Working To Reunite Families in the United States
Separation from your family members due to immigration status is never easy and is a fundamentally frustrating phenomenon. However, if you are a citizen or lawful permanent resident of the United States, tools exist to help bring your family together in this country. Through family-based immigration, you can sponsor your loved ones for their own green cards, permitting them to live and work in the U.S. More importantly, you will all be able to live together again.
Family-based immigration is divided into several categories and can be intimidating if you are not familiar with the process. Our Manhattan family immigration lawyer at John Nicelli & Associates has successfully facilitated thousands of cases, reuniting families, and giving them new opportunities in the United States. We can guide you through each step of the petitioning process and work to keep your family's time apart as brief as feasibly possible.
The Difference Between Immediate and Preference Relatives
Unfortunately, you are not able to seek a green card for any family member you choose. You can only sponsor certain categories of relatives, which are defined as either “immediate relatives” or “preference relatives.” Whether you are a United States citizen or lawful permanent resident plays a major factor into which category a loved one is placed in.
Immediate relatives include:
- Parents of United States Citizens,
- Spouses of United States Citizens,
- Minor, Unmarried Children of United States Citizens,
- Stepparent or Stepchild of United States Citizens, depending on when the marriage took place, establishing the familial relationship
Only U.S. citizens can sponsor relatives in the “immediate relatives” category. This is significant, as there are no caps on the allocation of immediate relative visas. Petitions will still need to be processed by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), which can take several months in processing times.
Preference relatives include:
- First: (F1) Unmarried Sons and Daughters of U.S. Citizens
Second:(F2) Spouses and Children, and Unmarried Sons and Daughters of Permanent Residents
- (F2A) Spouses and Children of Permanent Residents:
- (F2B) Unmarried Sons and Daughters (21 years of age or older) of Permanent Residents
- Third: (F3) Married Sons and Daughters of U.S. Citizens
- Fourth: (F4) Brothers and Sisters of Adult U.S. Citizen
The preference relatives classification is subject to a visa cap and can face significant wait times for a immigrant visa to become available. The allocation of these visas is weighted on a preferential scale.
Petitioning Family as a Lawful Permanent Resident
While lawful permanent residents can sponsor their spouse and any minor, unmarried children, the process will not be as streamlined as it is for “immediate” relatives. Furthermore, unlike U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residents cannot sponsor their parents, married children, or siblings. You also cannot sponsor aunts, uncles, cousins, grandchildren, grandparents, or other relatives, regardless of your status. Sadly, this is intentional. Current immigration policy aims to limit the extent of who citizens and lawful permanent residents can sponsor. Preference relatives usually do get the ability to bring their spouses and children with them to the U.S. once they receive their visa.
Keep in mind you can still work to reunite the entirety of your family, even outside these categories: The process simply has a few extra steps. If you are a citizen hoping to bring your beloved paternal uncle into the country, for example, you can first sponsor your father as an immediate relative. Once your father becomes a U.S. citizen himself, he can sponsor his brother as a preference relative. This process is sometimes referred to as “chain migration” and is a legitimate, powerful means of reuniting families.
Let Us Help You Bring Your Family to the United States
Our Manhattan family immigration attorney has over 30 years of experience reuniting families through the immigration process. We are familiar with how to petition for both immediate and preference relatives and can help assemble the necessary documentation.
Our team can also represent you in communications with USCIS should problems arise and advise you on how to tackle obstacles. Keeping families together is paramount, and we are empathetic to the burden an extended separation can bring. That is why we do everything in our power to bring families together as efficiently as humanly possible.