family based immigration

What is Family Based Immigration?

Family-based immigration refers to the ability of a U.S. citizen (USC) or a lawful permanent resident (LPR) to petition for their foreign relatives to immigrate to the United States.

Who is Eligible?

U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents are provided with different options when it comes to an application for family-based immigration.

A U.S. citizen may file a petition for:

  • Spouse;
  • Unmarried child under the age of 21;
  • Unmarried child over the age of 21;
  • Married sons or daughters of any age;
  • Siblings and Parents;
  • Fiancé(e) who resides outside of the U.S. and their children under the age of 21.

A Lawful Permanent Resident may file a petition for:

  • Spouse;
  • Unmarried child under the age of 21;
  • Unmarried sons or daughters of any age.

How Does Someone Start the Process?

In order for a person interested in family-based immigration to begin the family-based petition process, Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative must be completed and submitted to the USCIS, along with any pertinent filing fees. Depending on the status of the petitioner (U.S. citizen or LPR), certain documentation is required. Generally, the petitioner will have to provide proof of their status and evidence that demonstrates the relationship to the beneficiary of their petition, such as birth certificates, marriage certificates, divorce decree, etc.

It would be prudent to consult with an immigration lawyer to discuss the requirements of each application. This is more important than ever, since the new USCIS policy changes which were put into effect as of September 11, 2018 make it more difficult for applications to be approved.

What Happens After the Petition is Filed?

Once the petition has been filed and approved by USCIS, the next step depends on where the beneficiary of the petition is located. If the beneficiary is physically present in the United States, they may be eligible to adjust their status once a visa number has been made available. Adjustment of status to a green card is completed by submitting Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status to the USCIS.

If the beneficiary of the successfully approved petition is located outside of the United States, they will have to go through a process known as consular processing. Once the petition is approved, USCIS will forward the documents to the National Visa Center (NVC). The petition is sent to the closest U.S. consulate in the beneficiary’s home country, where the beneficiary of the petition will wait for a visa number to become available. Once a visa number is ready, they have to attend an interview with an immigration official at their local consulate. If the interview goes well, the beneficiary will receive authorization and a visa to travel to the U.S., where they will receive their green card.

To read Part 2 of Family Based Immigration/Family Based Petitions, click here.