As one of the three principles of the immigration system, the unification of families is a fundamental task for the United States immigration system. Family based petitions allow citizens of the United States and lawful permanent residents of the United States (i.e. green card holders) to reunite with close family members.

Family based petitions allow for a close family member of a United States citizen or lawful permanent resident (i.e. green card holder) to immigrate to the United States. The U.S. citizen or green card holder is referred to as a sponsor and the family member who is being brought to the United States is referred to as a beneficiary.

Unlike other types of petitions, family based petitions do not look at the education of the beneficiary as a major factor. Family based petitions also allow for the beneficiary’s derivatives (i.e. the beneficiary’s spouse and children less than 21 years of age) to also receive green cards.

Generally, if the beneficiary is already in the United States through a visa, then the beneficiary must go through an adjustment of status process to receive their lawful permanent residency status (green card). However, if the beneficiary is overseas, they must go through the consulate processing overseas.

Requirements for a Sponsor

In order to be a sponsor of a family-based petition for immigration, the sponsor must be a green card holder or a citizen of the United States. The sponsor must meet financial requirements. The sponsor must also make a legally binding affidavit of support for the beneficiary and guarantee that he or she will follow their obligation to financially support and maintain the standard of living of not lower than 125% of the U.S. poverty line for the beneficiary. This financial obligation will continue until the beneficiary has become a U.S. citizen or has worked in the U.S. for a specified amount of time. If the sponsor cannot meet the financial requirements, other U.S. citizens or green card holders living in the U.S. who are 18 years of age or older can co-sponsor to help meet the financial requirement.

Petitions by Spouses

Both United States citizen and green card holders can sponsor a family-based petition for a green card for their spouse.

A United States citizen can sponsor an overseas spouse to come to the United States and receive a green card.  This type of family-based petition would fall under the unlimited category of Immediate Relative of a U.S. citizen. A U.S. citizen petition for a spouse would go through consulate processing if the beneficiary is overseas. A United States citizen can also sponsor a spouse to receive a green card if the spouse is already in the United States, which would be an adjustment of status. If the beneficiary spouse of the United States citizen is not already in the United States but would like to be in the United States while they wait for the petition to go through, the United States citizen can petition for a type of non-immigrant visa, a K-3 and/or K-4 visa, after they file their I-130 family-based petition.

A K-3 visa allows the spouses of U.S. citizens to enter the United States and wait while their petition for a green card goes through. A K-4 visa allows the dependent, unmarried children less than 21 years of age of the K-3 visa spouse to also come to the United States with him or her.

A United States green card holder can also sponsor their spouse to come to the United States to receive a green card. However unlike a U.S. citizen’s petition for a spouse, these petitions will not be unlimited but rather will be under a limited category and will have wait periods. A United States green card holder sponsoring a spouse to receive a green card would fall under the F2- Family Second Preference category. If the beneficiary spouse of the green card holder is overseas, the petition will go through the consulate process. If the beneficiary spouse is already in the United States, the petition will go through the adjustment of status process. Unlike United States citizens, green card holders cannot apply for a K-3 or K-4 visa to have their beneficiary spouse come to the United States and wait while the family-based petition for green card goes through.

For each type of spouse petition, the required documents vary based on the circumstances. However, generally, the documentation you will need to petition for an alien spouse include: the I-130 Form with all its required documentation, a copy of your birth certificate, a copy of your passport and citizenship certificate, two completed G-325A forms (one for you and one for your beneficiary spouse), a copy of the marriage certificate, and two recently taken color photos of you and your beneficiary spouse.

Fiancé Visas (K-1 and K-2 Visas)

A fiancé is a man engaged to be married and a fiancée is a woman engaged to be married. There are special visas for fiancés and fiancées of U.S. citizens. A fiancé(e) visa, also known and referred to as a K-1 visa, is for an alien who seeks to enter the United States to marry and live with a United States citizen. The United States citizen has to sponsor a petition with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services and once that petition is approved, the fiancé(e) can then apply for a K-1 visa to come to the United States. The alien must then legally marry the United States citizen within and no later than 90 days of entering the United States. A K-2 visa is a visa for the derivatives (dependent, unmarried children under the age of 21 years old) of the beneficiary fiancé(e) who got a K-1.

Parents Petitioning for their Children

United States citizens and green card holders of the United States can sponsor family-based petitions to be reunited with their children in the U.S.

U.S. citizens may petition for: their children (unmarried and under 21 years of age), their unmarried, adult sons and daughters (21 years or older), and for their married, adult sons and daughters (21 years or older).

U.S. citizens petitioning for their children (unmarried and under 21 years of age) must file an Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status in addition to the I-130 Form. This falls under the unlimited category of Immediate Relative of a U.S. Citizen.

U.S. citizens petitioning for their adult children (over 21 years of age) who are unmarried, must file the I-130 Form, then file for a an Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status when a visa is available. This type of family-based petition falls under the limited category of F1 Preference Category and has wait periods.

U.S. citizens petitioning for their adult children (over 21 years of age) who are married, must file the I-130 Form, then file for a an Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status when a visa is available for them. This type of family-based petition falls under the limited category of F3 Preference Category and has wait periods.

Parents who are green card holders of the United States only can petition for: their unmarried, minor (under 21 years of age) children, and for their unmarried, adult (21 years or older) sons and daughters. This type of family-based petition is under the limited category of F2 Preference Category and has wait periods. The parent must file the I-130 Form, and then the children will need to file for an Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status when a visa is available for them.

Petitions by Children

United States citizens who are at least 21 years of age can petition for their mother and/or father to come and live permanently in the United States as green card holders. This type of family-based petition falls under the unlimited category of Immediate Relatives of a U.S. Citizen. Each parent must be petitioned for separately. Green card holders, however, cannot petition to bring their parents to live permanently in the United States.

Petitions by Siblings

United States citizens who are at least 21 years or older can petition for their siblings to live permanently in the United States as green card holders. This type of family-based petition falls under the limited category of F4 Preference Category and has wait periods. Green card holders of the United States cannot petition to bring their siblings to live permanently in the United States as green card holders.

Adoptions

Inter-country adoptions can be very complex in that various international laws and national laws of two different countries must be followed. There are three ways to bring your adopted child to the United States: the Hague Process, the non-Hague Process, and the Immediate Relative Process.

If  you are a United States citizen and your adopted child is from a country that has implemented the Hague Adoption Convention laws, then your adopted child must go through the Hague Process. You must file for either an IH-3 or IH-4 immigrant visa, after filing your I-800 or I-800A form, in order to bring your adopted child to the United States.

If you are a United States citizen and your adopted child is from a country that has not implemented the Hague Adoption Convention laws, then your adopted child must go through the non-Hague Process. You must file for either an IR-3 or IR-4 immigrant visa, after filing your I-600 or I-600A form, in order to bring your adopted child to the United States.

If your adopted child cannot go through either the Hague or non-Hague process, then you can still bring your adopted child to the United States through the Immediate Relative Process. You must file an I-130 form to petition for your adopted child, although you must first meet certain requirements. You must have first accrued two years of legal and physical custody of the adopted child and must have a full, final adoption of the child. The adopted child must also be under 16 years of age.

Both United States citizens and green card holders can petition to bring their adopted child to the United States through the immediate relative process, though there is a limited category and wait period for green card holders who do so.

It is important to note that the laws of various foreign countries can severely complicate the adoption process. In some Muslim countries, adoption may not be allowed yet custody through guardianship may be allowed.

Time Frame

The immigration process takes a long time. But generally, U.S. citizens see their petitions resolved faster than the petitions of green card holders. Limited category status generally means relatively longer wait periods of varying length.

Raheen Law Group Can Help You

If you desire to reunite your family, whether it is bringing your child, spouse, or family members to the United States, you can complete a family-based petition. The United States immigration system can be very confusing to people sometimes. To discuss your options and legal alternatives regarding a family-based petition, it is wise to consult an immigration attorney. At Raheen Law Group, we can help you understand the complicated process, the time frame, and required documents. Raheen Law Group will help you complete and file everything properly and timely.

Please contact Raheen Law Group for a FREE telephone consultation. We speak English, Farsi (Dari), Urdu, Hindi, and Punjabi.

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