Many people from various countries have made the United States their home. However, your sense of belonging here may depend on having loved ones with you. The good news is you can bring your family to the United States through a family-based petition.
Securing a Green Card through a family member may seem intimidating, but with a clear understanding of the process, you can navigate it confidently. Here, discover the five steps to obtain it through a family-based petition.
Green Card Through Family Members
Various routes lead to getting a Green Card in the United States, with one such avenue being a family petition. If your loved one intends to sponsor you into the country, they must be U.S. citizens or permanent residents.
In addition, the steps required to apply for a permanent resident card can vary based on individual circumstances. Nonetheless, it is recommended that you know the general application process. Here are the five essential steps that applicants typically follow.
Step 1: Determine Your Eligibility
First, you must identify and determine the eligibility criteria. Since it’s an application through family, your relationship with the sponsor is essential. For the immediate relatives of U.S. citizens, it covers their spouses, unmarried children under 21 years old, and parents.
Meanwhile, individuals who fall under the family-based preference categories are distant relatives of the U.S. citizen petitioner. They include those who are married and unmarried children over 21 years old or siblings.
If your petitioner is a lawful permanent resident, this category means they can petition for their unmarried children under 21 years old. Their unmarried sons or daughters of 21 years and above are also eligible for this classification. Moreover, if you’re a fiancé(e) or a widow(er) of a citizen, you can also apply for permanent residency.
Step 2: File Necessary Forms
After determining your eligibility, it’s time to complete the necessary documents. For permanent residency application, your sponsor must submit Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative. This is essential because it will establish and prove the petitioner’s relationship to you as their alien relative.
Step 3: Wait For Approval & Priority Date
As you await the approval of form I-130, you can submit form I-485, the Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status. This is available for individuals in the United States who want to apply for permanent residency.
An example is a relative of a U.S. citizen who has an expiring Tourist Visa and wants to adjust their status. Adjusting the status means you don’t have to leave the country and undergo consulate processing when applying for a Green Card.
Aside from filing forms and waiting for approval, you must also see through the priority date. It refers to the specific date your U.S. citizen or resident family member submitted your Visa petition to the immigration office on your behalf.
If you are outside the United States, you must undergo consular processing with the U.S. Department of State. This process involves the application for an Immigrant Visa to enter the country and obtain permanent residency.
Step 4: Consular Processing & Adjustment Of Status
The USCIS sends approved applications to the Department of State’s National Visa Center (NVC) for consular processing. Your case will be kept until an Immigrant Visa number becomes available. You don’t have to worry about this because the USCIS will notify you and your sponsor about your application.
After getting an Immigrant Visa number, the NVC will tell you when to comply with application fees and supporting documentation. Then, you will receive your welcome letter and pay the processing fees. These involve the Immigrant Visa Application Processing Fee and Affidavit of Support Fee, which you can pay online. However, you can’t do it simultaneously, so you must pay it one at a time.
Before proceeding to the following steps, you must wait at least a week for them to process your fees. After this, you must fill out form DS-260 or an electronic Immigrant Visa application. The form is typically completed online by individuals who have received notification from the NVC to proceed with the immigrant Visa application process.
After submission, NVC will review your application. You’ll receive an email either about corrections required or documentarily complete. If you get the first one, you must resubmit your case.
Since consular processing is for those outside the United States, applying for permanent residency is a different process when you’re inside the country. If you’re inside the United States, you may undergo an adjustment of status. Still, you need to comply with the forms and other supporting documents.
Step 5: Attend The Interview & Receive Your Green Card
Before attending your interview, ensure you’ve seen and followed the interview preparations of the U.S. Embassy or Consulate. They handle consular processing, including Visa issuance, Immigrant Visa interviews, and citizen services. Their role extends to facilitating document authentication and adoption processes and assisting U.S. citizens abroad in emergencies.
A consular officer will interview you to know if you are eligible for an Immigrant Visa. It would be helpful if you have legal representation. Your Visa attorney will guide you in answering interview questions and presenting yourself effectively.
Meanwhile, if you are in the United States and working on your adjustment of status, USCIS authorities will assess your case. They will determine if an interview is needed. You must appear at a USCIS office for a sworn or affirmed questioning session about your Form I-485 if scheduled. A notice will be provided with the interview’s date, time, and location.
During the interview, you must bring original copies of the documents submitted with the Form I-485 application. If applicable, this includes those from the family members who filed the immigrant petition on your behalf.
Prepare Your Documents
Regardless of whether you’re in America or abroad, you must prepare the necessary documentation. For the petitioner, they must complete an affidavit of support or Form I-864. Aside from that, they should also provide evidence of their finances as your sponsor.
As the beneficiary or the principal applicant, you must start an online Visa application or DS-260. Then, you can gather relevant civil documents such as the following.
- Documents related to birth, such as birth certificates.
- Certificates confirming your marriage to your petitioner.
- Documentation indicating the termination of your marriage with your petitioner.
- Records associated with military service.
- Photocopy of your valid passport’s bio-data page.
Apart from civil documents, you may also need to submit immigration medical examinations, photographs, and other documents related to your case.
You must contact the U.S. Embassy or Consulate immediately if you can’t appear at your scheduled appointment. If you fail to notify them within one year of receiving your appointment letter, your application may be terminated.
Consequently, they will cancel your Immigrant Visa petition, and you cannot refund any fees. Meanwhile, the embassy or consulate has particular instructions if you desire to reschedule the interview.
After the interview, the waiting and processing time begins. There are only two possible decisions in your case. It’s either your Visa is approved or denied.
Obtaining a Visa through a family-based petition is indeed complex. With this, you must seek the guidance of a Green Card lawyer to navigate it confidently.
Seek The Guidance Of An Immigration Lawyer
Navigating the complexities of a family-based petition for a permanent resident card can be daunting. This makes the help of an immigration attorney invaluable. An experienced lawyer completes intricate paperwork accurately, minimizing errors that may lead to delays or denials. They offer insights into evolving immigration laws and tailoring strategies to individual cases.
With knowledge of potential challenges, an attorney navigates the process efficiently, providing peace of mind. Additionally, they advocate for clients during interviews, addressing concerns and optimizing the likelihood of a successful outcome. In the intricate realm of immigration, an attorney becomes an essential ally, streamlining the path to family reunification.
The desire for family reunification prompts numerous foreign nationals to explore obtaining a Green Card through family sponsorship in the United States. With these five essential steps, you can navigate the family-based petition, covering eligibility, form filing, approval, consular processing, and the crucial interview phase.
You must consider that the situation varies for U.S.-based and overseas applicants. That is why it calls for meticulous preparation and documentation. Additionally, the complexity of the process suggests the need for the guidance of an immigration attorney. It ensures a confident and successful navigation of the intricate immigration landscape.
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