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Who Qualifies for Family-Based Immigration?

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Who Qualifies for Family-Based Immigration?

U.S. immigration law allows U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents (Green Card holders) to petition for certain family members to be given green cards and come and live with them in the United States or to have their status changed to a green card if they are already living in the United States. At Kriezelman Burton & Associates, we help clients in the Chicago area to petition for their relatives to obtain green cards based on their familial relationship with a U.S. citizen or Green Card holder.

However, not all family members qualify to obtain a green card based on the familial relationship. The law only recognizes certain family relationships as the only ones the qualifying member is eligible to obtain a green card based on that familial relationship.

The law also separates into two groups of these qualifying family relationships: “immediate relatives” and “preference” cases. 

Immediate Relatives

A U.S. citizen who is 21 and older can file a petition with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to have green card status given to their spouse, parent, and unmarried children under 21 years. These family members are referred to as “immediate relatives” for all immigration law purposes. This is a much-desired category to migrate under because there is no limitation as to how many people can immigrate under this category, unlike all other categories which have limits. It is an important distinction because those in all other categories have backlogs which means their cases sometimes take years to complete, but an immediate relative has no waiting time other than normal processing time, which takes a few months to a year at most.

Preference Relatives

If one is not an immediate relative, then they are likely to be a “preference” relative, which the law defines to be the unmarried adult daughter or son of a US citizen, the spouse of a Green Card holder, unmarried children of permanent residents, and married sons and daughters of US citizens. This category of family-based immigration is subject to an annual quota – meaning there is a limit to how many people can immigrate to the U.S. under this category. This limit has caused a backlog so, in some cases, it takes several years before a visa is available for those affected.

Just showing that these relationships exist is not enough for one to obtain a green card based on that relationship. Rather, the law requires that both the U.S. citizen or Green Card holder and the relative they are sponsoring have a bona fide familial relationship beyond just having a legal document saying they are. For example, in petitioning for a spouse, the U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident must show with evidence that the marriage is real and not a sham, which often is the presumption when people petition for their foreign-born spouses. At Kriezelman Burton, we work with our clients sponsoring their relatives to make sure the proper documentation is filed and presented in a manner that makes it easy for the USCIS examiner to approve the case.

Consult with a Chicago Family-Based Immigration Attorney

If you are a U.S. citizen or permanent resident in the Chicago area and would like to sponsor a relative, contact us today for a confidential consultation. We are based in Chicago but also handle cases in Wisconsin, Indiana, and Michigan.

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