Family-Based Green Card

US citizens and permanent residents can sponsor certain family members for US permanent residence – a green card.

Basic Requirements:
  • US citizens may petition for the following family members:
    • Spouse
    • Unmarried children under 21
    • Parents (if the sponsoring citizen is over the age of 21)
    • Unmarried children over 21
    • Married children of any age. Spouses and unmarried children under the age of 21 can accompany as dependent family members.
    • Siblings (if the sponsoring citizen is over the age of 21). Spouses and unmarried children under the age of 21 can accompany as dependent family members
  • Lawful permanent residents may petition for the following family members:
    • Spouse
    • Unmarried children under 21
    • Unmarried children over 21
Procedure
  • Varies depending on the relationship between the sponsoring family member and the foreign national relative, whether the foreign national relative is in or outside of the United States, and if present in the United States, the manner in which the foreign national relative entered the United States.
  • Requires submission and approval of Form I-130 Petition for Alien Relative by the US citizen or lawful permanent resident family sponsor to US Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS). The filing must be accompanied by proof of the relationship between the parties.  The filing does not confer any legal status or work authorization on the sponsored family member.
  • Requires submission and approval of Form I-485 Application to Adjust Status by USCIS or a Form DS-230 Application for Immigrant Visa at a U.S. consulate abroad. WARNING: Individuals present in the US for six (6) months or more without legal status who choose the consular option will most likely trigger up to a 10-year bar to returning to the US.
  • Unless the case involves an immediate relative (spouse, unmarried child, or parent of a US citizen), the sponsored family member is subject to an immigrant visa quota and will need to wait his/her turn before applying for and obtaining a green card. The length of the wait is determined by the qualifying family relationship, country of birth, and visa supply and demand.
  • Applicants must demonstrate using an Affidavit of Support that they have the financial means to support themselves in the US.
Processing Times:
  • Vary depending on the availability of immigrant visas, the qualifying family relationship and birthplace.
  • For immediate relatives, government wait times can exceed 12 months.
Maintaining Green Card Status:
  • Individuals married to a U.S citizen for less than two (2) years at the time of green card approval will be granted Conditional Permanent Resident (CPR) status for two (2) years. In the ninety (90) day window preceding the expiration, the couple must jointly file a petition with USCIS to remove the conditions on residence. Failure to timely file the application to remove the conditions on residence will result in termination of status and placement in removal proceedings.
  • Those divorced from the sponsoring spouse may apply for a waiver of the joint filing requirement by providing evidence of the bona fides of the marriage. Those not yet divorced, who can meet the joint filing requirement, may also apply for a waiver of the joint filing requirement if they can demonstrate that they have been abused or subjected to extreme mental cruelty by the spouse or show that removal from the U.S. would result in extreme hardship. That application can be filed any time after becoming a conditional permanent resident.
  • Filing nonresident tax returns, engaging in criminal activity and lengthy absences from the US can result in loss of green card status.
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