IMMIGRATION: Family Immigration

Spouses, parents, and minor children of U.S. citizens, are eligible for U.S. immigration benefits as "immediate relatives", and are exempt from per-country visa quotas. Because of visa quotas, waiting times for other family based visa categories may be substantial.

As immediate relatives, spouses, minor children, and parents of U.S. citizens are quota exempt, and therefore can process immediately. In this case, depending upon where they are located (in the USA or overseas), immediately can mean a wait of up to a year.

Brothers and sisters, and adult sons and daughters of U.S. citizens, are eligible to receive immigration benefits, but are each subject to per-country visa quotas that may be as much as twenty years or more. Spouses and minor children of U.S. permanent residents are also eligible for immigration benefits, although they are subject to per-country visa quotas.

Note: For brothers and sisters, you must double the apparent processing times, because historically, this category only moves about five to six months per year.

U.S. permanent residents can apply for permanent residents on behalf of their spouse and children only, and are subject to the visa quota system. Refer to the Visa Bulletin to find how far backed up the various family-related categories are.

HERE'S HOW IT WORKS . . . .

  • First, the USCIS must approve an immigrant visa petition, I-130 Petition for Alien Relative, which the U.S. citizen or permanent resident files on behalf of their alien relative.
  • Second, the Department of State must determine if an immigrant visa number is immediately available to the alien relative, even if they are already in the United States. When an immigrant visa number becomes immediately available the alien relative can apply to have one of the immigrant visa numbers assigned to them. You can check the status of a visa number in the Department of State's Visa Bulletin.
  • Third, if the alien relative is already in the United States, application to change status to that of a lawful permanent resident after a visa number becomes available may be filed. In the case of the immediate relative of a U.S. citizen, the alien relative need not be current in immigration status, but the opposite is true of spouses and children of permanent residents. If the alien relative is outside the United States when an immigrant visa number becomes available, they must go to the U.S. consulate servicing the area of residence to apply for an immigrant visa.

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ELIGIBILITY . . . .

To be eligible to sponsor a relative to immigrate to the United States
you must meet the following criteria:

  • You must be a citizen or a lawful permanent resident of the United States
    and be able to provide documentation proving your status.
  • You must prove that you can support your relative at 125% above the mandated poverty line.
  • If you are a US Citizen you may petition for the following foreign national relatives to immigrate
    to the United States; however you must be able to provide proof of the relationships:

         Husband or wife;
         Unmarried child under 21 years old;
         Unmarried son or daughter over 21;
         Married son or daughter of any age;
         Brother or sister, if you are at least 21 years old; or
         Parent, if you are at least 21 years old.


  • If you are a lawful permanent resident you may petition for the following foreign national relatives
    to immigrate to the United States; however you must be able to provide proof of the relationships:

         Husband or wife; or
         Unmarried son or daughter of any age.

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    To be eligible for lawful permanent residence based on a
    family relationship you must meet the following criteria:
  • You must have a relative who is a United States citizen or a lawful permanent resident of the United States who can provide documentation proving their status and is willing to sponsor you for lawful permanent residency by filing
    the I-130, Petition for Alien Relative. Your relative must prove they can support you by providing documentation that their income is 125% above the mandated poverty line for their family, including you and all other sponsored family members.
  • If your relative is a US Citizen and they can legally prove you share one of the following relationships, you may be eligible for lawful permanent residency, please see the U.S. Department of State Visa Bulletin for preference category information.

         Husband or wife;
         Child under 21 years old;
         Unmarried son or daughter over 21;
         Married son or daughter of any age;
         Brother or sister if you are at least 21 years old; or
         Parents if you are at least 21 years old.


  • If your relative is a lawful permanent resident and they can legally prove you share one of the following relationships, you may be eligible for lawful permanent residence, please see below for preference category information:

     Husband or wife; or
     Unmarried son or daughter of any age.

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FAMILY PREFERENCE CATEGORIES . . . .

The relative you wish to immigrate must obtain an immigrant visa number that is based on the preference category in which they fall. People who want to become immigrants are classified into categories based on a preference system. The immediate relatives of U.S. citizens, which includes parents, spouses and unmarried children under the age of 21, do not have to wait for an immigrant visa number to become available once the visa petition filed for them is approved by the USCIS.

An immigrant visa number will be immediately available for immediate relatives of U.S. citizens. The relatives in the remaining categories must wait for an immigrant visa number to become available according to the following preferences:

  • First Preference: Unmarried, adult sons and daughters of U.S. citizens.
    (Adult means 21 years of age or older.)
  • Second Preference: Spouses of lawful permanent residents, their unmarried children
    (under twenty-one), and the unmarried sons and daughters of lawful permanent residents.
  • Third Preference: Married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens.
  • Fourth Preference: Brothers and sisters of adult U.S. citizens.

    Remember that spouses, children and parents of U.S. Citizens are exempt from the visa quotas because they are "immediate relatives". The visa quotas apply to all other family categories. The date of the filing of a Relative Petition establishes a "Priority Date".

    The Priority Dates that are presently being issued visas are listed on the U.S. Department of State Visa Bulletin

    While Relative Petitions may seem an easy task of form-filling, they can be quite complex, and must be fully and properly documented with documents required by the USCIS. The assistance of competent legal counsel can prevent disastorous and potentially irreversible mistakes in family related immigration matters.
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    Our firm assists clients through the entire process of legal advice, as well as the prepartion 
    and filing the forms and supporting documents required to be filed with the U.S. Citizenship
    & Immigration Services (USCIS), including:


  • Form I-130 Relative Petition. A form signed by a qualifying U.S. relative (spouse, mother, father, sister or brother) that provides the basis for permanent residence. An alien may be anywhere in the world when this form is filed. Processing and wait times vary with each classification. The advice of legal counsel should be consulted regarding the permanent residence process, as it involves more than just completing anf filing forms with the USCIS, but requires a full legal analysis. Mistakes are easy to make and are often irreversable.
  • Form I-485 Adjustment of Status. A form used by a person who is in the United States to apply for adjustment to permanent resident status or registration for permanent residence.
  • Form G-325A Biographic Information. A form used to supply additional information about a person seeking immigration benefits from the USCIS. This form is used by the FBI in conducting their background check and must be prepared carefully.
  • Form I-864 Affidavit of Support. A contract between a sponsor and a beneficiary through which the sponsor promises to support the beneficiary on his/her arrival in the United States or his/her adjustment to permanent residence. This form is very confusing. We will assist in the advice and preparation on this very important form.
  • Form I-693 Medical Examination of Aliens Seeking Adjustment of Status. Upon completion of the medical exam required for an alien seeking to adjust status, a UCSIS-approved doctor will fill out this form. Our firm provides clinets with a list of qualified physicians in their area.
  • Form I-485A (Supplement A to Form I-485). Supplement to Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status -- a form that must be submitted by people who entered the U.S. in transit, without a visa, or without inspection (such as a nonimmigrant crewman or a stowaway) who have an approved petition or a labor certitification that was submitted prior to April 30, 2001. By paying an additional USCIS filing fee, these people may adjust their status to permanent residence without leaving the United States, and being subject to the Bar to Admissibility. (click this link and go to the bottom of the page for an explanation of the Bar to Admissibility)
  • Form I-765 Application for Employment Authorization. A form that can be filed along with the I-485 Adjustment of Status in order to obtain employment authorization if the alien relative in present in the USA and is applying for adjustment of status at a local USCIS office.
  • Form I-131 Application for Travel Document. A form that can be filed with the I-485 Adjustment of Status, if the applicant qualifies. This form is used to obtain a travel document that is required if an alien who is applying to adjust status to permanent residence within the USA wishes to travel outside of the United States and then return to continue permanent residence processing. If an applicant leaves the USA without first having this form approved, they will be deemed to have abandoned their application for permanent residence, and the application will be denied at the USCIS interview.

If adjustment of status within the USA is not an option, then consular processing of the permanent residence visa is the alternative, with the issuance of a CR1 or IR1 permanent residence visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad. Very strict rules apply for those not eligible for adjustment within the USA. Consult an immigration attorney for assistance.

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