Obtaining an immigration visa based on family ties

Obtaining an immigration visa based on family ties

According to the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), family members of US citizens can apply for two types of immigration visas. 

  • Family-sponsored immigrant visas go to immediate relatives; 
  • preference visas to “families of preference”.

In order to immigrate, one must be an immediate relative of:

  • Spouses;
  • children younger than 21;
  • adoption of orphans, or
  • Parents

It consists of individuals who are citizens of the United States and are at least 21 years old. There are no restrictions on how many visas for immediate relatives the US will issue in a calendar year.

You can learn more about your options on this website if you are interested in obtaining a family-based immigration visa.

Visas based on family preference include:

  • Children under 21 who are not married and their minor children who are citizens of the United States;
  • Legal Permanent Residents (LPRs)’ spouses, young children, and adult children who are not married;
  • the wives and offspring of married sons and daughters of citizens of the United States; and, ultimately,
  • U.S. citizens’ siblings and small children, so long as they are 21 or older.

The amount of Family Preference visas the United States will issue is capped at a certain number every fiscal year, and the majority of them are given to LPRs’ spouses and minor children.

There is sometimes a waiting period for those who apply since there are frequently more applicants for Family Preference visas than there are visas available.

What Conditions Must Be Met to Qualify for a Family-based Visa?

The sponsoring relative must submit a Petition for Alien Relative to US Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS), a division of the Department of Homeland Security, in order to start the process of getting a family-based immigration visa (DHS).

Other family-based immigration categories do not require a minimum age requirement, but U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents must be at least 18 years old. For an immigrant visa to be issued to a spouse or family member of the sponsor, an Affidavit of Support must be signed. If you are sponsoring a sibling or parent of a U.S. citizen, you must also be at least 21 years of age to do so. In order to qualify, the U.S. sponsor must always maintain a primary address in the United States and should intend to remain there for the foreseeable future.

This overview will give you a top-level understanding of how family-based immigration works in the United States and how you may be able to help a foreign family member obtain permanent residence (green card). Permanent resident status provides a family member with the privilege of living and working in the United States permanently. A person with an immigrant visa or someone that has a green card both were granted permanent resident status. It’s the same thing with different names.

PETITIONERS AND BENEFICIARIES

Family-based immigration requires the participation of at least two family members, a petitioner and a beneficiary. The petitioner must be a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident that wants to sponsor a foreign family member for a green card. The beneficiary is the foreign family member that wants to obtain a green card. In some categories, the beneficiary may have a spouse and children that qualify as derivative beneficiaries.

Elishay Smith

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