Family Based Green Cards

Family Based Green Cards allow applicants to join their family members or spouses in the US and become US lawful permanent residents.

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    What is a Family Based Green Card?

    A Family Based Green Card allows foreign nationals who are family members or spouses of US citizens to become lawful permanent residents. Based on your relationship with the person who is a US citizen, you can be eligible for a Green Card from either the Immediate Relative category or Family Preference category.

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    What's Included In The Family Based Green Card Categories?

    The immediate relative category includes the following visas:

    • IR-1 Visa – for spouses of US citizens
    • IR-2 Visa – for unmarried children of US citizens who are younger than 21 years old.
    • IR-3 Visa – for children adopted abroad by parents who are US citizens
    • IR-4 Visa – for children adopted in the US by US citizens
    • IR-5 Visa – for parents of US citizens who are 21 years old or older.

    On the other hand, the Family Preference category covers the following visas:

    • First Preference – for unmarried sons and daughters who are 21 years of age or older of US citizens.
    • Second Preference, F2A Visa – for spouses and unmarried children who are younger than 21 years old of US Green Card holders.
    • Second Preference, F2B Visa – for unmarried children who are 21 years of age or older of US Green Card holders.
    • Third Preference, F3 Visa – for married children of US citizens
    • Fourth Preference, F4 Visa for siblings of US citizens who are 21 years of age or older.

    While Green Cards from the Family Preference category are capped, there is an unlimited number of visas for immediate relatives.

    What are the requirements for the Family Based Green Card?

    As there are several types of Family Based Green cards, the requirements to apply for them vary. Nevertheless, the main condition that applies to all of them is that the person who is living in the US needs to be able to provide evidence showing that they are either US citizens or Lawful Permanent Residents. They also need to have a valid US address.

    Those who are submitting the application cannot have a criminal record and must be able to prove that they are related to or are in a relationship with the person in the US. Documents that can serve as evidence include birth and marriage certificates.

    In addition to that, anyone applying to get permanent residency in the US through a Family Based Green Card needs to have a US financial sponsor. To be eligible to become a sponsor, the US citizen or permanent resident needs to have an income of at least 125% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines. They also need to be able to provide evidence showing that they can financially support the applicant after their arrival in the US.

    How to apply for a Family Based Green Card?

    There are so many types of Family Based Green Cards that the application processes can vary slightly. In general, however, they all follow the same procedure that requires two steps.

    First, the US citizen must submit a petition for their family member to US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). To do so, they have to fill Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relatives and submit it to USCIS that will process the petition within a few months.

    Then, once the petition is approved, the applicants who are abroad need to apply through a US Embassy or Consulate. Those who are already in the US on a different visa, need to use the adjustment of status process.

    If the petition submitted by the person based in the US is rejected, the applicant cannot begin the process of applying for a Green Card.

    Moreover, those who are applying via the Preference Relative route will need to wait for a Green Card to become available before they can begin the process to come to join their families in the US.

    What documents need to be submitted with the application?

    In addition to the application form, you will need to attach various documents to support your application and show the authorities that you meet all the requirements to get a Green Card. For visas from both the Immediate Relative and Family Preference categories, you will need to include the following:

    • Passport that will be valid for at least six months after you arrive in the US
    • Birth or marriage certificate, depending on the type of your relationship with the US citizen you are planning to join
    • A signed Affidavit of Support form
    • Medical examination
    • Two coloured US visa photographs, sized 2 x 2 inches, with a plain background

    It is important to ensure that no documents are missing and that all the information included in them is correct as any mistakes or gaps could lead to a negative outcome or delays in the processing of your application.

    What is the cost of a Family Based Green Card?

    The costs associated with applying for Family Based Green Cards vary depending on the application route, visa type, and the country you are applying from. Nevertheless, each applicant needs be ready to pay the following costs:

    • Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relatives – $535
    • Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust status – $1,140
    • Form DS-261, Immigration Visa Application – $325.

    Additional costs you need to take into consideration include medical and biometric fees and the fee for translating documents if you are coming from a non-English speaking country.

    How long does it take to get a Family Based Green Card?

    The processing time of the application is different depending on which route you are eligible for. Generally, those who apply for a Family Based Green Card as an immediate relative can expect to receive the outcome of their application much faster than those who apply as preference relatives. That is because there are no annual limits on how many visas can be granted via the Immediate Relative Route. These visas are always available.

    As for the family preference visas, only a limited number of people can receive them each year. The annual caps for them are:

    • 24,000 F1 visas
    • 114,200 F2 visas, which includes 79,940 F2A visas and 34,260 F2B Visas
    • 23,400 F3 visas
    • 65,000 F4 visas.

    Once these limits are reached, no more applications will be processed that year.

    As demand for the Family Preference Visas is huge and the availability limited, it is not uncommon for people to wait several years before receiving the outcome of their application.

    What am I entitled to do if my application is successful?

    If you receive a Family Based Green Card, whether via the Immediate Relative or Family Preference route, you will become a permanent resident of the US. That means that you will be able to live there permanently, work or study without any at a company or an institution of your choice. You will also be protected by US laws and you will be able to travel abroad without losing your status.

    After you have been living in the US as a permanent resident for at least five years, or three years if you are married to a US citizen, you will be able to apply to become a US citizen by naturalisation.

    Keep in mind, however, that if you leave the US for longer than one year, you will need to apply for the SB-1 Visa, which is a re-entry permit. Moreover, you will be expected to maintain your permanent residence status, so extended absences can negatively affect your future citizenship application.

    Get in touch with our expert immigration lawyers to learn how to apply for a Family Based Green Card. Contact us

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      How can Total Law help you and your family?

      The process of applying for a Family Based Green Card can be time-consuming, especially if you are using the Family Preference track. Luckily, our immigration lawyers can make it straightforward and stress-free.

      With offices based throughout the US, our highly qualified immigration lawyers are experts in US immigration law and can guide you through each step of your visa application. No matter which Family Based Green Card you are applying for, we can advise you on what evidence you need to prepare and how to fill in all the paperwork.

      Our lawyers support clients from the very beginning of the process to make sure that they have all the support they need. When it is necessary, they can meet with clients remotely via Skype or provide them with advice over the phone.

      Even though our immigration lawyers cannot affect the outcome of the application, nor shorten the waiting time, they can help you avoid mistakes that could result in the visa being denied. Thanks to their help, you will make sure that your application is complete and all evidence is attached.

      To find out more about how our immigration lawyers can help you and your family, get in touch today by calling +1 844 290 6312.

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                Frequently Asked Questions

                Generally, as a lawful permanent resident, you can spend up to one year outside of the US without losing your status. After that, you will need to apply for a re-entry visa. If you fail to do so, you will risk losing your Green Card.

                Family Based Green Cards are issued to individuals who intend to live in the US permanently. If you are granted a Familt Based Green Card, you can stay in the US indefinitely. You can leave and come back as many times as you want provided that you do not stay abroad for longer than one year.

                Each year only a limited number of Green Cards is available via the Family Preference route. There are:

                • 24,000 F1 visas
                • 114,200 F2 visas, which includes 79,940 F2A visas and 34,260 F2B Visas
                • 23,400 F3 visas
                • 65,000 F4 visas.

                As there are more candidates than visas available, the waiting times tend to be very long. If you are applying as a Family Preference immigrant, you have to be ready to wait at least a year to receive the outcome.

                If you are applying via the Immediate Relative route, however, you do not have to worry about visas being capped. The visas belonging to this category are always available, no matter how many people apply that year.

                For your visa application to be successful, you need to include a number of documents that prove that you meet the criteria to become eligible for the Green Card. Regardless of whether you are applying via the Immediate Relative or Family Preference track, you must submit the following:

                • A passport valid for more than six months after your arrival in the US
                • Birth or marriage certificate that proves your relationship with the US citizen you intend to join
                • Affidavit of Support that shows that the US citizen will be able to support you financially after your arrival
                • Medical examination and proof of required vaccinations
                • Two coloured passport photographs

                If you fail to include any of those, your application might be delayed or rejected.

                If you are thinking of applying for a Family Based Green Card, you will need a financial sponsor in the US. Whoever is going to fill in the petition to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) on your behalf has to agree to become your sponsor.

                Your US sponsor will need to file and sign the Affidavit of Support that proves that they earn enough money to support you financially after you join them in the US. The income requirement is usually between $20,000 – $30,000 per year.