Understanding Family Based Immigration to the United States
The process of family-based immigration to the United States is governed by the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). This U.S. law sets a yearly limit on the number of family-based immigrant visas that can be issued to foreign nationals. The allocation of these visas is managed by the U.S. Department of State (DOS), while eligibility determination is handled by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
This overview provides a well rounded understanding of how family based immigration operates in the United States and how you can help a foreign relative obtain permanent residency (green card). This status allows a family member to live and work in the United States permanently.
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Petitioners Vs Beneficiaries
In the context of family based immigration to the United States, the roles of the petitioner and the beneficiary are crucial to understand. The petitioner is the U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident who initiates the process by sponsoring a foreign relative for permanent residency (green card).
The beneficiary is the foreign relative who receives the sponsorship and aims to obtain a green card to live and work in the United States. It’s worth noting that the beneficiary’s spouse and children may also qualify as secondary recipients of the green card.
Which Relatives Can be Sponsored for Family Based Immigration to the United States
There are two main classifications for Family Based Immigration to the United States. These classifications are immediate relative and family preference.
U.S. citizens can sponsor their spouse, parents, and unmarried children under the age of 21 as immediate relatives. Fortunately, there’s no limit to the number of visas issued for immediate relatives. However, all other family relationships fall under the family preference category, which has a limited number of visas available each year.
How to Complete Form I-130 (Petition for Alien Relative)
Form I-130 is a form used in the family based immigration process to the United States. This form is used to request that the United States government allows a foreign relative to immigrate to the United States.
Here are the steps to fill out the I-130 form
a) Gather information
Before filling out the I-130 form, you need to gather information about both the petitioner (U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident) and the foreign relative (beneficiary).
This is the information required about the Petitioner:
- Full name, date of birth, place of birth, and current address
- Proof of U.S. citizenship or lawful permanent residency
- Information about the foreign relative (beneficiary) including full name, date of birth, place of birth, and current address
- Proof of the qualifying family relationship between the petitioner and the beneficiary
- Information about the petitioner’s financial status and ability to support the beneficiary
- Signature of the petitioner
This is the information required about the Respondent
- Full legal name: This should match the name listed on their passport or other government-issued ID.
- Date and place of birth: This should be the exact date and location of their birth as listed on their birth certificate or passport.
- Marital status: The beneficiary must indicate whether they are single, married, divorced, or widowed.
- Contact information: This includes their current mailing address, phone number, and email address.
- Passport information: The beneficiary must provide their passport number, expiration date, and country of issuance.
- Previous immigration history: This includes information about previous visas and any immigration proceedings the beneficiary may have been a part of.
- U.S. immigration status: If the beneficiary is currently in the United States, they must indicate their immigration status (e.g. F-1 student, B-2 visitor, H-1B worker, etc.).
- Family information: The beneficiary must provide information about their family members, including their spouse, children, and parents.
- Education and employment history: The beneficiary must provide information about their education level, previous employment, and current occupation.
- Criminal history: The beneficiary must disclose any criminal convictions, arrests, or pending charges.
b) Prepare required documentation about your Relationship
You will need to provide evidence of your relationship with the foreign relative. This evidence can include a birth certificate or marriage certificate. You will also need to provide evidence of the petitioner’s U.S. citizenship or permanent residency. This can be proved with a U.S. passport, green card or naturalization certificate.
c) Fill out the I-130 form
You can fill out the I-130 form online using the USCIS website or by downloading the form here and filling it out by hand. Make sure to fill out the form completely and accurately, and to sign and date the form in the designated places.
Questions on the I130 form
The I-130 form, “Petition for Alien Relative,” asks a series of questions about the petitioner, the foreign relative being sponsored (the beneficiary) and the relationship between the two.
- Date of birth
- Place of birth
- Phone number
- Email address
- U.S. Citizenship or legal permanent resident status
- Date of birth
- Place of birth
- Phone number
- Email address
- Marital status
- Information about any previous marriages
- How are you related to the beneficiary? (e.g. spouse, parent, sibling)
- If married, date of marriage
- Information about any previous marriages of either the petitioner or the beneficiary
- Any other relevant information about the relationship between the petitioner and beneficiary
How soon do I have to travel to the united states after my family sponsored visa is granted?
The timing of when you must travel to the United States after your family sponsored visa is granted can vary depending on your specific circumstances. If you are applying for a family sponsored immigrant visa through consular processing then you will be required to attend an interview at a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad. If your visa is approved then you will receive your visa and will have six months to enter the United States.
If you are already in the United States and are eligible to adjust status then you may be able to remain in the United States while your application is pending. In this case you will not have to travel outside the country until your green card is approved.