa
At this point, it is very important to clarify the difference between a green card and a non-immigrant visa. The primary differences between the two are as follows:
A green card, often referred to as an immigrant visa, permits a foreign national to travel to the United States to live and work permanently.
A non-immigrant visa allows a foreign national to travel to the United States and stay for a temporary period of time only and for a specific purpose, in this case, to visit or reunite with family. Non-immigrant visas are also appropriate for people wishing to engage in:
- U.S. trade
- Study at a U.S. institution of higher learning.
- Work at a U.S. company
- Or to pursue other goals in the United States for a temporary period of time.
In many cases, obtaining a non-immigrant visa is also the first step for a person who wants a green card and ultimately U.S. citizenship.
Who Can You Help Immigrate?
The U.S. Congress recognizes the importance of family reunification by allowing certain foreign nationals to qualify for a visa to come to the United States based on their relationships to a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident (LPR). As such, an LPR, also known as a green card holder, may petition for certain family members to immigrate to the United States as permanent residents.
If you are an LPR, you may petition for the following members of your family to receive immigrant visas to come live and work in the United States as well:
- A spouse.
- Your unmarried children (under the age of 21).
- Your unmarried children over the age of 21.
- In addition, the immediate family members (i.e., spouses and minor children) of the qualifying family member are permitted to immigrate as well.
Unlike U.S. citizens, LPRs can neither sponsor parents for green cards nor their siblings. Furthermore, at this point in time, there are no family-based immigrant visa categories available for the family members of an LPR.
What’s the Family Based Visa/Green Card Process?
Whether you want to sponsor a spouse or child, and whether that person is already inside the U.S. or still in their home country, the first step in the family-based visa/green card process is to file INS Form I-130 (Petition For Alien Relative) with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
This will also require you to submit certain supporting documents, such as proof of your status as a lawful permanent resident, as well as, your family member’s birth certificate, marriage certificate, passport, photographs, and other documents needed to establish the relationship between you and the family member and their eligibility for a family-based visa. Furthermore, any document that is not in English must be accompanied by a certified English translation.
Family Based Immigration Processing Times
The processing time for the I-130 petition will depend on the relationship between you and the family member you are sponsoring, whether or not the petition was prepared fully and accurately, and the USCIS’s current caseload. This can range from 12 months for spouses and minor children to several years for unmarried adult children of an LPR.
In addition, the number of visas available for family members of lawful permanent residents is subject to annual numerical limits, currently 114,200 per year. Because of this, even after your I-30 petition has been approved, the amount of time your sponsored family member will have to wait to receive a visa number to apply to come the United States can be very long.
These wait times are listed in the U.S. Department of State’s Visa Bulletin and will range from 18 months for the spouse of an LPR to 22 years for a sibling of an LPR who is from Mexico or the Philippines.
In some cases, a family member, such as a wife or child, who is already in the U.S. can remain in the country and wait for a visa or an adjustment of status. In other cases, they will need to remain in their home country and apply for an immigrant visa at a local U.S. embassy or consulate.
A Family Member of Mine Might Qualify. What Next?
If you have a family member that might qualify for a family-based green card, the first thing you should do is consult with an experienced immigration attorney. Immigration law can be very complex and confusing and it is very easy for an applicant to check the wrong box or submit the wrong information. But, any information you submit to the United States government needs to be honest, accurate, and correct, in order for your petition to succeed.
What’s more, every piece of information you submit to the government creates a record that can be very difficult or impossible to correct when mistakes have been made. Having an experienced attorney to assist you will help you avoid mistakes that can negatively affect your ability to sponsor the family member that you want to bring to the United States.
That being said, here are 3 things to keep in mind when selecting an immigration attorney to assist you:
- Don’t rush to find an immigration attorney. Unless you are nearing a statutory deadline, take the time to find the best immigration attorney for your case.
- Talk to several immigration attorneys. Most immigration attorneys offer a free consultation.
- Don’t base your selection on the attorney’s fee alone. It’s better to work with an attorney who charges a higher fee, but who has a proven track record and will keep you updated, than with one who will charge less, but has limited experience and will communicate with you poorly.
With these three things in mind, you will be better prepared to choose an immigration attorney that has the most expertise and will do the best job for you. Once you are ready to discuss your case with an expert immigration attorney, consider contacting Attorney Eric Price for a free consultation.
Contact Attorney Eric Price Today!
Family-based immigrant visas are extremely useful for lawful permanent residents of the U.S. who want to reunite their families. The closeness of your relationship with the family member will determine if you can sponsor them to come to the United States and how long it will take for them to obtain a family-based immigrant visa.
Contact Attorney Eric Price to schedule a free consultation today! Learn how you can sponsor an eligible relative for permanent residence in the United States and exactly how he can assist you throughout the process.