Family-Based Green Card Lawyer in New Jersey
Family reunification has historically been the principal policy underlying U.S. immigration law. The Immigration and Nationality Act allows U.S. Citizens or Lawful Permanent Residents (green card holders) to sponsor the immigration of family members to the United States based upon those relationships. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services will issue a visa (green card) after they approve a petition filed by certain family members. After the petition is approved, the visa may be issued in as little as 90 days or as long as 25 years, depending upon which of the below categories apply and depending upon the home country the immigrant applicant is from. However, not all family relationships serve as a basis to apply for Lawful Permanent Resident status.
For Whom Can a U.S. Citizen File a Petition for a Green Card?
- Husband, wife, or child under the age of 21 (immediate relative*);
- A parent if the U.S. citizen is at least 21 years of age (immediate relative*);
- An unmarried child over the age of 21 and their children (first preference);
- Married child of any age and their children (third preference);
- Brother or sister if the U.S. citizen is at least 21 years old and their spouses and children (fourth preference)
For Whom Can a Permanent Resident File a Petition for a Green Card?
- Husband or wife, and unmarried children under the age of 21 (second preference A);
- Unmarried child over the age of 21 (second preference B).
The Immediate Relative category, as noted above, has no limit on the number of visas issued each year, and as a result there is no wait other than the time it takes the USCIS to process the Visa. Under Section 245(i), a USC may petition for an immediate relative and they may adjust their status (receive a green card) here in the U.S. even if that relative has fallen out of status long ago. However, the immediate relative must have entered the U.S. legally.
*Immediate relatives also include widow or widowers of U.S. citizens who were married for at least two years prior to the citizen's death, who were not separated, remarried and who file applications within two years of death.
Aliens other than immediate relatives fall into one of the four limited family based preference categories, and a visa will not be immediately available as there is a numerical limit on the number of visas issued each year.
More aliens want visas than are currently available. Therefore, there may be a long waiting period for the visa to be issued. When the application is received by the USCIS they will note the filing date, this is called the “priority date.” The applicant must wait for the priority date to be current before entering the U.S.
USCIS publishes a listing of current priority dates in the Visa Bulletin for application for those who are not immediate relatives. If the application was filed on or before the date listed in the Visa Bulletin, then the priority date is current and the USCIS should contact the applicant. Note: the dates on the Visa Bulletin are unpredictable. The dates may move forward or backwards or they may not move at all. However, a new Visa Bulletin is issued by the State Department on the first day of each month, and it lists the most current priority dates.
Other Important Information
Definition of "Child"
A child is unmarried and was born in wedlock or was legitimized (parents married) before age 18 while in the father’s custody. Children born out of wedlock may obtain immigration benefits from the natural mother or the natural father and long as they have established a “bona-fide” parent child relationship before age 21. Step-children are eligible to immigrate if the child was under 18 at the time of the marriage and the relationship can continue after the death of or divorce from the natural parent provided there has been an active parental interest. Adopted children are eligible to immigrate if adopted before the age of 16 and have been in the legal custody and resided with the adoptive parent for at least two years. Orphans can be petitioned if under 16 and if both parents have died disappeared or abandoned the child. If there is a sole or surviving parent, he or she must be incapable of providing support for the child.
Affidavit of Support
All U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents who petition to have their family members admitted to the U.S. must act as sponsors and provide an Affidavit of Support for the alien.
The affidavit is required to assure the USCIS that the alien spouse will not become a public charge. The sponsor can be different than the petitioner. To qualify as a sponsor the individual must be 18 or older, a USC or LPR of the U.S. and live or hold domicile in the U.S. This document states that the petitioner can support the alien at 125% of the federal poverty income level.
This amount varies according to family size and location. In the event that the primary sponsor does not earn enough income, a co-sponsor may be used. The co-sponsor must meet the above requirements but does not need to be related to the alien. In the event of the death of the sponsor, a substitute Affidavit of Support may be submitted from another close relative only.
The affidavit is an enforceable contract that remains in effect until the alien becomes a citizen or has worked for more than 40 qualifying quarters as defined by the Social Security Act. The sponsor and/or co-sponsor can be required to reimburse any state or federal agency for most public benefits that the alien receives.
Documents for a Visa Application
All applicants must submit certain personal documents such as passports, birth certificates, police certificates and other civil documents, as well as evidence that they will not become public charges in the U.S.
Before the issuance of an immigrant visa, every applicant, regardless of age, must undergo a medical examination. A doctor designated by the USCIS or Consulate will conduct the examination. Costs for such examinations must be borne by the applicant. If adjusting status from within the U.S. check the USCIS Civil Surgeons list.
USCIS and Consulates abroad conducts in person interviews before issuing a Green card. The interviews are detailed question and answer sessions in which the USCIS will attempt to determine whether the required relationship exists.
Since no advance assurances can be given that a green card will be issued, we advise you not to make any travel plans until visas have been issued.
For more specific help with your individual case, call our New Jersey immigration attorneys today at (800) 909-8129 and schedule your initial consultation with us.