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Family Visas

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What Are Family Visas?

Family immigration is one of the most common ways people immigrate to the United States. Although family immigration has always been the primary manner in which people immigrated to the United States throughout its history, this was formally set out in 1965, when the Immigration and Nationality Act was created to give priority to relatives and children of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents to immigrate to the United States. It has since become a more organized process, helping countless immigrants obtain green cards in the U.S. If you are a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident with loved ones overseas, you may be able to help them obtain lawful permanent residency in the United States. There are several eligibility requirements and categories that family-based immigration petitioners should be aware of.

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The purpose of the Form I-130 is to establish a relationship with the relative. Because of this, the petitioner should provide as much evidence as possible to establish this relationship. This includes providing their U.S. citizenship or lawful permanent residence status, evidence of a family relationship with the beneficiary, such as a marriage certificate or birth certificate, evidence of a bona fide marriage, if petitioning for a spouse, and any other evidence that may be applicable to establishing a relationship with the beneficiary. The petitioner should also provide evidence that they are able to financially sponsor the immigrant. Because the various categories of family-based immigration will require different types of evidence, this step can be confusing and convoluted. It is, therefore, highly advisable to contact an immigration lawyer who can help guide you in providing the correct evidence in petitioning for your family member.

For the immediate relative category, a visa should be available immediately after the petition is approved. Family preference categories, however, will be put on a waitlist to receive an immigrant visa number. Currently, there is a backlog for most categories, so the wait may be very long, or shorter depending on the category. Check the Visa Bulletin page on the U.S. Department of State’s webpage to find accurate information on visa availability.

If the relative has received a conditional green card (2-years), they may file to remove the conditions within the 90 days before the expiration of the green card. This situation applies to those individuals who were married for less than 2 years when the Form I-485 was approved. If the relative is granted a Permanent Resident Card, they may be eligible to apply for U.S. citizenship after 3-5 years of being a permanent resident.