Family is important to everyone, and U.S laws acknowledge that by encouraging and fostering strong and healthy families' growth through family-based immigration. Whether you are a U.S native citizen or a permanent citizen (green card holder), you can immigrate your relatives overseas into the country for reunification by filing a family-based petition to help them obtain an immigrant visa.
Applying for a family based-immigrant visa is a multi-step process that requires a professional with significant experience in this field to ensure there is no useful information missing on your application. California Immigration Attorney can prepare all these family petitions on your behalf to ensure you meet the eligibility requirement for obtaining an immigrant visa for your beloved family overseas.
What You Need to Know About Family-Based Immigration Petitions
Family-based immigration petitions allow U.S native citizens and permanent resident/green card holders to sponsor their families living outside the U.S territory to immigrate into the country as long as they meet particular eligibility requirements. The Immigration and Nationality Act allows immigration of various categories of foreigners into the country based on a familial relationship to a U.S native citizen or permanent citizen.
The process of obtaining an immigrant visa (green card) for your family members living overseas follows some basic steps which may require an immigration attorney's services, whether you are a U.S citizen or a permanent resident. If the family member(s) you wish to sponsor to live in the U.S with you is already here, you have to follow a different process known as "Adjustment of Status."
The whole procedure of helping a relative obtain a green card in the U.S requires attention to detail. Any missing information on your application can make a person(beneficiary) ineligible for a green card for U.S permanent residency. Apart from that, the USCIS provides limited green cards to particular family members every year.
Therefore, when you're filing a family petition for a U.S green card, it is important to involve an immigration attorney in the whole process to ensure your application has all the necessary information to show eligibility for this petition.
Remember, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the whole immigration process has become slow because of government office closure and the presidential order barring immigrant visas' issuance to foreigners. Until we come to normalcy, you should expect the ongoing delays even after reopening the offices.
Eligibility for Family-Based Immigration Petitions
Beware that not every individual is eligible for a family-based immigration petition. You should consider contacting an immigration attorney to know if you are among the eligible group of people who can file a family petition on behalf of their relative/family members overseas. On that end, even your family members overseas must meet particular eligibility requirements to obtain a green card. Let's look at eligibility requirements for a family sponsor(petitioner) in the U.S and the beneficiary (family member overseas):
Family Sponsor Eligibility
For you to obtain an immigrant visa or green card on behalf of your beloved family members overseas as a U.S native citizen or a permanent resident, you must meet particular eligibility requirements by the USCIS. To be able to sponsor or file a family petition (Form I-130) of immigration on behalf of your relative overseas, you must meet the following eligibility requirements:
- You must be a U.S native citizen or a permanent citizen and be able to provide supporting evidence/documents to prove your immigration status
- You must prove to USCIS officials that you can support your family member or beneficiary of the petition at 125% above the mandated U.S poverty line
- If you are U.S native citizen, you can file a family-based immigration petition for the following foreign nationals overseas:
- Unmarried children below the age of 21
- Unmarried daughters or sons who are above 21 years (adults)
- Married daughter or son of any age
- Siblings as long as you’re above 21 years of age or
- Parent as long as you’re above 21 of age
- If you are in the country through a green card, you can only file a family-based immigration petition on behalf of the following foreign nationals:
- Unmarried daughter or son of any age
Whether you’re a U.S native citizen or a permanent resident seeking an immigration visa on behalf of your foreign nationals overseas, you must provide documentation to prove your relationship with the beneficiary.
To be eligible for a U.S green card for permanent residence in the U.S based on your familial relationship, you need to meet the criteria below:
- You have a family member or relative living in the U.S, whether as a native citizen or a permanent resident, who is willing to sponsor you to obtain permanent residency status using USCIS Form I-130 Petition
- Your relative in the U.S must provide documentation showing their income, which should be 125% above the U.S mandated poverty line for their respective family, including the other family members whom they sponsor
- Your relative/sponsor in the U.S must provide supporting documentation to prove your relationship and age, for example, by use of birth certificates
Preference Categories for Family-Based Immigration Petitions
Potential beneficiaries you wish to immigrate through Form I-130 are grouped into two categories based on a particular preference system, that is:
- "Immediate relatives" of the U.S native citizens
- "Family preference" relatives
On every application, USCIS will give priority to U.S citizen petitioners who wish to immigrate their immediate relatives, including:
- Parents, as long as you above the age of 21
- Unmarried children who are 21 years old
The immigrant visa number of the above foreign nationals of U.S citizens will be available immediately once the USCIS approves your Form I-130 petition. Foreign nationals in the remaining category, that is, "family preference," will have to wait for their immigrant visa/green card number to become available based on the preference system below:
- First preference – Unmarried daughters and sons of U.S native citizens above the age of 21
- Second preference – Unmarried daughters and sons above the age of 21 of permanent residents, spouses of any sex, minor children. The USCIS will also consider your children overseas who are either widowed or divorced as unmarried, meaning they are eligible under this classification
- Third preference – Beneficiaries in this category are married daughters and sons of U.S native citizens, including their spouses and children below 18 years of age
- Fourth preference – Sisters and brothers of a U.S citizen who is above the age of 21, including their spouse and minor children
Essential Documents That You Need to Prepare Before Filing Form I-130 Immigration Petition
While family situations and family relationships that satisfy the requirement for a green card for your beloved family overseas vary, you need to keep in mind the following tips when gathering materials for applying for Form I-130:
You Must Have Evidence to Prove Your Immigrations Status
USCIS expects you to provide evidence showing your immigration status that qualifies you to be a petitioner, whether you are a permanent resident or a native U.S. citizen. If you are a permanent resident wishing to sponsor a family member overseas, you will have to submit your government-issued Form I-551 Permanent Resident Card photocopy (front and back). Any other document that can show your permanent residency status could also be helpful in this case.
On the other hand, if you’re a U.S native citizen, you have to provide the usual documents like a photocopy of your government-issued birth certificate, a photocopy of your valid U.S passport, or a photocopy of your naturalization certificate.
Evidence of Your Qualifying Relationship with the Relative You Wish to Immigrate
You also need to prepare essential credible documents to show your qualifying relationship status with foreign nationals you wish to immigrate by filing Form I-130. To give the USCIS officials who will be reviewing your Form I-130 application an easy time, you should connect the dots in all documents you provide. That means if you are filing Form I-130 to immigrate your sister or brother, you should provide the following pieces of evidence:
- A photocopy of his/her birth certificate
- A photocopy of your birth certificate
- A photocopy of your parents' marriage certificate
It is also important you use official copies only for legitimate purposes and break through any language barrier if the family documents you provide are in a different language other than English (word to word).
Forms and Documents to Prove that You Can Serve as a Financial Sponsor to the Would-Be Immigrant
You will need to prove to the USCIS officials that you can sponsor the would-be immigrant financially if necessary. Immigration law forbids entry in the country to immigrating family members or relatives who are likely to depend on need-based government help.
If you are sponsoring a relative as a permanent U.S resident, you need to file Form I-864 together with your Form I-130 or later to fulfil your financial promise to the would-be immigrant and the U.S government. Form I-864 in this petition is more than just for formality purposes because it also acts as a legal contract between you, would-be immigrants, and the U.S government.
In case your relative acquires a green card and is unable to support his/herself financially, you might be held accountable for providing financial support to him/her. However, during this application, your relative will also have to submit supporting documents and forms to prove that he/she will be self-supportive in the U.S.
Immigration Process for Family-Based Petitions
Family-based petitions to immigrate a relative overseas start with preparing and filing Form I-130, the USCIS petition for a foreign relative. Here is the immigration process for family-based petitions:
File Form I-130
You can obtain this form for a free download on the USCIS website without a hassle. Ensure you retain an attorney when filing Form I-130 to ensure you have all the necessary supporting documents and forms to prove your eligibility for this family-based petition.
Once USCIS receives your Form I-130 application form, they will send you a "Receipt Notice" of confirmation, which contains a case number that you will use to track your application status online on the USCIS website.
USCIS Reviews Your Form I-130
If the USCIS officials find your Form I-130 application complete, they will put it in line for review because these applications are very many most of the time. The waiting period for your family-based petition will depend on the date when the USCIS received your Form-130 application.
This petition's processing time will also depend on how busy the USCIS office handling these kinds of petitions is. During the review, the USCIS officials will scrutinise your supporting documents like passports to make sure they are official and legit.
USCIS Will Make a Decision for Your Form I-130 Immigration Petition
If your application was factual and everything goes well, either you or your attorney will receive an official Form I-130 approval notice via mail. They will then transfer your application file to the right place, depending on where the beneficiary is. If the beneficiary of the Form I-130 is already in the U.S, he/she must apply for permanent residency through a procedure known as "Adjustment of Status."
On the other hand, if the beneficiary is outside the U.S borders, USCIS will transfer your Form I-130 application to the U.S consulate/embassy in his/her home country for the final process of issuance of a green card. Here is what you need to know about these two procedures:
Adjustment of Status
Suppose your relative is already in the country as a temporary visa holder. In that case, USCIS will expect you to take the next step, which involves filing all the necessary documentation to prove his/her eligibility for adjustment of status to become a U.S citizen.
The main document that you will have to use for this application is Form I-485, which you can also download online on the USCIS website. An application for adjustment of status involves filing various documents and forms and an interview at the USCIS offices in the U.S. During the interview, USCIS officials will ask you multiple questions like your petitioner's/sponsor's capability to support you in the U.S financially.
Consular Processing (C.P.)
Suppose your relative is outside the country boundary. In that case, the National Visa Center (NVC) will send him/her appropriate paperwork requiring him/her to attend an interview at a U.S consulate or embassy in his/her home country. Consular processing is usually the final step that will determine whether your relative will receive a green card for U.S permanent residency.
When your relative is going for an interview with a consular officer, he/she should carry all essential documentation to prove you have a familial relationship and can sponsor him/her. If the beneficiary foreign national is your spouse, the consular officer will ask him/her many questions about his/her relationship with you, the petitioner.
Suppose everything goes well, and they approve your relative immigrant visa. In that case, the consular officer will give you a sealed envelope containing visa materials, which must remain like that until the U.S port of entry officer receives it. Before issuance of passport to your immigrating relative, the consular officer will annotate it to show his or her passport approval date and immigration status.
Depending on your relative preference category for family-based petitions, the U.S embassy or consulate will issue him/her a passport stamp within a few weeks after the visa interview with the consular officer. Suppose the would-be U.S immigrant falls in the category of preference relatives who must wait for an available immigrant visa. In that case, your files might remain with NVC for a while, waiting for the Priority Date to become current.
During this waiting period, you should notify NVC of any change in address or change in your situation or that of your would-be immigrant that can affect his/her eligibility for an immigrant visa, for example:
- Death of a spouse
- Reaching age 21
- Marriage or divorce
Arrival at the U.S Port of Entry
The last step of the family-based immigration process for the beneficiaries overseas is the arrival at the U.S port of entry. Issuance of an immigrant visa to your relative overseas does not mean everything is over because he/she will have a final interview with a Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agent/officer.
The CBP agent's legal responsibility is to confirm and ensure your relative is indeed eligible to enter the U.S of America. A CBP agent will ask your relative questions about his/her convictions history, immigration violations, or serious illness. Before answering these questions, he/she should contact an immigration attorney for legal counsel and representation to avoid saying anything that can affect his/her entry to the county.
At California Immigration Attorney, we will be glad to take your relative through these last-minute questions to ensure his/her answers do not compromise his/her eligibility to enter the country to reunite with you. If everything goes well with the CBP agent's tricky questions, your relative will successfully and lawfully enter the country.
USCIS will mail him/her an actual green card to confirm his permanent residency in the U.S after a couple of weeks following his/her entry in the country. To avoid any last-minute issues, you should retain an immigration attorney through this whole process of a family-based petition for legal counsel on everything you need to do to meet USCIS immigrant visa eligibility requirements.
Factors to Consider When Looking for a Reliable Immigration Attorney for Family Petitions
Although family-based petitions may seem straightforward in many petitioners' eyes, there are very many details and exceptions that you need to beware of before beginning this immigration process for your relatives overseas. Contacting a reliable immigration attorney can make all the difference to whether this petition will be successful or not. Here are top-notch tips you need to consider when looking for a reliable immigration attorney in California:
Consider the Expert's Experience
In every professional field, experience is everything when seeking reliable and outstanding services. An immigration attorney with significant experience in family-based immigration processes will know the crucial documents and forms you need to attach to ensure you don't miss this chance of immigrating your relative into the country.
Immigrant visas for some family members, especially for U.S permanent residents, are limited. Therefore, it's important to ensure the first family-based petition you file is correct and meets the eligibility requirements by the USCIS for reviewing because you cannot afford to omit any crucial information knowing immigrant visas are limited.
Consider the Expert's Reputation
Look for an immigration attorney with a well-established reputation in California for helping many eligible family-based petitioners bring their relatives overseas in the country. Luckily, nowadays, with the internet, you can get a hint of your prospective immigration attorney's reputation by reading his/her past client comments on his/her website about his/her quality of services. Look out for any red flags in your prospective attorney past client comments about his/her quality of services to know what to expect.
Consider the Expert's License
The only way to differentiate a mediocre expert from a reliable professional is by checking their licensure, permitting them to conduct these services according to U.S law. Ensure your prospective immigration attorney has a valid and up-to-date license permit for conducting these services around California state before you make a significant commitment to him/her.
Consider the Expert's Cost of Services
A reliable immigration attorney who values his/her client will always have fair pricing for his/her services. A mediocre expert whose interest is money will not pay attention to detail in your family-based petition, even if it's a one-time shot, and this can affect your eligibility for an immigrant visa for your relative overseas. Look for an expert with a flat fee with no hidden costs, that you can easily pay in whichever means that is convenient for you.
Instead of risking all your efforts and time for immigrating a relative into the country facing rejection by the USCIS, it is important to hire an immigration attorney to take you through the whole process of family-based petitions.
Find an California Immigration Attorney Near Me
Even if there are limited immigrant visas available for particular immediate relatives, at California Immigration Attorney, we will ensure your first petition is correct and in detail to increase your chances of immigrating your relatives overseas in the country. Contact us today at 424-789-8809 wherever you are in California for a free consultation.