Family Immigration

What types of family immigration cases are there?

The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) governs immigration and citizenship in the United States. If a person living in another country wishes to come to the U.S. to live permanently, a relative who is a U.S. citizen or a holder of a green card must submit the application. According to the State Department of the U.S., family-based immigrant visas are classified into two groups according to INA. The two groups are immediate relatives and preference categories. People in preference categories must wait until an immigrant visa is available before they can apply for one.

Who do the Immediate Relative Visas include?

The category of family relationship with the highest priority is known as “immediate relatives.”

  • IR-1 – Spouse of a United States citizen;
  • IR-2 – Unmarried daughter/son under the age of 21 of a U.S. citizen;
  • IR-3 – Minor orphan adopted abroad by a U.S. citizen;
  • IR-4 – Orphan child for adoption in the U.S. by a U.S. citizen; and
  • IR-5 – Mother/Father of a U.S. citizen (who is at least 21 years old).

Who can submit the application?

A person who is a lawful permanent resident or has United States citizenship may file a petition showing a relationship with an eligible family member who wishes to immigrate or remain in the U.S.

What is the application that must be submitted?

Becoming a lawful permanent resident is a two-part process. The person with United States citizenship or legal permanent residence must file Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative. For their part, the immediate relative who is applying for permanent residence through their spouse, mother/father or daughter/son with U.S. citizenship and who can prove that they legally entered a U.S. immigration port of entry, have the right to apply for permanent residence by filing Form I-485, Application for Registration of Permanent Residence or Adjustment of Status, within the U.S.

You can find additional information at the following links:

For whom can a person with United States citizenship file a petition?

  • Immediate relatives:
  • Spouse
  • Unmarried daughter/son (Under 21 years old)
  • Mother/Father (Be at least 21 years old to be able to file the petition for your mother/father)
  • First preference:
    • Unmarried daughter/son (Over 21 years old) and her/his daughter/son
  • Third preference:
    • Daughter/son married (Of any age), the spouse and daughter/son
  • Fourth preference:
  • Sister/brother, the spouse and daughter/son

For whom can a person with legal permanent residence file a petition?

  • Preference 2A:
  • Spouse
  • Unmarried daughter/son (under 21 years old) and her/his daughter/son
  • Preference 2B:
  • Unmarried daughter/son (over 21 years old) and her/his daughter/son

What evidence must accompany the application?

Different evidence is needed for each category. Example: For spouse petitions, it must be shown that the marriage is a legitimate one from the beginning.

What happens after you file Form I-130?

Once the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services receives the Form I-130, they process the application and the person will receive a:

  • Notification of Receipt confirming that they received the request;
  • Biometric Services Notification, if applicable;
  • Notice to appear for an interview, if applicable, and
  • Notification of the decision.

If the relative lives abroad and the Form I-130 is approved, the National Visa Center will contact the relative to provide additional information.

Under U.S. law, anyone who immigrates based on a relative petition must have a financial sponsor. It may be necessary to file Form I-864, Affidavit of Financial Sponsorship under Section 213A of the Act.

What is the process for the applicant with United States citizenship?

People with U.S. citizenship will have a visa immediately available for their spouse, minor daughter/son and mother/father, which means that the process can take a little less than in the other categories. Once the initial petition by the person with U.S. citizenship is approved by the Citizenship and Immigration Services, the immediate relative can file an application for an immigrant visa, sometimes it can even be filed together with the initial petition. Depending on the way they entered the U.S., it is if they will need a pardon, or if they will be able to fix their immigration status inside or outside the U.S.

What is the priority date?

A priority date is used to determine an immigrant’s place to obtain a visa. The priority date can be found on Form I-797, Notice of Action. The State Department of the United States publishes a visa bulletin each month that lists each preference category with a date. Immigrant visas are available to anyone in that preference category whose priority date is earlier than the date on the visa bulletin. The amount of time between the application filing date and the date the family member actually obtains the immigrant visa can range from 6 months to 20 years, or more. The waiting time is determined by the applicant’s immigration status (person with citizenship or legal permanent residence), the category of family member they are applying for, and what country the family member is from.

Where can I find the Visa Bulletin?

The visa bulletin can be found at this next link:

The Visa Bulletin

The visa bulletin is updated every month.

What happens once a visa is available?

Once the immigrant visa is available to the immigrant family member, other factors such as the person’s history, criminal history, and current location will determine where they qualify for permanent residence and when the application must be submitted, inside or outside the United States.

Octavio Rivera Bujosa

The lawyer Octavio M. Rivera Bujosa is the first to point out that the keys to his professional success stem from his origins and the extraordinary litigating attorneys that life has given him the opportunity to meet and learn from. Octavio was born in Zaragoza, Spain, and hails from the mountains of Utuado, Puerto Rico, where he grew up listening to anecdotes about the great criminal lawyer of that time: Don Tomás Torres Cortés. Octavio is an American, Spanish, and Puerto Rican citizen at heart. [Read More]
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