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.
The U.S. immigration system allows for two principal types of nonimmigrant family-based visas:
1. K-1 Fiancé/ Fiancée Visas.
The fiancé/ee of a U.S. citizen may be able to qualify for a K-1 visa that will allow him/her to enter the country to marry the citizen spouse within 90 days of arrival. The U.S. citizen spouse may then be able to petition the K-1 spouse for an immediate relative Green Card. A USCIS filing, National Visa Center processing, and in-person consular interview is required. Children of the K-1 visa holder may qualify for K-2 visas.
2. K-3 Spouses of U.S. Citizens.
Foreign citizen spouses (i.e. already married at the time of starting the process) may be eligible for a K-3 visa as the spouse of a U.S. citizen. This visa category was designed to shorten the physical separation between the spouses, although it remains somewhat rarely used given the precise timing that the petition and visa application would need to be approved. Specifically, the U.S. spouse must file an immigrant petition and the K-3 be awarded before the petition is approved. Children of a K-3 (assuming they are not U.S. citizens by blood) may qualify for a K-4 visa.
IMPORTANT NOTE: The use of certain other nonimmigrant visa admissions to maintain family unity in the U.S. while a family immigrant petition is processing/intended could lead to visa denials or, in some circumstances, a finding of misrepresentation. Close consultation with an immigration attorney is prudent before beginning any family-related immigration plan of action.
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:
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.
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. Please contact us for additional information.