Family-Based Immigration Attorney

Guidance from a Charlotte Immigration Lawyer

Family-based sponsorship is the most common form of immigration or lawful permanent residency in the United States. A family-based visa is commonly known as a green card, which allows you to live and work permanently in this country.

You may be eligible to obtain permanent residency (green card) through a qualifying relative. The process starts with your relative filing a petition on your behalf that establishes the qualifying relationship.

Once your petition is approved, the Department of State will determine if an immigrant visa number is available to be assigned. If you are already in the U.S. you may then apply to adjust your status to a lawful permanent resident. If you are outside of the U.S. when the visa number becomes available, you must complete the immigration process through a U.S. consulate.

In any immigration matter, it is in your best interest to discuss your case with the Charlotte immigration lawyer at the firm so that you can put forth your strongest effort in achieving the immigration status you seek.

Contact the Charlotte Immigration Attorney at the firm today if you wish to apply for a family-based visa (green card).

Immediate Relatives

You may be eligible to obtain permanent residency (green card) through a qualifying relative. The process starts with your relative filing a petition on your behalf that establishes the qualifying relationship.

To qualify as an immediate relative, you must be the spouse, parent, or child of a U.S. citizen. If your petitioning relative is a parent, you must be unmarried and under the age of 21. If your petitioning relative is a child, the child must be age 21 or older. Same sex couples are eligible to apply under the same eligibility and applications are processed the same as those of heterosexual couples.

Unlike other family-based categories, individuals in the immediate relative category do not have to wait for a visa number to become available. Beneficiaries of an immediate relative petition also enjoy other advantages and are often eligible for adjustment of status (process of becoming a permanent resident from within the U.S.) even if they have overstayed a visa or worked without authorization.

Other Family-Based Categories

The following are categories of foreign nationals who may qualify for a family-based immigrant visa. A child includes adopted children and step-children, as defined by the Immigration and Nationality Act.

  • Family First Preference (F1) – You must be age 21 or older, unmarried, and the child of at least one U.S. citizen parent.
  • Family Second Preference (F2A) – You must be the spouse or unmarried child under age 21, of a lawful permanent resident.
  • Family Second Preference (F2B) – You must be age 21 or older and the unmarried son or daughter of a lawful permanent resident.
  • Family Third Preference (F3) – You must be the married son or daughter of a U.S. citizen.
  • Family Fourth Preference (F4) – You must be the brother or sister of a U.S. citizen who is at least 21 years of age.

For each of the family preference categories, once the petition establishing the qualifying relationship is approved, the foreign national must wait for a visa number to become available in the appropriate category before applying for the immigrant visa or permanent residency. Each month, the Department of State publishes the Visa Bulletin (provide link) which states the priority date for each category. Some category dates differ depending upon the country the foreign national is from.

Fiance Visas

A fiancé visa is a combination immigrant/non-immigrant visa. Its sole purpose is to allow a foreign national to enter the U.S. to marry. Within 90 days of arrival, the foreign national must marry his or her petitioning fiancé and apply for adjustment of status. If the marriage does not occur within 90 days, the foreign national must leave the United States.

To qualify, the petitioner must be a U.S. citizen. A permanent resident cannot file a fiancé visa petition. Additionally, the couple must have met in person at least once during the two-year period prior to filing the petition. Both must be legally eligible to marry and each must intend to marry the other if the visa is approved.

Conditional Permanent Residency and Removal of Conditions (I-751)

Individuals who gain permanent residency through marriage are granted conditional permanent residency because it is based on a marriage that is less than two years old. Conditional permanent residency is valid for two years. During the 90 day period prior to the green card’s expiration, another petition must be filed to remove the conditions.

If the couple is still together, this petition is filed jointly. If the couple is separated/divorced, the foreign national may file alone. Regardless of how the petition is filed, the standard is the same. The petitioner must establish that the relationship was, at the time of marriage, and at the time permanent residency was granted, a bona fide marriage.