In 2019, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issued 577,000 green cards for lawful permanent residency. However, not all families can immigrate together. Spouses, children, brothers, and sisters of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents (LPRs) have to apply for a green card through the family immigration process.
Family-Based Immigration and First Preference
There are two types of immigration options available to relatives of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident: green cards for immediate relatives and family preference. Those who are immediate relatives, like a spouse, child, or parent of a U.S. citizen or LPR, can apply for a green card. The USCIS does not limit the number of green cards for immediate relatives.
Family preference visas are more specific, and they are based on more distant familial relationships. The USCIS limits the number of green cards available for immigrants in this category. Family members have preference based on their relation to a U.S. citizen or LPR who can sponsor their immigration.
First preference (F1) goes to unmarried sons and daughters of U.S. citizens who are 21 years or older. The children of relatives in this category are considered derivatives and are also eligible for F1 preference. Unfortunately, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and in-laws cannot sponsor a relative.
Family Preference for Immigrants in the U.S.
Immigrants already in the United States need to meet the requirements for adjustment of status to be eligible for a green card as a family preference immigrant. Why does this matter?
If you are already in the U.S., a green card changes your immigrant status to a Lawful Permanent Resident. Adjusting status is a complex process that takes time and patience.
Requirements for eligibility:
- You have filed Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Resident or Adjust Status
- You passed inspection by an immigration officer
- The relationship between you and the relative who sponsored your immigration still exists
- You are admissible to the United States
- The positive factors of your case outweigh the negative factors
Those who enter the U.S. illegally or participate in criminal activity may have difficulty or be unable to adjust their status. The USCIS will not change status for those who are ineligible according to the Immigration and Nationality Act, which you can read here.
How Do I Apply for Family Preference Immigration?
A U.S. citizen or LPR has to file a Petition for Alien Relative (F I-130) on your behalf to begin the immigration process. You can file the adjustment of status form with the F I-130 petition or while it is pending.
The USCIS requires applicants to submit several different types of documents. These documents include vaccination records, government-issued IDs, passports, and other forms. Completing these documents can be confusing, and many of the immigration forms have filing fees.
Put Your Case in Good Hands
If you feel unsure about a form or document related to status adjustment or family preference immigration, you should consult a lawyer. Legal professionals can help you understand what information to submit to ensure there are no errors on your application that could cause your petition to be rejected.
Immigration is incredibly complicated, and the waiting period for green cards and visas can be several months or years, depending on your circumstances. As immigration policy in the U.S. continues to evolve, immigrants need advocates who are knowledgeable of the law and are willing to provide guidance.