Family is at the heart of our lives, and it’s natural to want to be with our loved ones. If you’re considering joining your family in the United States, a family-based immigration visa can make that dream a reality. In this article, we’ll guide you through the process, step by step, so you can understand how to navigate the complexities and successfully come to the US on a family-based immigration visa.
Understanding Family Based Immigration Visas
What Are Family Based Immigration Visas?
Family-based immigration visas are a category of visas that allow US citizens and lawful permanent residents to bring their family members to the United States. These visas are intended to reunite families and promote family unity.
Different Types of Family Based Immigration Visas
There are several types of family-based immigration visas, each catering to specific relationships:
- Immediate Relative Visas: These visas are available to the spouses, parents, and unmarried children under 21 years of age of US citizens. There is no limit to the number of immediate relative visas issued each year.
- Family Preference Visas: These visas are available to more distant relatives of US citizens and lawful permanent residents, including unmarried children over 21, married children, and siblings. The number of family preference visas issued each year is limited.
Determining Eligibility for a Family Based Immigration Visa
To come to the US on a family-based immigration visa, you must meet certain eligibility requirements.
The first requirement is to have a qualifying relationship with a US citizen or lawful permanent resident who is willing to sponsor you. Qualifying relationships include being a spouse, parent, child, or sibling of a US citizen or lawful permanent resident.
The sponsoring US citizen or lawful permanent resident must meet certain criteria, including being at least 18 years old, having a valid status in the US, and demonstrating the ability to financially support the immigrant family member.
Step-by-Step Process for Obtaining a Family Based Immigration Visa
Now that you understand the eligibility requirements, let’s walk through the step-by-step process of obtaining a family-based immigration visa.
Filing the Petition
The first step is for the sponsoring US citizen or lawful permanent resident to file a petition on behalf of the intending immigrant family member. The petition establishes the qualifying relationship and serves as the basis for the visa application.
Completing the Application Forms
Once the petition is approved, the intending immigrant family member must complete the appropriate application forms. These forms gather personal information, details about the relationship with the sponsor, and other relevant data.
Gathering Supporting Documents
Supporting documents play a crucial role in demonstrating the authenticity of the relationship and the eligibility of the intending immigrant. These documents may include birth certificates, marriage certificates, passports, proof of financial support, and other relevant evidence.
Submitting the Application
After completing the forms and gathering the supporting documents, the application package must be submitted to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for processing. It’s essential to follow the instructions carefully and submit the application within the designated timeframe.
Attending the Interview
Once the application is processed, the intending immigrant family member may be required to attend an interview at a US embassy or consulate in their home country. During the interview, they will be asked questions about their relationship with the sponsor and their intentions to live in the US.
Receiving the Visa
If the visa application is approved, the intending immigrant family member will receive their visa, allowing them to come to the US and join their family. The visa will have an expiration date, so it’s crucial to plan the travel accordingly.
Understanding the Waiting Times and Priority Dates
It’s important to note that family-based immigration visas have waiting times and priority dates. These factors determine when the visa application can be processed and when the intending immigrant can come to the US.
The Visa Bulletin is a monthly publication by the US Department of State that provides information about visa availability. It categorizes visa applications based on the relationship category and the applicant’s country of origin. The Visa Bulletin helps applicants and sponsors understand the waiting times involved in the visa process.
Processing times can vary depending on various factors such as the type of visa, the number of applications, and the workload of the USCIS. It’s essential to stay informed about the current processing times to have realistic expectations about the timeline for obtaining the family-based immigration visa.
Special Considerations for Immediate Relatives
Immediate relatives of US citizens have certain advantages in the family-based immigration process. Let’s explore some special considerations for immediate relatives.
Spouses of US Citizens
Spouses of US citizens are considered immediate relatives, which means there is no waiting time or numerical limit for their visas. They are given top priority in the visa allocation process, allowing them to obtain their visas relatively quickly.
Parents of US Citizens
Parents of US citizens are also considered immediate relatives. However, if the sponsoring US citizen is under the age of 21, they cannot directly sponsor their parents. In such cases, the US citizen must first turn 21 before they can file a petition for their parents.
Unmarried Children Under 21 of US Citizens
Unmarried children under 21 years of age of US citizens are also classified as immediate relatives. They can receive their visas without any waiting time or numerical limit. It’s important to note that once the child turns 21, they move to a different preference category, which may result in longer waiting times.
Adjustment of Status vs. Consular Processing
When it comes to obtaining a family-based immigration visa, there are two primary paths: adjustment of status and consular processing. Let’s explore thedifferences between these two processes.
Adjustment of Status
Adjustment of status is a process available to individuals who are already present in the United States on a valid visa or other qualifying status. This process allows them to apply for a family-based immigration visa without leaving the country. If eligible, the intending immigrant can file the necessary forms and supporting documents with the USCIS to adjust their status to that of a lawful permanent resident.
Consular processing is the alternative process for individuals who are outside the United States or ineligible for adjustment of status. In consular processing, the intending immigrant attends an interview at a US embassy or consulate in their home country. If approved, they will receive an immigrant visa, which allows them to enter the United States as a lawful permanent resident.
The choice between adjustment of status and consular processing depends on individual circumstances, such as the current immigration status, location, and eligibility criteria. Consulting with an immigration attorney or seeking guidance from the USCIS can help determine the most appropriate route.
Conditional Residence and Removal of Conditions
In certain cases, family-based immigration visas may come with a condition of residence. This condition is typically applicable to spouses who have been married for less than two years at the time of receiving the immigrant visa. The conditional residence status is valid for two years.
To remove the conditions and obtain permanent residency, the couple must jointly file a petition to remove conditions during the 90-day period before the conditional residence expires. This process requires demonstrating that the marriage is genuine and not solely for immigration purposes.
Maintaining Legal Status in the US
Once you arrive in the United States on a family-based immigration visa and become a lawful permanent resident, it’s important to understand how to maintain your legal status.
Rights and Responsibilities
As a lawful permanent resident, you have certain rights and responsibilities. You have the right to live and work permanently in the United States, as well as access to various benefits and protections. At the same time, you have the responsibility to obey US laws, pay taxes, and maintain your immigration status.
Obtaining a Green Card
A green card, officially known as a Permanent Resident Card, is proof of your lawful permanent resident status. It’s important to apply for a green card after entering the United States on a family-based immigration visa. The green card serves as identification and evidence of your legal status.
If you wish to become a US citizen in the future, you may be eligible to apply for naturalization after meeting certain requirements. The naturalization process involves filing an application, attending an interview, and passing an English and civics test. By becoming a US citizen, you can enjoy additional rights and benefits.
Resources and Support
Navigating the family-based immigration visa process can be challenging, but there are numerous resources and support available to assist you along the way.
- USCIS Website: The official website of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) provides comprehensive information, forms, and resources related to family-based immigration visas.
- Immigration Attorneys: Consulting with an immigration attorney who specializes in family-based immigration can provide personalized guidance and support throughout the process.
- Local Immigrant Support Organizations: There are various non-profit organizations and community centers that offer assistance and resources to immigrants. They can provide guidance, workshops, and support during the application process.
- Online Forums and Communities: Online platforms and forums dedicated to immigration topics can be a valuable source of information and support. Engaging with others who have gone through or are going through the same process can provide insights and advice.
Remember, it’s crucial to rely on reputable sources and seek professional advice to ensure accurate and up-to-date information throughout the family-based immigration visa journey.
Coming to the UnitedStates on a family-based immigration visa is an exciting and life-changing opportunity to be with your loved ones. While the process may seem daunting, understanding the steps and requirements can make it more manageable. By determining your eligibility, following the step-by-step process, and staying informed about waiting times and priority dates, you can navigate the journey successfully.
Remember to consider any special considerations for immediate relatives, choose between adjustment of status and consular processing, and be aware of conditional residence and removal of conditions if applicable. Once you arrive in the United States, it’s important to maintain your legal status, understand your rights and responsibilities as a lawful permanent resident, and explore the path to naturalization if desired.
Throughout this process, utilize available resources and seek support from immigration attorneys, immigrant support organizations, and online communities. They can provide guidance, answer your questions, and offer assistance when needed.
While the family-based immigration visa process requires time, patience, and attention to detail, it is a worthwhile journey that can bring you closer to your family and open doors to a brighter future in the United States.
Contact the Law Office of Ghenadie Rusu today to schedule a consultation and discuss your family-based immigration needs. Our attorneys are here to guide you through the process and help you build a brighter future with your loved ones in the United States.
1. How long does it take to obtain a family-based immigration visa? The processing times for family-based immigration visas can vary depending on factors such as the visa category, the country of origin, and the current demand. It’s essential to check the Visa Bulletin and stay informed about the current processing times to have a realistic expectation of the timeline.
2. Can I work in the United States with a family-based immigration visa? Yes, once you become a lawful permanent resident with a family-based immigration visa, you have the right to work in the United States. You may need to apply for a Social Security number and meet any specific requirements related to employment.
3. Can I bring other family members with me on a family-based immigration visa? Family-based immigration visas are specific to the qualifying relationship with a US citizen or lawful permanent resident. However, once you become a lawful permanent resident, you may be eligible to sponsor other eligible family members under different visa categories.
4. What happens if my family-based immigration visa application is denied? If your family-based immigration visa application is denied, you may have the option to appeal the decision or explore alternative paths. Consulting with an immigration attorney can provide valuable guidance and assistance in such situations.
5. Can I travel outside the United States while waiting for my family-based immigration visa? If you are in the process of obtaining a family-based immigration visa, it’s generally recommended to avoid international travel until you have received your visa. Traveling outside the United States before obtaining the visa may impact the application process and require additional steps.
Remember, each immigration case is unique, and it’s important to seek personalized advice from an immigration attorney to address specific concerns and circumstances.