Family-Sponsored Immigration Benefits
Family Members of U.S. Citizens
There are many different types of relatives that can qualify for family-based immigration benefits. These benefits include U.S. lawful permanent residence, work authorization, travel authorization, and ultimately U.S. citizenship.
First, there are family members that qualify as “immediate relatives.” Immediate relatives are U.S. citizens’ parents (if the U.S. citizen is at least 21 years old), spouses (including same-sex spouses in many cases), and unmarried children who are under the age of 21. It is very beneficial to be an immediate relative of a U.S. citizen because these family members can come to the U.S. without having to wait in line. Additionally, immigration law does not penalize immediate relatives if they work in the U.S. without authorization or if they accidentally overstay their visas.
U.S. citizens can also sponsor their adult siblings, their unmarried children who are over the age of 21, and their children who are married. However, these types of family members are not considered immediate relatives and so they are not eligible for the benefits described above, and typically do have to wait a very long time – often several years – before they can immigrate to the United States due to the long lines of relatives.
In order to sponsor a family member for immigration benefits, the U.S. citizen is required to file a Form I-130 Petition with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). This petition must include proof of the family relationship that is claimed in the petition. Additionally, if the foreign relative is currently in the U.S. and is also applying for a green card by filing the Form I-485 Application with USCIS, the U.S. citizen must also submit proof that he/she will be financially responsible for the foreign relative and will support the relative to ensure the family does not need to resort to public assistance programs. This proof is made by submitting to USCIS the Form I-864 Affidavit of Support and by sending USCIS the U.S. citizen’s financial documentation.
There are also special procedures that U.S. citizens must follow if they want to adopt a child from a foreign country and bring the child to the United States. Additionally, U.S. citizens can also sponsor step-children if certain conditions are met.
Family Members of Lawful Permanent Residents
Lawful permanent residents (green card holders) are also eligible to sponsor certain family members for immigration benefits. Specifically, lawful permanent residents can sponsor their spouses and their unmarried children for green cards. However, these relatives usually also have to wait in line for their green cards because there are many relatives who have been waiting for a green card for several years.
Importantly, if a lawful permanent resident married his/her spouse before the resident received the green card, the spouse is likely immediately eligible for a green card based on a follow to join procedure. The follow to join procedure is completed at the U.S. consulate in the foreign spouse’s home country.
Contact the Callan Law Firm, P.C. to speak to one of our experienced attorneys about the possible family-based immigration benefits that are available to you and your family.