Family Immigration to the United States

Family sponsored immigration allows for US citizens and permanent residents to sponsor relatives to immigrate to the United States. There are 480,000 visas available annually.

What are the criteria for eligibility?

To sponsor a family member, the US citizen or permanent resident must meet the following criteria:

  • Be a citizen or a lawful permanent resident of the United States and be able to provide documentation proving this status;
  • Prove that she/he can support the relative at 125% above the poverty line;
  • For US citizens, provide proof of the relationship(s) to the sponsored individual(s):
    • Husband or wife
    • Unmarried child under 21 years old
    • Unmarried son or daughter over 21
    • Married son or daughter of any age
    • Brother or sister, if she/he is at least 21 years old
    • Parent, if he/she is at least 21 years old
  • For US permanent residents, provide proof of the relationships:
    • Husband or wife
    • Unmarried son or daughter of any age

What are the preference categories?

People who want to become immigrants are classified into categories based on a preference system. The preference system does not apply to immediate relatives of US citizens (parents, spouses and unmarried children under the age of 21). Immediate relatives may receive an immigrant visa as soon as the visa petition filed for them is approved by the USCIS. The relatives in the remaining categories must wait for a visa number to become available according to the following preferences:

  • First Preference: Unmarried, adult sons and daughters of US citizens. Adult means 21 years of age or older.
  • Second Preference: Spouses of lawful permanent residents, their unmarried children (under 21), and the unmarried adult sons and daughters of lawful permanent residents.
  • Third Preference: Married sons and daughters of US citizens.
  • Fourth Preference: Brothers and sisters of adult US citizens.

Because demand exceeds the legally mandated available visas for each of these categories, there is a wait. This wait depends on how much demand exceeds supply and the country from which the intended immigrant is from. Every month, the Department of State publishes updated information about the waiting times in its Visa Bulletin.

What are some of the problems encountered in the family immigration process?

These problems include:

  • Because of the long wait times, family circumstances often intervene and can have an impact on the process. The US petitioner may die; the married child may get divorced; the adult sibling dies, leaving behind children.
  • The US petitioner must be domiciled in the US at the final stage (when the immigrants will acquire US status).
  • The US petitioner must undertake financial obligations at the final stage.
  • The petitioned-for family members may experience problems obtaining visitors visas during the pendency of the protracted process because of their intent to eventually immigrate to the US.
  • Because the petition does not require the signature of the beneficiary, a situation may arise when the beneficiary does not even know that his relative in the US applied for immigration on his behalf (this can become a problem when he applies for a visitor visa and fails to indicate that an immigrant petition has been filed on his behalf).
  • Deadlines are missed and notices not received because the petitioner has moved during the process and a proper change of address was not filed.

How does White & Associates help?

White & Associates is aware of the urgency and importance of your family unification petition. We keep you updated on any movements in processing times and any potential changes in the law which may affect the petition. We assist in applying for nonimmigrant visas during the pendency of the immigrant petition. We can help you navigate through the long family immigration process and enable your family to live together in the United States as soon as possible. Please contact us for more information.