Family Immigration Petitions, Adjustment of Status, and Consular Processing
One of the most common ways of getting a Green Card (i.e. lawful permanent resident status) in the U.S. is through a family member who is either a U.S. citizen or a lawful permanent resident (“LPR”).
Step 1: The Immigration Visa Petition
The first step for immigrating through a family member is to have your qualifying relative file an immigrant visa petition on your behalf with the United States Citizenship & Immigration Services (“USCIS”). The following individuals can be beneficiaries of an immigrant visa petition:
- Immediate relatives of a U.S. citizen: this includes spouses, unmarried children under the age of 21, and parents (as long as the petitioning son or daughter is over the age of 21);
- Other relatives of a U.S. citizen: this includes unmarried sons or daughters over the age of 21, married children of any age, and siblings of U.S. citizen petitioners over the age of 21;
- Relatives of an LPR: this includes spouses and unmarried children of a petitioning Green Card holder;
- Special Category Applicants: this can include a battered spouse or child under the Violence Against Women Act (“VAWA”), a K nonimmigrant, a V nonimmigrant, or a widow(er) of a U.S. citizen.
Step 2: Obtaining Lawful Permanent Residency through Adjustment of Status or Consular Processing
Once the immigrant visa petition is approved by USCIS, certain individuals are eligible to apply for a Green Card while in the U.S. (a process which is known as “adjustment of status”). For example, immediate relatives of U.S. citizens who are present in the U.S. may be eligible to file the immigrant visa petition and adjustment of status application with USCIS at the same time and obtain their Green Card without leaving the country. Relatives from other categories may also be eligible to adjust their status to permanent residency in the U.S. if an immigrant visa is currently available to them. Please check the most current U.S. Department of State Visa Bulletin for visa availability and priority dates.
Individuals who are not present in the U.S. or who are not eligible to adjust their status will have to apply for an immigrant visa through the U.S. embassy or consulate in their home country. After the immigrant visa petition in Step 1 is approved by USCIS, the petition is forwarded to the National Visa Center. The applicant must then submit an immigrant visa application with the U.S. Department of State, along with supporting documentation. The final step is to attend a visa interview at the U.S. consulate and obtain the immigrant visa. Upon entering the U.S. on the immigrant visa, the applicant will receive their Green Card in the mail within a couple of weeks.
To determine if you are eligible to obtain a Green Card through a qualifying family member, please contact us to schedule a consultation with one of the attorneys.