How to Obtain a Green Card through a Family Visa petition
Maybe you are trying to sponsor a loved one so they may legally enter or remain in the United States. Or, maybe you yourself are an immigrant and would like to apply for a green card through a family visa petition. No matter your situation, we have a dedicated team that will help you with every step in this long and complex process. Because immigration law is an incredibly complex and vastly changing process, your likely hood of success increases when you have an attorney to represent you and your family in front of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
If You Are a US citizen, you can sponsor your:
- Parents (if you are at least 21 years old)
- Siblings (if you are at least 21 years old)
If You Are A Permanent Resident(LPR), You Can Sponsor Your:
- Unmarried children ( under 21 years old)
Most sponsors will need to prepare and submit form I-130 petition for alien relative, which you can find here. This is usually the first step in attaining a family visa or green card. However, some will be able to submit, simultaneously, form I-485 which you can find here. For more information on who is eligible to adjust status, please read our post on 245(A) adjustment of status (coming soon).
Family visa petitions can be complex, time-consuming, and expensive. An improperly filed petition or incorrect filing fee can cause delays or result in the rejection or denial of the petition. As such, before you start the process, contact a family visa lawyer to make sure you and your relative are eligible.
Preparing and Filing Form I-130 Petition For Alien Relative
To start the process of sponsoring a relative or loved one, the sponsor must first establish that they are U.S. citizens or a lawful permanent resident. Additionally, the sponsor must provide proof to establish their relationship to their relative. Here is a brief list of necessary evidence:
- Proof of your relationship to your relative;
- Proof of your lawful residency status or U.S. citizenship;
- Two passport photographs of you;
- Two passport photographs of your relative;
- USCIS filing fee in a check or money order made payable to US Department of Homeland Security.
If filing for your spouse, make sure to provide the following in addition to the above-mentioned documentation:
- Proof of valid marriage ( This is very important);
- Proof that all prior marriages were terminated ( if either of you were married before).
What Happens After I File Form I-130?
After properly filing your family visa petition with the correct filing fee, USCIS will send a receipt notice confirming receipt and payment along with the following very important information:
- Receipt number: starts with three letters followed by a series of numbers. You will need this number if you contact USCIS. You can also use this link to check the status of your case.
- Priority Date: This is the date USCIS officially received and accepted your petition for processing. This is more important if the sponsor who filed the I-130 is an LPR. Your priority date is the date USCIS uses to calculate how long your petition has been pending. For average processing times please use this link.
Processing times vary depending on where the sponsor lives and whether they are a citizen or resident. On average, you can expect to wait 6-8 months for USCIS to process your petition.
During this time, if your petition was missing a part of the required documents, or if USCIS wants additional proof of a family relationship or validity of the marriage, they may issue a Request for Evidence or RFE.
What Do I Do If USCIS Issues an RFE?
Don’t worry it’s not the end of the road. It is simply a speed bump. If USCIS issues an RFE, you will have a certain amount of time to respond. First, do not procrastinate as time is of the essence when dealing with an RFE. Second, USCIS will let you know exactly what is missing or insufficient. If you fail to respond to the RFE on time or if you submit insufficient or incorrect evidence, USCIS will deny your case. If your case is denied you are not entitled to a refund of the application fee. Also, If your relative is in the U.S. unlawfully they may be in risk of deportation or detention.
What Happens When USCIS Approves my Form I-130?
If your relative is eligible, you prepared the petition correctly and provided all necessary documents, USCIS will approve your I-130. Once your petition is approved, USCIS will forward your case to the Department of State’s National Visa Center (NVC) for further processing.
Once a visa is available for the intending immigrant, the NVC will email the sponsor or attorney. Next, the NVC will request supporting documents from you and your relative and at least, two additional application (I-864 and DS-260) will need to be prepared before the intending immigrant’s interview will be scheduled.
What If My Relative Has Been In The U.S. Before or Has a Criminal Arrest or Conviction, Can They Still Get A Family Visa?
For certain intending immigrants, there is an additional step to consider, applying for and receiving a waiver from USCIS. Certain people can be inadmissible or not eligible to apply for a green card. There are several reasons for this, but the two most common grounds are immigration violations (prior unlawful entries, deportations, etc.) and criminal convictions.
Waivers are very complex and should only be prepared by a competent immigration lawyer. Above all, a lawyer can tell you if you need a waiver and the likely hood of the waiver being granted. The last thing you want is for your loved one to go to their immigration interview in their home country and be told they are inadmissible due to a wrinkle in their past. Most importantly, if your loved one was in the U.S. unlawfully and returns to their home country for their interview, and are denied, this can effectively result in a prolonged separation.
Contact us If you Need Help filing Form I-130 for a Relative
With the recent changes to immigration policy, family-based petitions are taking longer to process. There are many necessary applications, supporting documents, and filing fees that must be submitted at different stages of the process. First, we will help you identify what applications and documents you will need, but we will also prepare the forms for you and aid you in gathering all necessary documents. Next, we will then assemble the filing along with all necessary documents and filing fees and we will mail it out to USCIS.
While the application is pending, we will be here to answer any of your questions or concerns that may come up. In addition, If USCIS issues an RFE we will work with you to respond to the RFE as quickly as possible. Finally, we will thoroughly prepare the intending immigrant for their interview with immigration which will ultimately determine whether they will get their green card.