Throughout America, one of the greatest struggles facing millions of immigrants is that of obtaining lawful permanent residence or – as it is commonly called – a “Green Card.” There are dozens of possible paths to obtaining a Green Card. Even many undocumented immigrants have a pathway to legal permanent residence available to them. Part 2 of this series focuses on family-based immigration and some of the ways immigrants can seek a Green Card through family relationships they have with relatives who are U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents. If you missed Part 1 of this series (an overview to obtaining a Green Card), you can find it here.
Currently, family-based immigration results in greater numbers of admissions than the other categories of immigrants. As specified in the Immigration and Nationality Act, eligibility for family-sponsored immigration is determined by an immigrant’s familial relationships to U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents. See 8 U.S.C. §§ 1151, 1153. If an immigrant can be categorized as an “immediate relative” of a U.S. citizen, he or she may be exempt from the waiting times that apply to other categories in family-based immigration. However, immigrants seeking to obtain lawful permanent resident status through their marriage to a U.S. citizen may also be subject to heightened scrutiny and evidentiary requirements. Determining your eligibility for a family-based immigration category, as well as which category is best for you, is a complex process that should not be attempted without the assistance of an immigration attorney.
Generally, the process of obtaining a Green Card in family-based immigration starts with the filing of a visa petition by the immigrant’s relative in the U.S. Visa petitions are generally filed with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”), an agency within the Department of Homeland Security. Generally, a USCIS Officer will be responsible for adjudicating the visa petition. Approving a family-based visa petition can be discretionary for a USCIS Officer. Therefore, it is crucial to complete the visa petition in the legally correct manner and with sufficient supporting evidence to prove the bona fide nature of the family relationship. To gather the necessary evidence and complete the visa petition properly, it is important to secure the legal counsel of an immigration lawyer before submitting a visa petition to USCIS or any other government agency.