Legal Representation For Family-Based Immigration

A U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident (green card holder) can sponsor (petition) a family member to immigrate to the United States. However, the immigration process varies significantly in time, cost and procedure, depending on the family member you seek to sponsor. Only the following people are recognized as "family" for immigration sponsorship:

  • Parents
  • Spouses
  • Children
  • Siblings (brother/sister)

Other relatives (e.g., cousin, aunt/uncle, grandparents, in-laws, etc.) are not recognized as family and cannot be sponsored.

Immigration Sponsorship By A US Citizen

"Immediate relatives" are parents, spouses and unmarried children under the age of 21 of U.S. citizens. Immediate relatives can immigrate to the U.S. immediately, without having to wait for a visa to become available.

All other family members of U.S. citizens are divided into the following categories:

  • First preference (F1): Unmarried children over 21 years old of U.S. citizens
  • Third preference (F3): Married children of U.S. citizens (regardless of age)
  • Fourth preference (F4): Siblings of U.S. citizens

Unlike "immediate relatives," family members in the preference categories have a limited number of visas available each year. Therefore, family members in these categories have to wait until a visa becomes available before immigrating to the United States. The amount of time a relative has to wait depends on which preference category he or she is in.

Fiancé(e)s Of US Citizens

Though a fiancé(e) is not considered "family" under the immigration laws, a U.S. citizen may apply for a K-1 visa on behalf of his or her fiancé(e). This special visa allows the non-U.S. citizen fiancé(e) to enter the U.S. in order to marry the U.S. citizen fiancé(e). The K visa is a temporary visa, which requires the couple to get married before its expiration. If the couple does not marry within the allotted time, the foreign fiancé(e) must depart the U.S. or risk violating the terms of his or her visa. Once the couple is married, the U.S. citizen spouse may petition for a green card on behalf of his or her spouse.

Immigration Sponsorship By A Lawful Permanent Resident

Lawful permanent residents in the U.S. can only sponsor their spouse or unmarried children (of any age) to immigrate to the United States. These individuals are categorized as second preference (F2), and must also wait until a visa becomes available before immigrating to the United States.