If you are migrating to the U.S. with your family, the process normally starts with a petitioner – someone who is a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident. The petitioner requests the U.S. government to allow their foreign relatives to immigrate and settle in the U.S. This is where you’ll need to contact a family immigration lawyer at the Addison-based law firm of Minsky McCormick & Hallagan.
The petitioner fills out and submits Form I-130 (Petition for Alien Relative) with the USCIS. This form is used to show that an eligible family relationship exists based on the needs of an immediate family member or family preference classifications. The I-130 not only establishes a qualifying relationship, but is also used to reserve a green card (also called an immigrant visa) for the relative. An attorney can assist you in properly filing the I-130 so you can receive a timely response.
If the document is properly filed, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) will mail a notice of receipt to notify you of confirmation of the paperwork. The notice usually arrives about two to four weeks after the I-130 is filed. The USCIS may also send a rejection notice if the document is not submitted properly. This can significantly delay processing.
As a petitioner, the applicant must indicate whether they are a lawful permanent resident or U.S. citizen. They next must indicate who they are filing for – a spouse, parent, son/daughter, or brother/sister. Family members who are eligible include a spouse, an unmarried child younger than 21 years old, an unmarried son or daughter 21 or older, a married son or daughter of any age, and a brother or sister who is 21 years or older. Immediate family members may include a spouse or children (natural or adopted) under 21 years of age or a parent.
It takes about six to 12 months to approve an immediate family member, though there is no formal waiting time once they are approved. The number of green cards or immigrant visas issued to immediate family members is limitless. You need to rely on a lawyer’s help to avoid delays.
If you have already arrived in the U.S., you’ll file an application to adjust your status or a form I-485. If you’re residing outside the U.S., the USCIS forwards your immigration case to the National Visa Center (NVC), so consular processing may start. The NVC advises the applicant when they can submit their visa application and supporting documents.
Immigration law in the U.S. can become complex, making the help of an immigration lawyer imperative.
When petitioners fill out I-130s for relatives who are not immediate family members, these individuals fall under family preference categories. Their applications take longer to approve – from six months to several years after filing the paperwork.
The U.S. places a limit on the number of immigrant visas issued to family preference members annually. The length for approval is based on the category and the date of the petition – also known as a priority date.
Even if the USCIS approves form I-130, the applicant may not receive an immigrant visa number right away. Again, under some categories, it may take several years before a priority date becomes current. The priority date is used to check on case status through the visa bulletin published by the U.S. State Department.
The U.S. has a large number of open cases at the end of each fiscal year – with backlogs continuing. Therefore, it pays, literally, to speak to an immigration attorney and have them help you with your immigration case. Making a move to the U.S. is a life-changing decision, so you want to make sure you do everything right.
If you wish to petition the USCIS for an immediate family member, you should speak to a family immigration law firm without delay. Contact Minsky McCormick & Hallagan to make sure you keep on track of the transition – each step of the way.