Family-Based immigration opportunities are based upon a qualifying relationship with a U.S. citizen or permanent resident.
The most common way to immigrate to the United States is through a family member, usually a spouse. You may be eligible to get a Green Card as:
- an immediate relative of a U.S. citizen, this includes spouses, unmarried children under the age of 21, and parents of U.S. citizen petitioners 21 or older
- a family member of a U.S. citizen fitting into a preference category, this includes unmarried sons or daughters over the age of 21, married children of any age, and brothers and sisters of U.S. citizen petitioners 21 or older
- a family member of a legal permanent resident (green card holder), this includes spouses and unmarried children of the sponsoring green card holder
- a member of a special category, this can include battered spouse or child (VAWA), a K nonimmigrant, a person born to a foreign diplomat in the United States, a V nonimmigrant or a widow(er) of a U.S. Citizen
- The fiance(e) visas of a US citizen
- The prospective adopted child of a US citizen
Immediate Relatives of US Citizens
Immigration law allows U.S. citizens to petition for certain qualified relatives to come and live permanently in the United States. Eligible immediate relatives include the U.S. citizen’s:
- Unmarried child under the age of 21
- Parent (if the U.S. citizen is over the age of 21)
Immediate relatives have special immigration priority and do not have to wait in line for a visa number because there are an unlimited number of visas for their particular categories.
Adjustment of Status for Immediate Relatives
Certain immediate relatives of US citizens are eligible to apply for a green card (permanent residence) while inside the United States. These relatives are allowed to file an Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status in order to become a permanent resident while their U.S. citizen petitioner files the Petition for Alien Relative.
Petitions for Fiance(e) – K-1 Visa
You may petition for your foreign national fiancé(e), provided that:
- You (the petitioner) are a U.S. citizen.
- You intend to marry within 90 days of your fiancé(e) entering the United States.
- You and your fiancé(e) are both free to marry and any previous marriages must have been legally terminated by divorce, death, or annulment.
- You met each other, in person, at least once within 2 years of filing your petition. There are two exceptions that require a waiver:
*If the requirement to meet would violate strict and long-established customs of your or your fiancé(e)’s foreign culture or social practice.
*If you prove that the requirement to meet would result in extreme hardship to you.
Adopting a child from another country is often a difficult, complex and lengthy process. Depending on whether you want to adopt a child from a country belonging to The Hague Convention or not.
Petitions for other Relatives
If your relationship does not qualify you as an immediate relative of a U.S. citizen, then you may be in what is called a “family preference category.” Eligible relatives of US citizens include:
- Unmarried sons or daughters over the age of 21
- Married child(ren) of any age
- Brothers and sisters (if the U.S. citizen petitioner is over the age of 21)
Conversely, a permanent resident may petition for his/her spouse and unmarried child(ren) of any age to immigrate to the United States. Permanent Residents Cannot petition for married children, siblings or parents.
Removal of Conditional Residence (Form I-751)
Your permanent residence status is conditional if it is based on a marriage that was less than 2 years old on the day you were given permanent residence. You are given conditional resident status on the day you are lawfully admitted to the United States on an immigrant visa or adjustment of your status to permanent residence.
Your status is described as “conditional” because you must prove that you did not get married to evade the immigration laws of the United States.
Generally, you may apply to remove your conditions on permanent residence if:
- You are still married to the same U.S. citizen or permanent resident after 2 years (your children may be included in your application if they received their conditional resident status at the same time that you did or within 90 days)
- You are a child and cannot be included in the application of your parents for a valid reason
- You are a widow or widower of a marriage that was entered into in good faith
- You entered into a marriage in good faith, but the marriage was ended through divorce or annulment
- You entered into a marriage in good faith, but either you or your child were battered or subjected to extreme hardship by your U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse
- The termination of your conditional resident status would cause extreme hardship to you
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Ruby L. Powers
The Law Office of Ruby L. Powers is an immigration law firm focused 100% on US Immigration and Nationality Law. Based in Houston, Texas, we consider ourselves border-less as we represent clients worldwide. With a focus solely on US immigration law, the firm is able to provide excellent service for the immigration needs of our clients. Ruby L. Powers, the founding immigration attorney, has personal experience navigating through the immigration processes, even before she was an attorney, and brings this experience and point of view to each client to provide compassion, honesty, and understanding through a critical time in the client’s life.
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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer. For specific technical or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact the author.