A typical family based immigration case involves a United States citizen or a Lawful Permanent (LPR) who may be eligible to sponsor their alien relatives. Family based immigration is broken up into two different categories: 1) immediate relatives and 2) family preference categories.
“Immediate relatives” are the spouse of a U.S. citizen, a child under the age of 21 (unmarried) of a U.S. citizen, a child adopted abroad by a United States citizen, and the parent of a United States citizen who is at least 21 years old. As an immediate relative of a U.S. citizen, one is able to immigrate to the United States without being subject to certain restrictions. For instance, immediate relatives can apply for permanent resident status without having to deal with a waiting time.
Other Close Family Members of a U.S. Citizen are also eligible to immigrate to the United States. However, through several groups known as “preferences,” these family members are subject to a certain amount of immigrant visas available to them annually. These preferences are then broken down into first preference, second preference, third preference, and fourth preference. First preference includes unmarried children over 21 years of age of U.S. Citizens. Second preference includes children and spouses of lawful permanent residents (LPR). Third preference includes married children of U.S. citizens and their spouses and children. Fourth preference includes brothers or sisters of U.S. citizens and their spouses and children.
Steps for Consular Processing
- Determine Your Basis to Immigrate
- File the Immigrant Petition
When you know what category you believe best fits your situation, in most cases, you will need to have an immigrant petition filed on your behalf.
- Family Based
Family based categories require that a U.S. citizen or permanent resident relative file a Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, for you.
- Employment Based
Employment based categories most often require the intending U.S. employer to file a Form I-140, Petition for Alien Worker, for you. Entrepreneurs who intend to invest significant amounts of capital into a business venture in the United States may file Form I-526, Immigrant Petition by Alien Entrepreneur” on their own behalf.
- Special Classes of Immigrants
In some cases, certain immigrants may file a Form I-360, Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), and Special Immigrant, or have one filed on their behalf.
- Family Based
- Wait for a Decision on Your Petition
USCIS notifies the petitioner of a decision. If the petition is denied, the notice will include the reasons for denying the petition and any rights to appeal the decision. If the petition is approved and if you are the beneficiary of the petition and living outside the United States or living in the United States, but choose to apply for your immigrant visa abroad, USCIS will then send the approved petition to the Department of State’s National Visa Center (NVC), where it will remain until an immigrant visa number is available.
- Wait for Notification from the National Visa Center
The National Visa Center, which is responsible for the collection of visa application fees and supporting documentation, will notify the petitioner and beneficiary when the visa petition is received and again when an immigrant visa number is about to become available. They will also notify the petitioner and beneficiary of when they must submit immigrant visa processing fees (commonly referred to as “fee bills”) and when supporting documentation must be submitted.
- Go to Your Appointment
Once a visa is available or a beneficiary’s priority date is current (earlier than the cut-off date listed in the monthly Visa Bulletin),the consular office will schedule the applicant for an interview. The consular office will complete processing of the applicant’s case and decide if the beneficiary is eligible for an immigrant visa.
- Notify the National Visa Center of Any Changes
You do not need to contact the National Visa Center about your petition, they will contact you for the information they need. You should, however, contact the NVC if there is a change in your personal situation or if you change your address. For NVC contact information, see the “NVC Contact Information” link to the right. It is important to notify the NVC if you reach the age of 21 for a child or have a change in your marital status, as this may affect your eligibility or visa availability.
- After Your Visa is Granted
If you are granted an immigrant visa, the consular officer will give you a packet of information. This packet is known as a “Visa Packet.” You should not open this packet. Upon your arrival to the United States, you should give your Visa Packet to the Customs and Border Protection officer at the port of entry. You will be inspected by a Customs and Border Protection officer and if found admissible, will be admitted as a permanent resident of the United States, which gives you the authority to live and work in the United States permanently.
- Receive Your Green Card
You will be mailed your green card. If you do not receive your green card within 45 days of your arrival, please call the USCIS National Customer Service Center at 1-800-375-5283 or visit your local office by making an InfoPass appointment.