USA and the UK
- What are Family Based Green Cards?
- Who is an immediate relative?
- Who is a preference relative?
- Who is an accompanying relative?
- Who is eligible to be a Family Based Green Card sponsor?
- Required documents for a Family Based Green Card?
- Family Based Green Card application process
- Frequently asked questions
What is a Family Based Green Card?
A Family Based Green Card enables foreign family members of U.S. citizens/permanent residents to become Green Card holders in the USA. Spouses, parents, children and siblings of U.S. citizens/Green Card holders could be eligible to receive a Family Based Green Card.
There are two methods towards receiving Family Based Green Cards: immediate relative and preference relative.
What are Family Based Green Cards?
If you are the immediate relative of a U.S citizen, the preference relative of a U.S. citizen/Green Card holder or an accompanying relative, you could be eligible for a Family Based Green Card.
The rules around family based Green Card eligibility depend on the applicant’s relation to their family member (sponsor) and the conditions under which the sponsor is living in the U.S.
U.S citizens are able to bring more distant relatives to the U.S. compared to Green Card holder permanent residents. Also, family members of U.S. citizens are usually able to immigrate faster to the U.S. than family members of Green Card holders.
The two main routes towards obtaining a Family Based Green Card are via immediate relative and preference relative. Within each of these categories, there are a number of different visas specific to the relation of the applicant with that of their sponsor in America.
Unlike those who are applying for other types of Green Cards, applicants for the Family Based Green Card will not have their educational background and employment history taken into account.
Also, unlike other petitions this Green card application is initially completed by the U.S. sponsor rather than the relative of the U.S. citizen/permanent resident.
Who Could be Classed as an Immediate Relative?
As an immediate relative, you will be under the most favourable conditions to receive a Green Card.
The following foreign-born people will qualify as immediate relative family members:
- Spouses of U.S. citizens (IR-1)
- Unmarried children of a U.S. citizen who are under the age of 21 (IR-2)
- An orphan adopted abroad by a U.S. citizen (IR-3)
- An orphan to be adopted in the United States by a U.S. citizen (IR-4)
- Parents of U.S. citizens, if the U.S. citizen child is at least 21 years-old (IR-5)
The spouse of a U.S. citizen is classed as someone who is legally married to the U.S. citizen. Also, a widow or widower of a U.S. citizen will be classed as a spouse if they were married to the U.S. citizen for at least two years, and they are applying for a Green Card within two years of the death of the U.S. citizen.
Stepparents and stepchildren can qualify as immediate relatives with the family based Green Card if the marriage which created the parent/child relationship took place before the child has turned 18 years of age.
There are no controlled annual limits on those applying for a Family Based Green Card as an immediate relative, which makes it a particularly favourable route towards a Green Card.
Who Could be Classed as a Preference Relative?
You could qualify as a preference relative if you fall under one of the following categories:
- Family first preference. Unmarried children of any age of the U.S. citizen
- Family second preference. Subcategory 2A is for spouses and unmarried children (under 21) of Green Card holders. (F2A) Subcategory 2B is for unmarried sons and daughters of Green Card holders who are at least 21-years-old (F2B)
- Family third preference. Married children of a U.S. citizen (F3)
- Family fourth preference. Sisters and brothers of U.S. citizens where the U.S. citizen is at least 21-years-old (F4)
There is a quota placed on those applying for a Family Based Green Card as a preference relative, which means that, unfortunately, you could be waiting many years to receive your Green Card.
Who Could be Classed as an Accompanying Relative?
In a Family Based Green Card visa petition, the spouse and unmarried children (under 21) of the person who the application is based on will automatically be included in the immigration process.
A person under these circumstances is known as the “derivative” beneficiary. The derivative beneficiary process applies to all preference relative visa permit applications, unless the applicant requests for them not to be.
Including an accompanying relative in the visa petition will start the immigration process for that accompanying relative. However, keep in mind that there is no specific application for an accompanying relative, meaning you cannot receive Green Card based on being an accompanying relative of a preferred relative.
Eventually, an accompanying relative will need to submit their own independent applications for a Green Card or immigrant visa to remain in the USA.
Who is Eligible to be a Family Based Green Card Sponsor?
There are certain conditions which a U.S. citizen/permanent resident needs to satisfy in order to be a sponsor.
In addition to the basic fundamental requirement of being a U.S. citizen or Green Card holder, a sponsor needs to:
- Be able to prove that you have a close relationship with the family member which is in one of the permitted categories
- Maintain a principal residence in the United States
- Have a minimum income of at least 125% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines
- Prove that you can financially support your sponsored family member after they arrive in the United States
What are the Required Documents for a Family Based Green Card?
For both immediate relative and family preference sponsorship, the following documents need to be included in the application:
- Passport valid for at least six months beyond the intended date of entry into the U.S
- Birth certificate
- Marriage certificate, if applicable
- Marriage termination documentation, if applicable
- Affidavit of support
- Immigration medical examination form
- Two passport-sized photographs
Keep in mind that depending on your circumstances, you may need to submit other documentation such as any documents which are not in English and therefore need to be translated.
What is the Application Process for the Family Based Green Card?
All Family Based Green Card applications follow the same procedure, regardless of whether the application is through the immediate relative or preference relative routes.
- The sponsor will need to file an I-130 petition to the USCIS. This petition will be assessed to see if the criteria is met.
- If the petition is approved, the applicant will need to wait for a visa application to become available.
- When a visa application becomes available, the beneficiary will need to apply for a status adjustment or go through consular processing, depending on where the sponsored family member is located
What is the ‘adjustment of status’?
If the family member is in the U.S., the process that will need to be followed is known as adjustment of status. This means that in order to obtain a Green Card, an I-485 form must be completed and submitted to the USCIS, along with all the required documentation.
What is Consular Processing?
Consular processing is for those who are applying for a Green Card outside of the U.S. Via this route, the approved I-130 form will be forwarded to the embassy or consulate in the country where the applicant lives.
The petitioner and the beneficiary will be notified when the petition arrives at the embassy or consulate, and they will also be informed of how to proceed with the process.
Once you have received this information, you will need to complete the DS-261 form. When this has been received and processed, you will need to pay the application fee of $325. You may also need to pay a $120 affidavit of support fee.
When the DS-261 form has been submitted and the application fee has been paid, the next step is to complete the DS-260 form. After you’ve submitted the DS-260 form and received confirmation, you will need to submit your documents to the National Visa Center.
The beneficiary will also need to attend a one-on-one interview with a consular officer to verify their eligibility as part of the process.
How Much Does it Cost to get a Family Based Green Card?
The cost of a Family Based Green Card application depends on the particular application route.
- I-130 Petition for Alien Relative form: $535
- I-485 Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust status form: $1,140
- DS-261 Application: $325
Can I enter into employment under a Family Based Green Card?
Generally speaking, anyone with a Family-Based Green Card, whether as an immediate relative or a preference relative, will be entitled to find employment and work in the USA.
You can apply for employment authorization by filing Form I-765 (Application for Employment Authorisation).
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If you are a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, you may petition for the following family Green Cards:
- Spouse (husband or wife);
- Unmarried children under the age 21;
- Your parents;
- Brothers or sisters over the age of 21.
Your partner may also be eligible for a Green Card through marriage.
The U.S. immigration law acknowledges four family green card categories of “preference immigrants”:
- First Preference (F1): unmarried children under the age of 21 of U.S. citizens;
- Second Preference (F2A): spouses and unmarried children (under 21 years of age) of U.S. permanent residents;
- Second Preference (F2B): adult children as dependents of lawful permanent residents;
- Third Preference Visa (F3): married children of U.S. citizens;
- Fourth Preference (F4): brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens (over the age of 21).
Based on the preference category, the family Green Card timeline may differ.
- If your relatives live in another country:
You need to file a Form I-130 (Petition for Alien Relative). To be accepted, your Green Card application must include evidence of your relationship with your family members.
By filing this petition, you formally agree to become your relatives’ financial sponsor. If your I-130 Form is approved, you will need to submit the Form I-864 (Affidavit or Support). If you do not meet the financial qualifications, you can ask another member of your household to join your income level. In this case, you both need to sign a contract on Form I-864A.
After the approval of your Form I-130, your family can fill out the Form I-485 to apply to adjust their status as permanent residents.
- If your relatives are already legally in the U.S.:
If your relatives are already in the country under different visas, you may not need to file any petition. They can personally fill out an I-458 to adjust their status to lawful permanent residence.
To obtain a family Green Card, you must be a U.S. permanent resident or citizen, and be able to provide proof of your status.
Each of your relatives must submit the following documentation to support his or her application:
- A copy of his or her birth certificate;
- A copy of his or her national identity document;
- Two passport-style photographs;
- A certified record of criminal charges or convictions.
The USCIS will then ask for adequate evidence of the relationship between you and your relatives. In case of no acceptable attestation of kinship, your application may be rejected.
Your relatives will have a direct place in line in the family Green Card timeline with other applicants from the same country.
As soon as the USCIS approves your I-130 petition, the Department of State will invite your family to apply for an immigrant visa. If they meet all the requirements, they will be able to make a legal entry in the U.S. and, subsequently, adjust their permanent resident status.
It is worth noting that your family is not allowed to wait in the U.S. until they obtain permanent residence. Nevertheless, if they have already legally entered the country, they are free to apply to adjust their status. If you want your children to join you in the U.S. on a nonimmigrant status, you can apply for a Dependents Visa.
Since there are several documents required, the family Green Card processing time may depend on various factors. Thus, it is not possible to provide a timeframe, but your solicitor can show you the best way to monitor the progress of your application. Usually, you and your family will be notified when the USCIS receives your petition and when it has made its decision.
You can file a 1-130 petition if you are a U.S. permanent resident. If you eventually become a U.S. citizen, you need to inform the State Department’s National Visa Centre (NVC) immediately. When you become a U.S. citizen, your spouse and your children may have their visa immediately released.
If you want to sponsor your family members, you need to start your application process by filing an I-130. This will cost $535.
After your I-130 petition approval, your relatives may need to file an I-485 to adjust their status. This stage of the process often includes biometric fees, for a total of $1,125.
Every immigrant admitted in the U.S. as a lawful permanent resident must pay a USCIS Immigrant Fee of $165. You can pay online through the USCIS ELIS (Electronic Immigration System). It is usually recommended to pay this fee only after your family receives the immigrant visa packet from the U.S. Embassy. However, your lawyer will advise you on what is the correct way to proceed through your application.
If your petition is incomplete, the USCIS may ask for more evidence or information. This may delay the processing time and jeopardize your Green Card application.
Our team of experienced immigration lawyers can help you gain a green card for your family members.
- Assess your relatives’ eligibility;
- Ensure you can sponsor your family members;
- Make sure you have acceptable proof of your relationship with your relatives;
- Liaise with you and your family at any time which is suitable for you;
- Help you filing all the forms needed for your application.
Contact us on +1 844 290 6312 or enquire online to discuss your application with one of our experts.