Family-Based Green Card Overview
Family-Based Green Cards are significant to foreign family members of US citizens and permanent residents. They allow US citizens or permanent residents to sponsor their spouses, children, parents, and siblings to enable them to travel to the US and settle.
In family-based immigration, one of the most significant differences between the statuses of US citizens and permanent residents is who they can sponsor to join them in the United States. If you are a US citizen, you can bring more distant relatives to the US and their Green Cards are processed faster than the relatives of a permanent resident.
As a US citizen, you can file an immigrant visa petition for your spouse, child, parent or sibling.
If you are a US lawful permanent resident, you can only file an immigrant visa petition for your spouse or unmarried child.
- Family-Based Green Card Overview
- Why are Family-Based Green Cards Important to Pakistani Citizens Seeking to Immigrate to the US.
- Family-Based Green Card Categories
- Documents Required to Apply for a Family-Based Green Card
- Family-Based Green Cards: Application Process for Pakistani Citizens
- What to do if Your Visa is Denied?
- Family-Based Green Card Application Processing Times
- Obtaining the Lawful Permanent Resident Status (Green Card) in the US
- Green Card Application Fees
- How Can Total Law Help?
Why are Family-Based Green Cards Important to Pakistani Citizens Seeking to Immigrate to the US.
Besides being permitted to join family in the United States, the Green Card provides immigrants with various other benefits and opportunities. Pakistani citizens who obtain a Green Card can enjoy the following benefits:
- Able to apply for US citizenship
- Be legally protected under the US laws and against deportation
- Sponsor a Pakistani or other foreign family member to apply for their Green Card and travel to the United States
- Travel easily across the United States and internationally
- Live, work and study anywhere within the United States
- Receive federal benefits, such as education funding and social security
- Vote in political elections and engage in politics
Immediate Relative Category of the Family-Based Green Cards
The Immediate Relative Category is a type of Family-Based Visa issued to close relatives of US citizens. With this visa category, there is no limit to the number of visas granted each year. This visa category also has a shorter processing time.
To apply for the Immediate Relative type of visa, you must fulfil the following eligibility requirements:
- Be an unmarried child of a US citizen and under 21 years old
- Legally married to a US citizen
- Your child is a US citizen and older than 21 years old
Under the Immediate Relative visa category, you can apply for one of the following types of family-based visas:
- IR1 Visa for spouses of US citizens
- IR2 Visa for unmarried children of US citizens who are younger than 21 years old
- IR3 Visa for children adopted abroad by parents who are US citizens
- IR4 Visa for children adopted in the United States by US citizens
- IR5 Visa for parents of US citizens who are 21 years old or older
Family Preference Category of the Family-Based Green Cards
The Family Preference Visa category tends to take longer to process as there is a limit to the number of visas under this category that are processed each year by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.
To apply for the Family Preference type of visa, you must fulfil the following eligibility criteria:
- Be an unmarried child of a US citizen, and older than 21 years of age
- A spouse of a US citizen
- Child of a US citizen, and you are 21 years or younger
- A married child of a US citizen (and you are of any age)
- Sibling of a US citizen
Under the Family Preference category, you can apply for the following types of visas:
- First Preference (F1) for unmarried children of US citizens who are 21 years old and older
- Second Preference (F2A) for spouses and unmarried children (21 years old and younger) of lawful permanent resident
- Third Preference (F2B) for unmarried children of lawful permanent resident (21 years and older)
- Fourth Preference (F4) for siblings of US citizens (the US citizen must be 21 years of age or older)
Are Accompanying Relatives Eligible for a Family-Based Green Card?
An accompanying relative is an immediate relative of the primary Green Card applicant. You might be eligible for a Green Card as an accompanying relative if the primary Green Card holder has a visa from the Family Preference category. The accompanying relatives will be automatically included in the immigration process.
Please note that if you are an accompanying relative and wish to apply for a Green Card, you must first change your status to be eligible.
Documents Required to Apply for a Family-Based Green Card
Family-Based Green Cards can only be obtained if you fulfil the eligibility criteria. To prove that you are eligible, you will need to submit the following documents:
- Valid passport – must be valid for at least 6 months after you enter the United States
- Two coloured passport photographs
- Medical exam report
- Birth certificate for children of a US citizen or permanent resident
- Marriage certificate for a spouse of a US citizen or permanent resident
- Affidavit of Support (Form I-864) – proof of funds, signed by the sponsor to demonstrate that they accept financial responsibility for the applicant
- Criminal background records – obtained at your nearest Police station
- If applicable: marriage termination document, military service records, court records
Please note that all of the supporting documents must be translated into English.
Our immigration lawyers can advise you on what documents you should provide based on your case to increase your chances of visa approval. Call +1 844 290 6312 or contact Total Law online for more information.
Form I-130: Petition for Alien Relative
To initiate the Family-Based Green Card application, the sponsor must submit a petition for the Pakistani relative by filing Form I-130, the Petition for Alien Relative. The form can be submitted to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) electronically or on paper by post.
Form DS-261: Online Choice of Address and Agent
When your petition for Alien Relative is processed and approved, foreign applicants (Pakistani relatives) must complete Form DS-261 and submit it to the US Embassy in Pakistan. The Form DS-261 is also known as the Online Choice of Address and Agent. This form lets applicants choose how they want the Department of State to communicate with them throughout the Green Card application process.
To complete Form DS-261, you will need to provide your current information so that the US Department of State can determine how you want to be contacted.
When you receive your National Visa Center (NVC) Welcome Letter, you can pay your processing fees (the Immigrant Visa application fee and the Affidavit of Support fee). NVC will take up to 1 week to process your fees.
Form DS-260: Immigrant Visa Electronic Application
The next step in the Family-Based Green Card application is Form DS-260, which is the online immigration visa application. This form must be completed by the sponsored Pakistani relative applicant and supported with the required documents. The exact type of visa that you will be applying for will depend on the Family-Based Green Card category you’re eligible for.
You will be contacted by the US Embassy in Pakistan and requested to file Form DS-260 to provide your background information, such as personal, educational, and professional details, as well as reasons for your immigration to the US
Once submitted, this form will provide the US Department of State with information that will help them determine whether you’re an eligible applicant for the Family-Based Green Card. This is why it is essential that you submit all the required documents and information and complete the form correctly to avoid any misinformation.
Provide All of the Required Documents for the Form DS-260
Providing the required supporting documents for your online visa application is one of the key steps towards visa approval and can significantly increase your chances of Green Card approval. Therefore, you must provide the required supporting documents along with the form.
Visa Interview for the Family-Based Immigration to the United States from Pakistan
After you have filed Form DS-260, you will be contacted by the US Embassy in Pakistan and invited to attend a visa interview. The in-person interview will be scheduled in your nearest US Embassy or Consulate.
In Pakistan, the US Embassy is in Islamabad, and the US Consulates are located in Karachi, Lahore, and Peshawar.
How to Prepare for the Visa Interview?
You should bring all the required supporting documents to the visa interview to provide all the necessary information to the interviewing officer; this will ensure a faster decision on your visa application.
If any information needs to be included or you need to provide more documents to support your application, the interviewing officer will request you to submit them within a specific time frame.
During the interview, you will be asked questions regarding your background, travel to the US and visa application. The purpose of your visa interview is to determine whether you and your sponsor are eligible for the visa you’re applying for and whether the information that you have provided in the application is valid. You should prepare some of your answers in advance to avoid giving contradicting answers that may negatively affect your application.
Common Visa Interview Questions
In regards to the family immigration process, there are several questions that the majority of applicants are asked. You can expect to be interviewed about your personal, educational, and professional background, your relationship with the US sponsor, as well as your plans and intentions after immigrating to the US Some of the most common visa interview questions include:
- What is the full name of your sponsor?
- What country were you born in?
- Why do you wish to come to the United States?
- What evidence do you have to support your relationship with your sponsor?
- Where does your sponsor work now?
Please note that you will be asked different questions depending on your relationship to the sponsor applicant. If you’re married, you can expect to be asked more personal questions to establish a genuine relationship between you and your sponsor. For example, who takes care of family finances? Or who cleans/cooks more?
Similarly, if your sponsor is your parent, you can expect to be asked questions that will prove that you are genuinely their child. It is important to remember to be truthful and answer questions honestly and concisely.
What to do if Your Visa is Denied?
Although the vast majority of visas are approved, in some cases visa applications are unsuccessful and visas are denied.
Your visa application might be rejected if you do not provide enough information or supporting documents to show your eligibility for your visa. In some cases, applicants are found ineligible for the type of visa they apply for.
If your visa application is denied, you will be notified and advised if you may apply for a waiver of your ineligibility. If the waiver is approved, you may be issued a visa. If the waiver is not approved, you may be eligible to re-apply in the future. Please note that if you re-apply, you will be required to pay all the visa application costs and attend your visa interview again.
Visa denial can be discouraging and stressful if you are looking to join your family in the United States. Total Law offers reliable immigration advice to help you complete your application and avoid visa denial. Call Total Law today at +1 844 290 6312, or reach out to our advisers online via chat.
The processing times for a Family-Based Green Card application depend on the visa category that you have applied for. The Immediate Relative category can be processed significantly faster because the number of visas processed in this category is limitless.
However, visas from the Family Preference category take longer to process as there are annual caps for each visa type in this category. The current annual caps are as follows:
- F1 Visa – 24,000
- F2A Visa – 79,940
- F2B Visa – 34,260
- F3 Visa – 23,400
- F4 Visa – 65,000
Cost of the Family-Based Green Card Application
There are different fees included in the overall Family-Based Green Card application cost. The cost is based on the current fees:
- Filing the Sponsorship Form I-130 (Petition for Alien Relative) – $535
- Filing the Form DS-261 (Immigration Visa Application) – $325
- USCIS Immigrant Fee – $220 (This fee is paid after you receive your visa and before you travel to the US).
Additionally, there may be further fees that vary depending on the individual case. You may need to pay the medical and vaccination fee, biometric fee or translation for supporting documents.
If your Petition for Alien Relative and Family-Based Visa are approved, and you travel to the United States, you can change your status from an immigrant visa to a lawful permanent resident (LPR). This is also known as ‘Green Card’. LPR allows you to live and work permanently in the United States.
To apply for the Green Card, you must file Form I-485 (Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status) with the USCIS. This form will be used to apply for the LPR status. The USCIS will determine whether you are eligible for the LPR status based on the information and documents you provide in the application. If your application is approved, you will receive your Green Card.
Supporting Documents for the Green Card Application
Along with Form I-485, you must file supporting evidence to demonstrate your eligibility for the LPR status. You will be required to provide all the supporting documents you have supplied for your visa application as well as proof that you have continuously maintained a lawful status since arriving in the United States.
Green Card Application Fees
The Green Card application fee is the fee you must pay for filing Form I-485 (Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status). This costs $1,140 if you are 14 years old or older. Additionally, if you are between 14 and 78 years old, you must pay the biometric services fee ($85).
Children under 14 filing the form with at least one parent pay $750 and no biometric services fee.
How Can Total Law Help?
Family immigration from Pakistan to the United States is often a long and complicated process preventing many people from joining their family members in the US Total Law can help you take the stress away and support you throughout the Green Card application process to make this experience hassle-free.
Total Law offers immigration advice for applicants dealing with family-based immigration and the Green Card application process from various parts of the world, including Pakistan. Our immigration advisers can support you by helping you assemble the required documents, preparing you for your visa interview and ensuring your application is completed to the highest standard to satisfy the US Department of State’s criteria and improve your chances of Green Card approval.
To learn more about our services and how we can help your case, call +1 844 290 6312 or contact Total Law online.
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Family Preference Green Card processing time can take 1 to 10 years, depending on the exact type of visa and the yearly caps.
The Immediate Relative Category visas take significantly less time to process; for example, a Green Card through a spouse takes 10 to 13 months.
Family in the context of a Family-Based Green Card is defined as a group of people tied by marriage, blood, or adoption. This includes spouses, parents, children, and siblings. These relationships must be legally recognised in the US Thus, polygamy, for example, is considered unlawful in the US For that reason, you must provide supporting evidence to show that your familial relationships are valid for the Family-Based Green Card application.
No. Once you submit your Green Card application, you can only leave the United States once your application is approved. If your application is pending, and you must travel outside of the country for essential reasons, you can apply for a travel permit to be able to re-enter the United States.