Keeping families together
We know how difficult it can be when families are separated, and how daunting the immigration process can seem. Many of our own team members have been sponsors of their family members or family-based immigrants themselves. Family-based immigration is one of the most rewarding facets of our practice and we are delighted to provide our personal touch in this life-changing process. We can help you through every step of this process, from advising on your eligibility for family-based immigration classifications, to helping you file an application for full U.S. citizenship. We take pride in this part of our professional work and take satisfaction in seeing families settled and united.
To be eligible to immigrate to the United States through a family visa, a foreign national must have a direct relationship with a United States citizen or permanent resident, family applications normally fall under two categories:
1. Immediate Relatives
This category is reserved for the “immediate relatives” of U.S. citizens, defined as:
- Spouses of U.S. citizens
- Minor children of U.S. citizens (under the age of 21)
- Parents of U.S. citizens (providing that the citizen petitioner is at least 21 years of age).
These types of petitions are never subject to annual quotas. There are no derivative visas available and thus separate petitions must be filed where necessary (e.g. a U.S. citizen sponsoring her spouse and foreign-national step child). Note: Special provisions exist for the spouses of deceased U.S. citizens.
2. Preference Categories
Other family relationships are eligible for sponsorship under the following preference categories, which are subject to annual quotas:
- First Preference Sons and daughters of U.S. citizens who are unmarried, adult, and aged twenty-one years or older
- Second Preference Spouses, unmarried sons and unmarried daughters of lawful permanent residents
- Third Preference Married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens
- Fourth Preference Brothers and sisters of United States citizens, provided the U.S. citizen is at least 21 years of age.
Unlike an immediate relative petition, under the preference categories, a spouse or child of the beneficiary is entitled to the same status, and the same order of consideration, if accompanying or following to join, the spouse or parent.
Some important factors to keep in mind:
If you are considering applying to immigrate in a family-based category, it is important that you contact us to discuss your circumstances. Please keep the following factors in mind:
- All applicants immigrating through the family-based category must obtain a legally binding Affidavit of Support from their sponsor as a condition of admission.
- Your sponsor must be: at least 18 years of age; a U.S. citizen or permanent resident; living in the United States; and able to financially support the family member being sponsored. In some circumstances, a joint sponsor may be utilized.
- All applicants, regardless of age, must undergo a medical examination by a designated doctor before an immigrant visa can be issued. This is compulsory.
- All applicants aged sixteen years or over processing through a consulate abroad must submit a police certificate from the required authorities, which vary by country and based on the period of residence and whether any criminal record exists.
- U.S. government filing fees are non-refundable.
Waivers of Inadmissibility
Our dedicated team of attorneys that specialize in family immigration also possess key experience in preparing waivers of inadmissibility for individuals who require them. While marriage to a U.S. citizen might forgive some immigration violations, individuals who are out-of-status would be well-advised to consult with us prior to making any immigration filing to determine whether a waiver is needed. In such cases, we have a demonstrated track record of success amongst even the most challenging cases.
Asylum / Refugee
Our family immigration team also has significant experience in Asylum and Refugee law. Immigrant status may be granted to individuals who have been persecuted or have a well-founded fear of persecution based on their race, religion, nationality, and/or membership in a particular social group or political opinion.
Foreign nationals who have a fear of returning to their home country may apply for refugee status and, in certain circumstances, be granted Lawful Permanent Residence. Foreign nationals can qualify for refugee status by filing an asylum application and demonstrating “past persecution” or demonstrating a “fear of future persecution” based on their race, religion, sexual orientation, political opinion, or social group status.
In addition to asylum, U.S. immigration law may grant individuals the right to remain in the United States based on the inability of the government of their home country to offer reasonable protection. Indeed, individuals can obtain the right to live and work, upon the Immigration Court granting withholding of removal or protection under the Convention Against Torture.
Our firm offers representation before Immigration Courts nationwide, the Board of Immigration Appeals, United States District Courts in the Middle and Eastern Districts of Pennsylvania, and the United States Courts of Appeal for the Third, Fourth and Fifth Circuits.
Obtaining status as a refugee is a complex process, and we encourage you to contact us to discuss the specifics of your case.
Please contact us for additional information.