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Here’s what citizens & LPRs seeking a family-based green card need to know

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You are here in the United States. You have successfully navigated the immigration system and are here as a legal permanent resident or citizen. And you are making the most of your opportunity here. Now you have started to think about your loved ones and helping them join in the American Dream too. You want your family members to be here with you. That is understandable. 

The U.S. immigration system is built in part on the concept of family unity and therefore makes it possible for permanent residents and citizens to bring their families to the U.S. as legal permanent residents.

In this post, we’ll discuss everything that citizens and LPRs should know about getting a family-based green card.

Read on to find out more about:

  • Who are eligible for the family-based immigration program
  • How to get a family-based green card

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What is a Family-Based Immigration Program?
Family-Based Green Card Application Process

What is a Family-Based Immigration Program?

The U.S. immigration system - and its stated commitment to family unity - is not easy to navigate. Unfortunately, not everybody can bring all of their relatives here. The family-based immigration program is based on a complicated priority system of "preferences," which requires answers to certain questions:

  1. Which people get to sponsor a relative?
  2. Which types of relative get to be sponsored?
  3. Do people from certain countries have priority over people from other countries?
  4. Where those relatives get placed in the long line for visas?

The first thing to know about the priority system is that it places a value both on you and the family member you want to bring here and, based on that value, determines which kind of family members you can bring and how long they will have to wait for an available visa.

The part of the preference system that is based on you asks whether you are a legal permanent resident or a citizen. 

  • A citizen will have an easier and quicker time in being able to bring a family member to the U.S. and will have more types of relatives you can bring. 
  • A permanent resident may only petition for a spouse or child. And the length of time those spouses or children will have to wait will be longer. 

In fact, in many cases, it makes more sense to wait for a legal permanent resident to wait to become a citizen and then petition for the relative.

The part of the preference system that is based on your family member asks what relation they are to you. The closer the family relationship, the easier time that relative will have coming here. For instance, the spouse of a U.S. Citizen can be brought to the U.S. immediately, while the adult brothers and sisters of a U.S. citizen currently have a wait of over 12 years for a visa to be available.

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Family-Based Green Card Application Process

Once you have determined whether and how you can access the family-based immigration system, the process is relatively simple:

  1. File an immigrant visa petition with USCIS
  2. Wait for a visa to be available for your relative
  3. Provide documentation to that National Visa Center regarding your ability to support the immigrant, as well as original documents related to the application
  4. Once the visa is available, the relative goes to U.S. Consulate in home country to obtain the visa, which allows them to come to the U.S.
  5. The family member comes to the U.S. and receives their lawful permanent resident card in the mail a few weeks later.

It is critical at the outset of considering how and if to bring a family member to the U.S. that you fully understand this system and how best to work with it for this important priority of yours. To find out more about the family-based immigration process and how we can help, please contact us at 314-961-8200.

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