For immigrants living in the United States, reuniting with family members is often a cherished goal. The U.S. immigration system provides various avenues for family members to join their loved ones who are already settled in the country. In this blog post, we will explore the rules and processes involved in bringing your family to the United States as an immigrant.
Family Sponsorship Categories
The U.S. immigration system prioritizes family reunification and allows U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents (green card holders) to sponsor certain family members for immigration. Family-sponsored immigration falls into two main categories:
- Immediate Relatives of U.S. Citizens: Immediate relatives have no numerical limits, and visas are readily available. These include:
- Spouses of U.S. citizens
- Unmarried children under 21 years old of U.S. citizens
- Parents of U.S. citizens (if the sponsoring citizen is at least 21 years old)
- Family Preference Categories: These categories have numerical limits, which means there are quotas on the number of visas issued each year. Family preference categories include:
- F1: Unmarried sons and daughters of U.S. citizens
- F2A: Spouses and minor children (under 21) of lawful permanent residents
- F2B: Unmarried sons and daughters (21 or older) of lawful permanent residents
- F3: Married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens
- F4: Brothers and sisters of adult U.S. citizens
The Immigration Process
Bringing your family to the United States as an immigrant typically involves the following steps:
- Family Member’s Petition: If you are a U.S. citizen or a lawful permanent resident, you must file a petition with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) on behalf of your family member. The specific form depends on your relationship with the beneficiary (e.g., Form I-130 for immediate relatives).
- Waiting for Visa Availability: Immediate relatives of U.S. citizens do not have to wait for visa numbers to become available, while family preference categories do. Visa availability depends on the family preference category and the country of origin of the beneficiary.
- Consular Processing or Adjustment of Status: Once a visa number becomes available, your family member can either apply for an immigrant visa at a U.S. consulate or embassy abroad (consular processing) or adjust their status to permanent resident if they are already in the United States (adjustment of status).
- Medical Examination and Visa Interview: For consular processing, your family member will undergo a medical examination and attend a visa interview at the U.S. consulate or embassy in their home country.
- Entering the United States: Once the visa is approved, your family member can enter the United States as a permanent resident.
- Conditional Permanent Residence (if applicable): In some cases, if your family member is granted permanent residence based on a marriage that is less than two years old, they will receive conditional permanent residence. They must file a petition to remove the conditions within the 90-day window before the conditional green card expires.
- Obtaining a Green Card: After completing all necessary steps and meeting requirements, your family member will receive a permanent resident card (green card), which grants them the right to live and work in the United States indefinitely.
Reuniting with family members in the United States is a significant and meaningful aspect of the immigration process. Understanding the rules and procedures for family-sponsored immigration is crucial for a successful reunification. Be sure to consult with an immigration attorney or visit the USCIS website for the most up-to-date information and guidance on the specific family sponsorship category that applies to your situation.