Many people speak casually of getting a “family-based green card” or a “family visa” to the United States. However, not everyone understands what that actually entails. In order to obtain lawful permanent resident status due to family ties, you cannot simply say you are related to a U.S. citizen and receive your visa; you must also meet several other requirements designed to show that you are not a danger and you can support yourself, or you have someone to support you. The process can become complex.
Who is Eligible?
Most people are aware that spouses, parents, and unmarried children of citizens are eligible (if all the other criteria are met) to receive family-based permanent resident status. However, there are actually several categories whose members may be eligible if a petition is completed. There is no distinction between any of these; if the person is not inadmissible, and he or she is able to show the correct affidavit of support and other documents, then he or she may receive permanent resident status as long as the petition is in order.
If one examines United States Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) information, one finds listings for several family-based categories: not only immediate family members of citizens, but family members of citizens that fit a preference category (such as siblings, unmarried children over 21, or married children of any age), immediate family of green card holders (those who are already permanent residents), and those with special status, such as widows/widowers of U.S. citizens or those who qualify under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).
The Petition and Supporting Documents
The petition itself is a fairly straightforward document, requesting information to show that your relative fits the criteria, and also to show that he or she is not a threat to national security or is in danger of becoming a public charge. You may at some point receive the package back or a notice advising that further information is required, but this does not imply any problem with the Petition itself. You can often investigate the status of your case online, and there are telephone numbers you can call with questions. You will, as one might imagine, either receive an approval notice in the mail or a denial advising as to the reasons why.
Be advised that merely having an approved I-130 is not enough to permit travel or resettlement. The next steps depend on your status—for example, if you are a family member who qualifies for a preference category, you will be assigned a priority date (usually, the date on which your petition was approved), which must be current before your visa will be granted. For example, if you are coming from India and you fit the F1 preference category (unmarried children of U.S. citizens), your priority date is currently September 15, 2009. If your petition was approved on September 1, 2016, you must wait until the priority date gets up to that day before you will receive a visa.
Contact an Immigration Attorney
Because a Petition for Alien Relative is so common, many think they can complete it on their own; however, it is always a better idea to have an attorney on your side. The passionate Chicago immigration attorneys at Mevorah Law Offices LLC can help ensure your petition is correct the first time, which saves time, trouble, and heartache. Call us today to set up a free consultation.
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