A main purpose of United States immigration law is to unite families. To this end, U.S. immigration law has very liberal family based immigration policy. U.S. citizens and permanent residents can bring their families to live with them in the United States. Once USCIS approves a family based visa, the person becomes a permanent resident and can begin the process to becoming a United States citizen.
The laws governing family based immigration differ depending on whether U.S. citizen is sponsoring a family member versus a permanent resident and relationship of the family member abroad. Although family based immigration is based upon a liberal policy it does not allow all family members from migrating to the United States. For example, cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents are not eligible for family based immigration.
1) Which Family Members Can a U.S. Citizen Sponsor?
Citizens of the United States are able to sponsor a wide range of family members. U.S. citizens can sponsor both immediate relatives and family members. Immediate relatives enjoy the benefit of being able to immediately migrate to the United States. U.S. citizens can file a family based green card for:
- A Spouse
- A Son or daughter
- A Parent
- A Brother or sister
2) Which Family Members Can a Permanent Resident Sponsor?
The immigration laws governing family based immigration differ for permanent residents. Although green card holders can sponsor family members to migrate to the United States they are limited to sponsoring immediate relatives. Additionally, it takes permanent residents a much longer period of time to bring a family member to the United States. Permanent residents can file a family based immigrant visa petition for:
- A Spouse
- An Unmarried son or daughter
3) What are the Two Family Based Green Card Categories?
Not all family relationships are treated the same. Under U.S. immigration law, two different family based immigration categories exist: immediate relatives and family preference. The biggest difference being that immediate relatives do not have to wait for a visa number because an unlimited number of visas are made available to immediate relatives. Only a limited number of visas are available for the family based category.
4) What are the Different Types of Immediate Relative Immigrant Visas?
A family based green card through the immediate relative category includes close family relationships with a U.S. citizen. Immediate relative visa types for family based immigration include:
- IR-1: Includes the spouse of a U.S. citizen
- IR-2: Includes a U.S. citizen’s unmarried children who are under 21 years of age
- IR-3: Includes orphans adopted outside the country by a U.S. Citizen
- IR-4: Includes orphans who will be adopted in the country by a U.S. citizen
- IR-5: Includes the parents of U.S. citizen who are at least 21 years old
5) What are the Different Types of Family Preference Immigrant Visas?
Family preference based green cards are given to more distant relatives of U.S. citizens and to the spouses and children of green card holders. The family preference visa types are:
- F1: Includes the unmarried sons and daughters of U.S. citizens and their minor children
- F2: Includes the spouses, minor children, and the unmarried adult children of permanent residents. At least 77% of all F2 category are given to spouses and children and the remainder is allocated to unmarried sons and daughters.
- F3: Includes the married children of U.S. citizens, their spouses and minor children.
- F4: Includes the siblings of U.S. citizens and their spouses and minor children, if the U.S. citizens is at least 21 years old
6) How Long Does it Take to Get a Family Based Green Card?
Immediate relatives are able to get a family based immigration in a very short period of time because an unlimited number of visas are available for immediate relatives. Family preference immigrant visa cases take additional time because a visa needs to become available. However, the length of time varies from case to case. The current visa bulletin can be found here. Of course, any mistakes in the petition will delay the process even more.
U.S. immigration laws are some of the most complex in the world and one mistake can cause significant problems when petitioning for a family based green card. The Chicago Immigration Attorney at Jaleel Law P.C. can make the family based green card process painless. Contact us today to see how we can help reunite your family.