Family Based Green Card
Family based green card applications are a broad category of green cards. In other words, you can get a family based green card in lot of different ways. Also, the rules about how you get a family based green card depend on your place in the family. For context, this article is part of our series on Green Card Application Process. To organize our discussion, we split it. We will use the immigration rules to do this. In the first part, our discussion covers the immediate relatives of US citizens, your closest family members. Next, in the second part we cover family preference immigration, immigration for more distant relatives. In this category we also cover immigration for family members of lawful permanent residents. If you need information on a family-based green card, please keep on reading. If you know you need help now, please contact us.
Immediate relatives of US citizens are parents, children, and spouses. From a review of historical immigration, we find that most of the immediate relative immigration is adults filing for their spouses. With so many people getting a green card through marriage, we have a separate guide for them. We also have a separate article on the difficult problem when someone marries an illegal alien. Some people who have become citizens are also filing for their parents. Likewise, some children born here upon reaching the age of 21 are able to petition for their parents. The key aspect of immediate relative immigration is that you do not have to ever wait for an immigrant visa.
Your Immediate Relatives: Children & Spouses Expanded
USCIS generously construes who is a child and spouse. For example, immigration law provides the child category includes stepchildren. To form the stepchild relationship, the parents must marry before the child’s 18th birthday. Beside stepchildren, the child category also includes adopted children. For the adoption to work for immigration purposes, the parents must have adopted the child prior to his or her 16th birthday. Also, the child must have lived with the adoptive parents for two years prior to filing the immigrant visa petition. Related to green cards for adopted children is citizenship for them. We have an article devoted to that citizenship through adoption.
In the spouse category, the law provides that spouses that were battered or subject to extreme cruelty may file petitions independently of their US citizen or lawful permanent resident spouse. These special immigrant visa petitions also extend to children. The spouse category also includes widows and widowers. Immigration Resource Guide provides quality guidelines about the process, application, renewal and more. The surviving spouse of a US citizen who was married for at least two years may petition within two years of the spouse’s death so long as they’re not remarried and were not legally separated from the spouse at the time of death.
The US citizen spouse need not have been a US citizen for the entire two year period so long as the US citizen spouse had that status at death. If you need help understanding whether you are eligible for immediate relative benefits, we can analyze your situation and help you understand what immigration status that you may petition for.
One-Stop Green Card Application
If the relative is here, the great advantage of a family-based green card application for an immediate relative is completing the process in the United States. For example, if a US citizen spouse is resident in the United States we can file an application for the immigrant visa petition, form I-130, and combine it with an application for adjustment of status. The result is that the USCIS can approve the US citizen spouse to receive the family-based green card without leaving the United States. In fact once, you file the applications the relative cannot leave without permission. Your relative must become a lawful permanent resident first, or receive permission. This permission to travel is called advanced parole. Currently, it is taking about 5 months to receive.
Preference Base Petitions
Family preference immigration has four categories, F1 through F4, and covers US citizens and lawful permanent residents. Unlike immediate relative immigration where a visa is always immediately available, you always have to wait with family preference immigration. A visa is never immediately available for your relative. How long you have to wait depends on the category, and the relationship. For example, F1, the first preference category is for the unmarried sons and daughters of US citizens. This means older children, those over the age of 21. At the time of this article was written, this category was backed up seven years for most of the world. Exceptions with longer wait times include China, India, Mexico and the Philippines. For these four countries, the longest wait time is 22 years, Mexico. Filing an application in these categories is more like an insurance policy. You get no immediate benefit now. But, down the road your application may pay off with an approved visa that your relative can use.
Most Popular Preference Petitions: Relatives of Lawful Permanent Residents
F2, the second preference category is for lawful permanent residents. It is split into two. F-2A covers the the spouses and children. F-2B covers the older children, over 21, who are unmarried. Note that there is no category for married children of lawful permanent residents.
The current waiting time for the F-2A category is approximately two years for most of the world including China, India, Mexico, and the Philippines. The waiting time for the F-2B category is approximately seven years except for Mexico and the Philippines.
F3, the third preference category, is for the unmarried sons and daughters of United States citizens. For most of the world including China and India, this category has a 12 year wait. For Mexico and the Philippines, the wait is 22 years.
F4, the fourth preference category is for brothers and sisters of adult US citizens. The wait time for this category currently is approximately 13 years, except for Mexico and the Philippines.
The waiting times listed here will undoubtedly change. The best way to keep track of how long you have to wait to use an approved immigrant visa petition in a preference category is to check the Visa Bulletin issued by the Department of State. The Process To Get A Green Card numbers are updated monthly. Once the immigrant visa petition becomes current according to the Visa Bulletin, it is time to work on the next step, consular processing.
Preference Green Card: Two Steps
Filing preference based petitions for a family based green card is always two steps. In the first step, we file an immigrant visa petition using form I-130. In filing this form with the USCIS, we are requesting the family based green card for the relative.
Once the USCIS approves the petition, the petitioner waits until a visa becomes current. Once the immigrant visa is current, we can help your relative receive the family based green card through consular processing.
How We Can Help
If you need a family based green card for your spouse or any of your relatives, we can help. We have filed numerous family based green card applications. If your relative is eligible for adjustment of status, form I-485, we can help with that process. If this is a preference petition, we can also help with consular processing. Please contact us.