Immigration to Austin/U.S. Permanent Residency/Green Cards Through Family

The most common way immigrants come to the United States through Austin legally is by being sponsored for permanent residency by a family member already in the country. Our Austin immigration law firm regularly prepares and files family-based Austin immigration cases with the Bureau of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Please contact us if you would like more information about our services or fees for family-based cases.

Family-Based Immigration to the U.S.

Family-based immigration falls into two categories: unlimited (immediate relatives of United States citizens) and limited (family preference system). Unlimited means that there is no cap, or limit, on the number of visas available each year.

Immediate Relatives of U.S. Citizens – Unlimited Family-based

Each year there are an unlimited number of visas available for immediate relatives of U.S. citizens. This means as soon as the legal relationship between a U.S. citizen and his or her immediate relative is proven, that immediate relative is eligible to apply for permanent residency.

Immediate relatives include:

  • Spouses of U.S. citizens;
  • Unmarried children of U.S. citizens under the age of 21; and
  • Parents of U.S. citizens.

Family Preference System – Limited Family-based

There are a limited number of visas available each year for:

  • adult children (married and unmarried) and brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens; and
  • spouses and unmarried children of green card holders.

The table below summarizes how visas are allocated under the current family preference system.

United States sponsor

Relationship

Preference

United States citizen

Unmarried adult children (21 years or older)

1st

Permanent resident

Spouses and minor children (under age 21)

2A

Permanent resident

Unmarried adult children (21 years or older)

2B

United States citizen

Married adult children

3rd

United States citizen

Brothers and sisters

4th

The preference categories establish the priority dates and numerical limitations by which family members of U.S. citizens or permanent residents are entitled to apply for permanent residency. It generally takes a person in the 4th category much longer to immigrate to the United States than someone in the 1st preference category. Due to backlogs and depending on a person’s country of origin, it may take someone in the 4th preference category as many as 20 or more years to immigrate to the United States.

Priority Dates & Visa Bulletin

All family members applying to immigrate to the United States (with the exception of immediate relatives of U.S. citizens) are given a priority date. The priority date is the date the family member’s I-130 Petition was filed and determines when the family member can apply for U.S. permanent residency.
Each month the U.S. Department of State publishes the Visa Bulletin. The Visa Bulletin shows which priority dates are current. If a family member’s priority date is current, the family member can go ahead and apply for U.S. permanent residency. Click here to access the current Visa Bulletin.
To see whether the priority date is current for your I-130 Petition, find the date listed in the box for your family preference category and home country. If your I-130 Petition was filed before the date listed in the box, in most cases, you can immediately apply for U.S. permanent residency.

Filing a Family-Based Austin Immigration Case

Form I-30, Petition for Alien Relative, is the first petition that must be filed for a family member of a U.S. citizen or permanent resident to immigrate to the United States. The purpose of this petition is to show that the family member has a qualifying relationship to a U.S. citizen or permanent resident.
The adjustment application – Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status – is the final application that must be completed for a family member to immigrate to the United States.
Family members who have an immigrant visa immediately available based on an approved Form I-30, Petition for Alien Relative, may file Form I-485. Immediate family members of the principal immigrating family member may also adjust their status to permanent residency by filing Form I-485.

Employment Authorization and Travel Documents

By filing Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, a person may also:
file for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) to work in the United States; and
file for a travel document to travel outside the United States and return.
To apply for employment authorization, family members must file Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization. To apply for a travel permit, family members must file Form I-131, Application for Travel Document.

I-864 Affidavit of Support

All family-based immigrants, including immediate relatives of U.S. citizens, are required to submit Form I-864, Affidavit of Support, with their adjustment application (Form I-485). The purpose of the affidavit of support is to show USCIS that the family member has the financial ability to come and live in the United States without becoming a “public charge.”
A public charge is the word used to describe a person who depends on the United States government for financial support. A person who is likely to become a public charge is not allowed to be admitted to the United States or become a permanent resident.
For adjustment applications based on approved family-based petitions (Form 1-130), the affidavit of support must be submitted by the sponsoring U.S. citizen or permanent resident. All sponsors must be U.S. citizens or permanent residents, over the age of 18, and live in the United States or a territory of the United States.
Sponsors are required to meet an income requirement. The income requirement is tied to the yearly poverty guidelines. Therefore, the income requirement changes slightly every year.
The sponsor must provide proof that the “household income” equals or exceeds 125 percent of the poverty guidelines. The household includes the sponsor and persons related to the sponsor by birth, marriage, or adoption that live in the same residence as the sponsor.
The most common way to show proof of income is through income tax returns, W-2s, and letters of employment. Letters of employment must be printed on company letterhead and state the employee’s salary, start date, and job responsibilities. Recent pay stubs may also be submitted.
Assets can also be used to meet the income requirement. Assets include cash in bank accounts, stocks, bonds, certificates of deposit, personal property, and real estate.
If the sponsoring U.S. citizen or permanent resident cannot meet the income requirements alone, then a co-sponsor – someone with enough income to meet the poverty income requirement – can be used to show evidence of adequate financial support for the immigrating family member.Alternatively, if there are other members of the household (include the family member being sponsored) who are making enough income or have enough assets to bring the sponsoring U.S. citizen or permanent resident above the 125 percent poverty income requirement, those members of the household may file Form I-864a to supplement the Affidavit of Support.
Alternatively, if there are other members of the household (include the family member being sponsored) who are making enough income or have enough assets to bring the sponsoring U.S. citizen or permanent resident above the 125 percent poverty income requirement, those members of the household may file Form I-864a to supplement the Affidavit of Support.
Affidavits of supports are legally enforceable. This means that sponsors who fail to support the family members they sponsored can be sued by any government agency or private entity that provides means-tested benefits, as well as by the family members they sponsored.
Sponsors are obligated until one of the following:
The family member becomes a U.S. citizen; or
The family member can be credited with 40 qualifying quarters of work; or
The family member departs the United States permanently; or
The family member dies.

Other Necessary Forms for Family-Based Immigration Cases

Form G-325A, Biographic Information, is a form that must be filed with many immigrant applications and is required to be filed with both the family-based petition (Form I-130) and the adjustment application (Form I-485).Immigrating family members must file Form I-693, Medical Examination of Alien Seeking Adjustment of Status, with their adjustment applications (Form I-485).