Citizens of the United States or permanent residents (green card holders) who have family members that live outside of the United States can file petitions to assist them in immigrating. The U.S. policy goal of family reunification supports the process.

For those wishing to sponsor a relative who does not already live in the United States, the process starts with a green card. The application process basic steps are the same whether you are a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident. Assisting someone in obtaining a green card is a tedious process and requires a great attention to detail. Due to the nature of the process, many choose to work with an experienced family-based immigration attorney.

Processing Time: The processing time will vary depending on various factors: your status as the petitioner, the location of the family member you are sponsoring (including their country of origin), the family relationship, and the personal circumstances/situation of the family member being sponsored (often referred to as the beneficiary).

There are two categories of eligible beneficiaries of family-based petitions: “immediate relatives of U.S. citizens” and “family preference” relations. Beneficiaries in the immediate relatives of U.S. citizens category are not subject to any limitations on the number of immigrant visas given out each year (green cards). Spouses of U.S. citizens fall into this category as do unmarried children younger than 21 years old, parents (after the U.S. citizen child turns 21) and orphans adopted abroad or in the U.S. When a beneficiary falls into the family preference category they will differ from those who fall into the immediate relatives because they are subject to annual visa quotas based on the country of their birth.

Visa Quotas: More eligible beneficiaries of family-based petitions apply in the family preference relations category each year than there are visas available so depending on the country of birth of the beneficiary, the time of the application, etc. there can be a significant wait. Of course, in some cases, the wait could be short, but in others it could be decades before the wait is over. For more information on visa quotas and potential wait times, get in touch with an experienced family-based immigration attorney.

There are four “family preference” categories: First Preference (unmarried sons/daughters of U.S. citizens), Second Preference (spouses, minor children, and unmarried sons and daughters (21+) of permanent residents, Third Preference (married children of U.S. citizens and their spouses and minor children), Fourth Preference (siblings of a U.S. citizen, their spouse and minor children – this includes half-brothers and half-sisters and adoptive siblings).

If you need more information about sponsoring a relative for family-based immigration or if you need to start the application process, please get in touch with one of the experienced family-based immigration attorneys at Aronow Law PC today. We are ready to help you through the difficult process so you can reach your goal of family reunification.