How Does Family Immigration Work In the US?

How Does Family Immigration Work In the US?US citizens have the right to file a petition for a visa on behalf of their immediate relatives. The sponsor, the person who files the petition, must be a US citizen. There are two categories of family immigration visas, according to the US Department of State – Bureau of Consular Affairs.

The first type of family visa is for immediate relatives. There is no numerical limit on this type of visa application. Immediate relatives include:

  • A spouse of a US citizen
  • An unmarried child under 21 years of age of a US citizen
  • An orphan adopted abroad by a US citizen
  • An orphan about to be adopted by a US citizen
  • A parent of a US citizen who is at least 21 years of age

These immediate relatives have priority over other visa applications.

The second type of family visa is for more distant relatives. These visas, according to the State Department, are limited by number and by family relations. These family preference visas require that the sponsor be a US citizen and that the relationship to the sponsor be the following:

  • Family First Preference. Unmarried sons and daughters of U.S. citizens, and their minor children, if any.
  • Family Second Preference. Spouses, minor children, and unmarried sons and daughters (age 21 and over) of Lawful Permanent Residents. At least seventy-seven percent of all visas available for this category will go to the spouses and children; the remainder is allocated to unmarried sons and daughters.
  • Family Third Preference. Married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens, and their spouses and minor children.
  • Family Fourth Preference. Brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens, and their spouses and minor children, provided the U.S. citizens are at least 21 years of age.

Grandparents, aunts, uncles, in-laws, and cousins cannot sponsor their relatives for immigration.

The family immigration process

An experienced Tennessee immigration lawyer will explain if you are an eligible sponsor. The attorney will then explain the steps that you and the relative you’re sponsoring must take to be approved for the visa. The main steps are as follows:

  1. The sponsor must file a Petition for Alien Relative, Form I-130with the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
  2. The sponsor must be 21 or older if the relative is a parent or sibling. Otherwise, with some exception, the sponsor must be 18 or older.
  3. The petition requires that the application be completed, that there be an affidavit of support, and that the proper fees be paid. The application must include, in addition to the support affidavit:
  • The relative’s passport, valid for six months or more, for intended entry into the US.
  • Two 2×2 photographs
  • A completed medical examination form
  • Additional documents your immigration lawyer will explain

The applicant will have to submit to an interview – typically at the US Embassy or Consulate where the relative lives. The attorney will review with the applicant what questions are likely to be asked and how translation of languages works. The medical exam and any required vaccinations must be completed before the visa interview.

The State Department says that “if you are issued an immigrant visa, the consular officer will give you your passport containing the immigrant visa and a sealed packet containing the documents which you provided. It is important that you do not open the sealed packet. Only the U.S. immigration official should open this packet when you enter the United States.”

Immigrants must come to the US through a US port of entry within the time limit on the visa. The visa is just the request for permission to enter America. If the entry is approved and the immigrations fees are paid, the relative is given an alien registration card – also called a green card which confirms the relative’s status as a permanent resident.

At the Law Offices of LaFevor & Slaughter, we understand the importance of family. Our Knoxville immigration lawyers understand the complex immigration visa process. For help obtaining a visa and a green card for a foreign relative, call us at 865-637-6258 or fill out our contact form to schedule a free appointment. We represent clients who live in Knoxville and the surrounding areas.

Learn more about family immigration to Tennessee: