Family Based Immigration
Family-based Immigration ranges from bringing in immediate relatives of U.S. citizens (e.g., spouse and minor, unmarried children and parents) to "preference" relatives in several categories (e.g., unmarried sons and daughters of green card holders and U.S. citizens, married sons and daughters of citizens, and brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens).
The United States has provisions for certain visa holders to bring dependents such as their spouses and children on accompanying visas.
The Immigration and Nationality Act allows U.S. Citizens or Lawful Permanent Residents (green card holders) to sponsor the immigration of foreigners to the United States based upon family relationships. A U.S. consular officer will issue a visa after the USCIS approves a petition filed by a qualified family member. After the petition is approved the visa may be issued in as little as 90 days or as long as 25 years depending upon which of the categories listed below apply and depending upon the immigrant’s home country.
However, not all family relationships serve as a basis to apply for Lawful Permanent Resident status.
A U.S. Citizen may file a petition on behalf of:
- Husband, wife, or child under the age of 21 (immediate relative);
- A parent if the U.S. citizen is at least 21 years of age (immediate relative);
- An unmarried son or daughter 21 years or older and their children (first preference);
- Married son or daughter of any age and their children (third preference);
Brother or sister if the U.S. citizen is at least 21 years old and his or her spouses and children (fourth preference)
A Lawful Permanent Resident can file the petition on behalf of:
- Husband or wife, and children under the age of 21 (second preference A);
- Unmarried child 21 years or older (second preference B).
The Immediate Relative category, as noted above, in effect, has no limit on the number of visas issued each year and there is no wait other than the time it takes the USCIS to process the visa petition.
Under Section 245(a) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, a U.S. citizen may petition for an immediate relative and he or she may adjust status in the U.S., so long as the alien entered the U.S. legally.
Under Section 245(i), a US citizen may petition for an immediate relative and he or she may adjust status here in the U.S. even if that relative has fallen out of status, worked without permission, entered as a crewman, been admitted in transit, or been admitted under the visa waiver program.
Aliens other than immediate relatives fall into one of the four limited family based preference categories, and a visa will not be immediately available as there is a numerical limit on the number of visas issued each year. More aliens want visas than are currently available. Therefore, there may be a long waiting period for the visa to be issued. When the application is received by the USCIS they will note the filing date or the “priority date.” The applicant must wait for the priority date to be current before he or she can file to adjust status or apply for an immigrant visa.
Information Source: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service