Every year, millions of people around the world petition to come to the United States in hopes of a better life. Although the United States has historically welcomed immigrants, like all nations,there are limits based on priorities and the government’s capacity to process petitions.Prospective immigrants may be forced to wait years, or even decades, to gain permanent entrance to the United States.
Luckily, the US has prioritized family reunification in its immigration system. As a result, if you have a family member who is a US citizen or permanent resident, you may qualify for prioritization in the visa queue, which can cut years off of your wait time. The process for filing the appropriate paperwork for a successful immigration petition is extremely complex, however.
The Petition Process for Immediate Relatives
If you are an immediate relative of a United States citizen aged 21 years old or older, you may become a lawful permanent resident through a family-based immigration petition. “Immediate relatives” include:
- Unmarried children under the age of 21
To begin the process, your family member will have to submit Form I-130 Petition for Alien Relative to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) on your behalf.
A visa number will be immediately assigned to you by the U.S. Department of State’s National Visa Center. You will then be notified to appear at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate in your home country to complete visa processing.
Since the Supreme Court overruled the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in the 2013 ruling in United States vs. Windsor, same-sex spouses of U.S. Citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents are eligible for the same immigration benefits as opposite-sex spouses.
The Petition Process for More Distant Relatives
Non-immediate relatives of US citizens fall under USCIS preference categories, and are subject to immigration quotas relating to the country of birth. These preference categories include:
- Unmarried adult sons and daughters of U.S. citizens (aged 21 years old and older)
- Spouses of green card holders
- Unmarried children (under 21) of permanent residents
- Unmarried adult sons and daughters of permanent residents
- Married sons and daughters (any age) of U.S. citizens
- Brothers and sisters of adult U.S. citizens
During the family immigration process, the date when your U.S. citizen, green card holder, or permanent resident relative files your petition is considered your ‘priority date.’ You become eligible for a visa if your priority date falls on or before the date listed on the visa bulletin, which is published every month by the U.S. Department of State. You can access this bulletin via the State Department’s website, or through your local U.S. Embassy or Consulate.
These dates change monthly, so be sure to check regularly for your priority date.
Filing a Successful Petition
According to USCIS, nearly 200,000 form I-310 petitions on behalf of foreign relatives were received in the first quarter of the 2018 fiscal year alone. These petitions join the already more than 1.3 million pending petitions filed in previous years. In other words, the line to get into the US is long, even for family members of US citizens and permanent residents.
To ensure your petition is successful and that you secure a visa to the United States as quickly as possible, it is imperative that your form I-310 is filled out properly, that all of the information you and your family member provide to the USCIS is accurate, and that you meet all filing deadlines and other requirements. An immigration attorney in Phoenix can help you fill out your petition so that what’s submitted meets all of USCIS’s requirements.