What is a family-based Green Card?
A family-based Green Card is a permit that allows foreign-born people to become Lawful Permanent Residents in the United States if they already have a relative that lives in the United States. To be eligible for a family-based Green Card your family member in the United States will need to petition for a visa on your behalf.
Both U.S citizens and permanent residents in the United States can bring their family members to the US on a Green Card, however, the types of family members that they can sponsor for a Green Card varies depending on their immigration status.
There are two categories of family-based Green Cards, the immediate relative category for immediate relatives of U.S citizens and the family preference categories for family members of permanent residents and more distant relatives of U.S citizens. Both the immediate and family preference categories contain several sub-categories of visas, this right one for you will depend on how you are related to the U.S citizen or permanent resident.
If you are successfully granted a family-based Green Card you will be able to live in the United States permanently. You will also have the right to work and study in the country and may also be able to bring accompanying relatives with you.
Immediate relative Green Cards
Only the family members of U.S citizens can be eligible for the immediate relative category of family-based green cards. According to the USCIS an immediate relative includes:
- Unmarried Children under the age of 21
- Parents (providing the sponsoring U.S citizen is over the age of 21)
Applicants under the immediate relative category have immigration priority. This means that, unlike the family preference categories, there is no cap on the number of Green Cards available to immediate family members so this category of family-based Green Card usually has a much quicker overall processing time.
Family preference category Green Cards
The family members of both U.S citizens and permanent residents in the US can be eligible for the family preference Green Cards. However, the family members that are eligible depends on whether the sponsor is a U.S citizen or permanent resident.
U.S citizens are able to sponsor their unmarried children over the age of 21, their married children of any age and their brothers and sisters. Whilst US permanent residents can only sponsor their spouse or their unmarried children.
There are five categories of family preference visas available, they include:
- F1 Visa – Family first preference visa for unmarried sons and daughters of U.S citizens who are over the age of 21
- F2A Visa – Family second preference visa for spouses and unmarried children of Lawful Permanent Residents who are younger than 21
- F2B Visa – Family second preference visa for unmarried children of Lawful Permanent Residents who are 21 or older.
- F3 Visa – Family third preference visa for married children of U.S. citizens.
- F4 – Family fourth preference visa for siblings of U.S. citizens who are 21 years of age or older.
Each year there is an annual cap of 226,000 on the number of family preference visas. This number may seem high, however, the number of those applying for a family preference visa is usually much higher to the waiting list for these visas can be substantial.
How to apply for a family-based Green Card from the UK
The application process for both immediate relative Green Cards and family preference Green Cards is the same. The first step in the process of applying for a family-based Green Card from the UK is for your U.S relative to file a visa petition on your behalf, you are not able to self-petition for any of the family-based Green Cards.
Your U.S sponsor will need to file Form I-130, Petition for an Alien Relative with the U.S Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). If the USCIS approves your Form-1-130 visa petition then this means that you have established a qualifying relationship and you will be granted a visa number.
Following approval of Form I-130, the USCIS will transfer your case to the National Visa Center (NVC). Once the NVC has issued you with a case number you can then apply for your Green Card through consular processing. Your approved Form I-130 will be sent to your local US Embassy or Consulate, in the UK this is located in London. To proceed with your Green Card application you will need to submit form DS-261 to the Consulate and will then need to complete and submit Form DS-260, which is the online immigrant visa application.
The last step of the process is to attend a Green Card interview at the Consulate, a consular officer will finish processing your application and will decide whether to grant you a Green Card. Prior to your interview, you must undergo a medical examination by a consulate approved doctor and have your fingerprints taken at a visa application support center.
If your application is successful you will be given a Visa Packet by the consular officer, you will need to give this to the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer upon your arrival in the United States. The officer will then stamp your passport, this stamp can be used as a Green Card until your actual Green Card arrives. The USCIS will post your Green Card to your US address once you have entered the country.
How to apply from within the United States
If you are already in the US, then the way that you apply for a family-based Green Card will differ. Instead of applying for your Green Card through consular processing, you will need to apply by adjusting your status to Lawful Permanent Residence. You can apply to adjust your status if you are already present in the United States, entered the country lawfully and have an immigrant visa immediately available to you.
The process of adjusting your status begins the same way. Your U.S sponsor will need to file Form I-130 on your behalf to prove that you have a qualifying relationship and receive a visa number.
You can apply for an adjustment of status by filing Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status. If you are applying as the immediate relative of a U.S citizen then you can file Form I-485 at the same time as the I-130 petition as visas are always available for immediate relatives, you can also file Form I-485 whilst form I-130 is pending or after it has been approved. However, if you are applying for a family preference visa then you can only file Form I-485 when a visa number becomes available so your Form I-130 visa petition must be approved before you can adjust your status.
Once you have filed Form I-485 you will need to attend an appointment at a USCIS Application Support Center to provide your biometric information, this is your photograph and fingerprints. You and your US sponsor may also need to attend an adjustment interview.
If your application for adjustment of status is successful then the USCIS will write to you to confirm this and will post your Green Card to you.
During the family Green Card application process you will be required to submit a number of documents, including your supporting documents to prove that you are eligible for a family immigrant visa. Whether you are applying under the immediate relative or family preference category you will be expected to provide the following documents:
- A valid passport, must be valid for at least six months beyond the date you plan to enter the United States
- Your marriage certificate if you are applying as a spouse of a U.S. citizen or permanent resident.
- Your divorce certificate or other marriage termination document if you are applying as a spouse and have been previously married
- Your birth certificate if you are applying as a child of a U.S. citizen or permanent resident.
- A signed Affidavit of Support, this must be signed by your U.S sponsor and is a legal contract that makes the U.S sponsor responsible for financially supporting the overseas citizen
- Your medical examination form
- Two coloured passport size photographs
If your documents are not written in English then you will need to have them professionally translated prior to submitting them. You may also need to submit other documents throughout the application process, you will be told if you need to do this.
Total Law citizenship and immigration services
U.S citizenship and immigration law is incredibly complex, but our lawyers are experts when it comes to the U.S immigration system. Here at Total Law we are also passionate about reuniting families, the US family-based Green Cards can be difficult to obtain, but our team will be there to support you and your family throughout the immigration process.
Just a few of the ways that we can assist you with your family Green Card application include:
- Assessing your eligibility for the various categories of family Green Cards and offering you professional legal advice about your U.S immigration options
- Assisting your U.S sponsor with filing the relevant petitions
- Assisting you with all necessary paperwork
- Helping you to gather all of your supporting documents
- Communicating with the USCIS on your behalf
- Answering any questions you may have about the application process
Our lawyers will tailor their services to suit your exact needs and will ensure that you receive high-quality support throughout every step of the process.
For more information about how we can assist you, simply get in touch today by calling 0333 305 9375.
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The processing time for a family-based Green Card varies depending on where you are applying from and which category of Green Card you are applying for.
Generally, applications are quickest for an immediate relative who is applying from within the US. This is because the I-130 petition can be filed at the same time as the I-485 form, in this case, applicants can expect their Green Card to be processed in 6-12 months.
For the family-based preference categories, the wait time for a Green Card can vary greatly depending on which preference category you are applying for, some have wait times as long as 10 years. F2A applicants usually have the shortest wait time because this subcategory has the highest annual quota.
For more information about the processing times for family-based Green Cards, speak with our lawyers today on 0333 305 9375.
Both U.S citizens and those with Lawful Permanent Residence status can sponsor family members to come to the U.S, however U.S citizens can typically sponsor more types of relatives.
Only qualifying relatives can be eligible for a family Green Card. If applying under the immediate relative category you could be eligible if you are the spouse, unmarried child or parent of a U.S citizen.
If applying under the family preference category you could be eligible if you are the:
- Unmarried son or daughter of a U.S citizen over the age of 21
- Spouse or unmarried child under the age of 21 of someone with permanent residence in the US
- Unmarried child over the age of 21 of someone with permanent residence status
- Married child of a U.S citizen
- Sibling of a U.S citizen over the age of 21