United States immigration law governs family immigration. A U.S. citizen or permanent resident can apply for family members to immigrate and work in the United States. If the application is approved, your family member will receive a “green card,” which is evidence of lawful permanent resident status.
How Long Will This Take?
The length of time a family member must wait for the entire process to finish can vary greatly. Much depends upon the degree-of-relationship to the person who will immigrate. Congress sets the visas available for family immigration for family members who are not spouses, parents or children of U.S. citizens.
For example, if you are a brother or sister of a U.S. citizen, your wait time could be in excess of 15 years after the date your U.S. citizen sibling files the application with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
Yet, a spouse of a U.S. citizen will only have to wait only as long as it takes to process the paperwork verifying your legal, marital relationship. Your spouse will not have to wait for a visa. Instead, your spouse will only have to wait for as long as it takes for USCIS or the U.S. Consulate abroad to process the application. Parents and minor children are also in this no-wait visa category.
During your consultation, we will discuss whether there are any faster options available. Please email or call to set up an appointment.
What Is The Process?
Immigration is generally a two-step process:
- If your relative is already in the United States, you may be able to file both parts of your application with USCIS at the same time
- If your relative is living abroad, he or she will complete the immigration process at a U.S consular office and then enter the United States
- After entry into the U.S., you may have to renew your permanent resident status by renewing your “green card”
The first step is for the U.S. citizen or permanent resident to file the appropriate application or petition with USCIS. You must include documents to prove the family relationship between you and your relative who would like to immigrate. The amount of time the USCIS takes to make a decision on the application varies by type of application.
The second step after USCIS approves your application, is to file the application for the “green card.” This application is filed by the person who will be immigrating. If the person is already in the United States the process is known as “adjustment-of-status.”
If the person is outside of the United States, the process is known as “consular processing” through which your relative will receive an immigrant visa. After entering the U.S. with the immigrant visa, your relative will then receive a green card in the mail.
In some situations, the first and second steps can be combined. In other situations, we may not be able to file the immigrant visa application or the adjustment-of-status application until a visa is available for your category.
Which Visa Category Applies?
The immigration laws divide family applicants into several categories. The government prioritizes each category. These categories determine whether your relative will be eligible immediately for a “green card” or will have to wait for a visa to become available in the future.
The categories and priorities are as follows:
- Immediate Relatives receive the highest priority. They do not have to wait as long as other relatives. Immediate Relatives are Spouses, unmarried children under 21 years old and parents of U.S. citizens.
- This means that once an application is approved by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USICS), your relative will not have to wait for an immigrant visa to become available
- There is no limit on the number of available visas in this category
Visa Bulletin Priority Categories
- FIRST PRIORITY 1: Includes unmarried sons and daughters of U.S. Citizens. These are children who are over 21 are not married. They must wait for a visa to become available before an interview will be scheduled. Each year, 23,400 visas are available in this category.
- FIRST PRIORITY 2: Includes spouses and children (under 21 and single), and unmarried sons and daughters (over 21) of permanent residents. Each year, at least 114,200 visas are available in this category.
- SECOND PRIORITY 1: Includes spouses and children of permanent residents: Each year this category receives 77% of the overall second preference limitation, of which 75% are exempt from the per-country limit.
- SECOND PRIORITY 2: Includes unmarried sons and daughters (21 years of age or older) of permanent residents. Each year, this category receives 23% of the overall second preference limitation.
- THIRD PRIORITY: Includes married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens. Each year the law allocates 23,400 visas to this category, plus any visas not used by first and second preferences.
- FOURTH PRIORITY: Includes brothers and sisters of adult U.S. Citizens. Each year the law allocates 65,000 visas to this category, plus any numbers not used by first three preferences.