To many people, family is absolutely everything. However, sometimes people have to leave family behind when immigrating to the United States due to legal obstacles, timing, or simply because they are unaware of the methods they could use to bring their families over. If you are in a similar position, it is generally a good idea to research all of your potential options.
Spouses and Children
Spouses and children are by far the most common family members that accompany immigrants into the United States. Most non-immigrant visas, such as H1B and L classifications, allow a person to bring his or her spouse and children with him or her on derivative visas. Most derivative statuses allow a spouse and children to remain for the duration of the primary visa, but do not grant any benefits such as the ability to apply for work authorization. There are, however, a few select visas under which derivative holders are entitled to benefits—H1B visas are an example of this, with H4 visa holders only recently being permitted to apply for Employment Authorization Documents (EAD) as of early 2015.
If you are intending to stay permanently, and are a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident (a “green card” holder), you are able to apply on your spouse and (minor or unmarried) children’s behalf for green card status. The process is the same if you are either status; you must complete an I-130, Petition for Alien Relative for each person and submit it along with the relevant documentation. The only minor difference is that U.S. citizen relatives get first priority, while those of a lawful permanent resident get second priority.
Other Relatives: Preference Categories
If you are interested in helping relatives besides your spouse and children immigrate to the U.S. with you, there are slightly different mechanics to go through to set that process in motion.
Siblings and any married children you may have are the most common recipients of what are called preference categories, though you may only petition for them if you are a citizen, not a green card holder. Family visa petitions are grouped into preference categories to help stagger the influx of potential immigrants, with the closest familial relation in the highest category. Lower categories wait longer.
Be advised that you may not sponsor certain family members directly—for example, grandparents, parents-in-law, aunts, uncles or cousins. However, you may be able to sponsor someone who can. For example, if you wish to bring your mother-in-law over, you may not sponsor her—but your husband or wife could.
Seek Experienced Immigration Assistance
If you are trying to get a new start in the United States, it can be a huge boon to have your family by your side. Engaging the services of an experienced immigration lawyer can answer many of your questions and give you the best idea possible of how to proceed. The DuPage County immigration attorneys at Mevorah Law Offices LLC have helped many families stay hopeful during what can be a very long time apart. Please contact our offices today to schedule a free initial appointment.
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