Family Based Immigration
U.S. immigration laws permit U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents (LPRs) to sponsor close family members for immigrant visas, or permanent residence. Prospective immigrants must be either an “immediate relative” of a U.S. citizen or a qualifying family member under the family-sponsored preference system. Immediate relatives are: (1) spouses of U.S. citizens; (2) unmarried minor children (under 21 years of age) of U.S. citizens; and (3) parents of adult (21+ years) U.S. citizens.3

 The family-sponsored preference system is limited to close family members of U.S. citizens or LPRs as follows:

  • First: Unmarried adult children of U.S. citizens;
  • Second (A): Spouses and minor children of LPRs;
  • Second (B): Unmarried adult children of LPRs;
  • Third: Married adult children of U.S citizens; and
  • Fourth: Brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens.

    Cousins, uncles, aunts, grandparents, and other extended family members are not eligible to immigrate to the United States under the family-based immigration system. 

    To be admitted to the U.S. through the family-based immigration system, a U.S. citizen or LPR must petition for the family member, establish the legitimacy of the family relationship, meet certain income requirements, and submit a signed affidavit of support stating that the sponsor will be financially responsible for the family member(s). Each prospective immigrant is subjected to extensive background and security checks to screen for ineligibilities, including criminal, national security, health-related, and other inadmissibility grounds. 

    In addition, in most cases, the prospective immigrant is required to appear for an in-person interview at a U.S. Consulate overseas or at a local U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) field office prior to approval of the green card application. 

    It is important to note that, in order for a prospective family-based immigrant who is already in the U.S. to become a green card holder through a process known as "adjustment of status," the prospective immigrant must typically have maintained lawful status in the U.S. from the date the green card application was filed until the date that the application is approved. Prospective immigrants who have not been maintaining lawful status (e.g., those who have been unlawfully present in the U.S. or have overstayed their visa) are typically not eligible to adjust status within the U.S. to become a green card holder. 

    In addition, those who are no longer in the U.S. who have a history of unlawful presence or visa overstays will – at a minimum – face serious hurdles in obtaining a green card through the family-based process, such as the three-and ten-year “unlawful presence” bars, which prohibit applicants from returning to the U.S. if they depart after having previously been in the country unlawfully.   There may be waivers that can be filed, depending upon the circumstances, but that possibility would need to be discussed with the immigration attorney.

    The Number of Family-Based Immigrants Admitted Each Year Is Limited Congress has established a worldwide limit of 480,000 family-based visas that can be issued each fiscal year.

    There is no limitation on the number of visas that may be issued to immediate relatives.  Immediate Relatives are related to Spouses, Parents, and unmarried children under 21 years of age. 

    The waiting time for family-based immigration visas depending upon the preference level can be several years and can be very frustrating for family members.   

    We at the Law Office of Robin J. Gray can help you navigate the issues surrounding family-based immigration and to answer any questions you may have about family-based immigration.  Feel free to contact Robin Gray for a consultation. Click Here

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