An American citizen may petition for certain family members to receive a green card, fiancé(e) visa, or K-3/K-4 visa through the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the government agency that oversees lawful immigration to the United States. The purpose of a family-based visa petition is to document a petitioner’s interest, right, and ability to assist a relative’s immigration to the United States. The process begins with filing the appropriate petition form, which will establish the family relationship existing between the petitioner and relative.
After the approval of a visa petition, the application is placed on a waiting list if its category has a limitation on the number of green cards that may be granted annually. This quota is applied to most prospective immigrants, except for the immediate relatives of American citizens and certain highly-qualified workers. The date a visa petition is received by the UCSIS establishes its “Priority Date” or order on the waiting list.
The spouse, children (unmarried and under 21), and parents of a U.S. citizen are considered immediate relatives exempt from the Priority Date queue. An applicant already living in America has an advantage. If he or she qualifies for adjustment of status, the application for such may be submitted with the visa petition, saving several months of waiting for a USCIS decision. However, not everyone is eligible, including immigrants who entered illegally.
An American citizen’s fiancé(e), who is foreign and lives overseas, has to take several steps before being able to obtain a green card. He or she would need to apply first for a temporary K-1 visa, which includes a declaration of the intent to marry during its 90-day duration. After marriage, the foreign spouse may apply for permanent residence and remain in the United States while the USCIS processes his or her application.
According to the UCSIS: “Preference categories apply to family members who are not immediate relatives. The visas allotted for these categories are subject to annual numerical limits. A visa becomes available to a preference category based on the priority date (the date the Form I-130 was filed). Preference categories are grouped as follows:
- First preference: Unmarried, adult sons and daughters of U.S. citizens (adult means 21 or older.)
- Second Preference (2A): Spouses of green card holders, unmarried children (under 21) of permanent residents
- Second Preference (2B): Unmarried adult sons and daughters of permanent residents
- Third Preference: Married sons and daughters (any age) of U.S. citizens
- Fourth Preference: Brothers and sisters of adult U.S. citizens”
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The Law Office of Edward Lai can assist you with family-based immigrant petitions and other legal matters. If you would like to have a consultation, please contact their office through this website or call (510) 397-8287.