family.jpgFamily Immigration
Each year thousands of immigrants migrate legally into the United States through family immigration ties. Thousands more with approved petitions wait for visas in the ubiquitous immigration line.
For some, the wait can be 10 years or more. That's because the United States sets aside a certain number of visas every year for immigrants. Once the quota is full, no more visas are issued and the relative with the approved petition must wait “in line”, until petitions filed before theirs are processed. Approved petitions have a priority number. Relatives must wait until their priority number comes up to apply for a visa. Once the relative gets to the front of the immigration line, the Department of State will invite them to apply for a visa.

The Department of State issues a monthly Visa Bulletin showing current wait times. Check the Visa Bulletin to see how long your relative will have to wait.

Citizens of the United States bypass these immigration quotas for certain family members who are immediate relatives. Immediate relatives are a husband or wife of U.S. Citizen, unmarried children under 21 years of age, and parents. There is no waiting list for immediate relatives. Be aware that you must be 21 to petition for your parents.

Citizens can also petition for their fiancés, married children over 21, and for their brothers and sisters. Fiancé visas are non-immigrant visas and not subject to the immigrant quotas. The category was created so that fiancés of American citizens and their children can migrate quickly to the United States and get married.

Married children over 21 and brothers and sisters are not considered immediate relatives and are subject to the immigrant quotas. Because of the quotas and high demand, the wait for these relatives can be many years long.

Permanent Residents
Permanent Residents of the United States may petition for their husband or wife and for their unmarried children no matter what age. They may not petition for their parents or for their married children. Only citizens of the United States may petition for their parents and married children.

For most relatives of permanent residents, the wait to enter the United States is at least several years long and the relative must wait outside the United States. If during that wait, the resident becomes a citizen, the petition can be upgraded and your relative may be able to enter the United States sooner.

Getting the Green Card
Typically, a family member must petition for their relative. Proof of the family relationship must be established to the satisfaction of immigration authorities. Once the petition is approved, the relative is given a priority number. Getting an approved petition is only the first step towards immigrating to the United States. It is an important step because It secures your relative’s place in the immigration line. The next step is getting a visa or, if they qualify, adjustment of status.

The wait for a visa can be many years depending on who the family member is. Even those who qualify as immediate relatives of citizens may experience long wait times due to visa processing delays. With certain exceptions, you will need to show that you can support your relative or relatives in the United States and provide financial information. You will have to sign an Affidavit of Support which is a separate contract with the government that obligates you financially. This obligation currently lasts for 10 years or until the relative becomes a citizen. If you do not earn enough to qualify as a financial sponsor, you may get someone else to make up the difference.

Adjustment of Status
If you are a citizen and your relative is already here, they may be able to “adjust their status” which means they can become a permanent resident without having to leave the United States to get a visa. With limited exceptions, the family member to be adjusted must have entered the United States legally.

If you entered the United States illegally, be very careful about leaving the United States to get a visa once you have an approved petition. Typically, once your petition is approved and a visa is available, you will be invited to apply for a visa and set an appointment date at the American Consul in your country for an interview to issue the visa.
If you entered the United States illegally, you will be subject to the immigration inadmissibility bars. The bars can be 3, 10, 15 years or more.

These bars do not kick in until you leave the United States.
If you are in that situation, you may be able to get a 601 hardship waiver to bypass the inadmissibility bars. Hardship waivers can be given to family members if it can be shown that their inadmissibility to the United States will create extreme hardship to relatives who are citizens or permanent residents of the United States.

Be aware, that immigration authorities know that a separation causes hardship. To get a waiver, the hardship must be extreme. Waivers are decided on a case by case basis and are extremely individualized and complex. A well prepared application is essential to getting a positive result. Attorney Alina Cruz has successfully prepared hardship waivers for immigrants to the United States and saved them from the inadmissibility bars. She will fight hard for you. Call our office today to see how we can help you.
Family immigration laws are complex. A poorly written petition or waiver can have devastating results. An experienced immigration attorney can help you navigate the many minefields of family immigration and advise you on getting the best result. Call for an appointment to see how we can help you.

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Family Immigration 101
10 Things You Should Know About Family Immigration

1. To petition for your parents, you must be an American Citizen and you must be over 21.

2. With very limited exceptions, if you entered the United States Illegaly, you may not adjust status even if you are married to an American Citizen. (You might qualify for Cancellation of Removal or a Hardship Waiver.)

3. Only American Citizens may petition for their brothers and sisters. Waiting times can be very long. See Visa Bulletinfor current availibility.

4. If you are here illegally and depart the U.S. you will be subject to the inadmissibility bars. The inadmissibility bars only kick in when you leave. TIP:Be very careful about leaving the U.S. to attempt to get a visa / waiver after receiving an approved 1-130 petition.

5. Spouses, parents and minor children of U.S. Citizens are considered immediate relative and are not subject to numerical limits.

6. If you petition for your fiancee, you must marry them within 90 days of their arrival.

7. You may petition for an adopted child if you adopted that child before they reached the age of 16 and you have been living with them for two years.

8. If you sign an Affidavit of Support for someone, you are signing a contract with the U.S. government agreeing that you will be financially responsible for that person for 10 years, or until they become a U.S. Citizen.

9. Immigration Law does not recognize common law marriage. You must be legally married to petition for your spouse.

10. If Immigration authorities discover that you been in a sham marriage or divorce for the purpose of getting some immigration benefit, you may be prohibited from entering the United States FOREVER. (TIP: Don't get married just for the papers)