Once you have established your residency in the United States, your thoughts have likely turned to bringing your family members over to join you. There are a couple of visa options which may be available to you. However, it’s important to keep in mind that there are certain qualification requirements for each visa.
Immediate relative immigrant visas
One type of visa family members may apply for is an immediate relative visa. These types of visas are limited to:
- The spouse of a U.S. citizen
- Unmarried minor children (under 21 years old) of U.S. citizens
- Children adopted by a U.S. citizen (as long as specific requirements are met)
- The parent of an adult U.S. citizen
If your relative falls into one of the above categories, you can begin the family immigration process. Unlike other programs, there is no cap on the number of immediate relative visas that are issued in a given year. It is important to note that immediate relative petitions do not include derivative beneficiaries (i.e., the minor children of the foreign national).
Family preference immigrant visas
Family preference visas may be an option for family members who don’t meet the requirements of an immediate relative visa. Individuals who may qualify for a family preference visa include:
- Sons and daughters (over 21 years old) of a U.S. citizen
- Spouse and unmarried children (under 21 years old) of a Lawful Permanent Resident
- Sons and daughters (21 years and older) of a Lawful Permanent Resident
- Married sons and daughters of a U.S. citizen
- The sibling of a U.S. citizen
. Family preference immigrant visas include the unmarried, minor children of the foreign national. It’s important to keep in mind that unlike immediate relative visas, there is a cap on the number of family preference visas that may be issued in a year. In some family preference categories, there is a very long wait. For example, the current wait for a Mexican national who is the sibling of a U.S. citizen is approximately 20 years or more.
There are several pitfalls that can unexpectedly impact eligibility for certain family-based immigrant petition categories, such as the foreign national child turning 21 years old and “aging out” or the foreign national child getting married before the Lawful Permanent Resident becomes a naturalized U.S. citizen. Depending on the particular circumstances (e.g., the age and marital status of the children or whether the visa petition involves derivative beneficiaries), the naturalization of the Lawful Permanent Resident to U.S. citizen can both positively and negative impact a family member’s immigrant petition.
Additionally, the immigrant visa petition is only one step in the process to receive a green card. The petition itself does not grant lawful status. Depending on the facts of a particular case, the foreign national must either apply for an immigrant visa at the U.S. Consulate abroad or apply for a green card inside the U.S. with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Even if the requisite family relationship exists for the immigrant visa petition, the foreign national must also meet additional eligibility requirements to receive Lawful Permanent Resident status in the U.S. Immigration issues can be complicated and are ever-changing. You should discuss your family immigration options with a skilled professional who can help guide you through this process.