Understanding Family-Based Immigration: All You Have to Know

What is Family-Based Immigration?

Obtaining permanent residency in the United States through specific family ties is known as family-based immigration. A foreign national must be sponsored by an immediate relative who is at least 21 years old, either a U.S. citizen or a U.S. Lawful Permanent Resident – green-card holder – in order to be qualified to apply for an immigrant visa. Family-based immigration, the most frequent type of legal immigration, accounts for two-thirds of all immigration to the United States. The foreign relative for whom the immigration petition is submitted is referred to as the “Beneficiary,” while the USC or LPR is referred to as the “Sponsor.”

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is the department of the American government that is primarily in charge of issues involving foreign nationals living in the country. Immigration petitions and adjustment requests for family-based immigration are within the purview of USCIS. 

Family-based immigrant visas are available in two types:

  • Immediate Relative – These visas are granted based on a close family connection, such as a spouse, child, or parent who is a citizen of the United States. These groups can have an unlimited number of immigrants per fiscal year.
  • Family Preference – These visas are for certain, more distant family ties to U.S. citizens and certain designated ties to lawful permanent residents (LPR). These groups can only have a certain number of immigrants per fiscal year.

Who May Serve as a Sponsor?

The sponsor of a family-based immigration petition may be a USC or LPR. The Sponsor must, however, adhere to certain conditions and legal duties. A legally enforceable affidavit of support must be signed by the Sponsor on behalf of the Beneficiary, in which the Sponsor promises to keep the Beneficiary’s standard of living at or above 125% of the federal poverty threshold. This responsibility endures until the Beneficiary either acquires U.S. citizenship or completes 40 Qualifying Quarters of employment in the U.S.

Who May Serve as a Co-Sponsor?

Basic requirements for co-sponsorship include being a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, being 18 years of age or older, and meeting the residence, affidavit, and income requirements. The number of co-sponsors a beneficiary may have is not restricted. However, if there are many co-sponsors, each one must provide proof that they fulfill the entire 125% income criteria.

Who May Serve as a Beneficiary?

First off, there are no numerical restrictions on immigration for “immediate relatives” of a USC, which includes parents, spouses, widows, and children of a USC – children who are unmarried and under the age of 21, and, in the case of a parent of a USC, the petitioning son or daughter being at least 21 years old. They don’t have to wait to apply for permanent residence status.

The remaining Beneficiaries are split up into a number of categories called Preferences. For the purpose of limiting the number of immigrants allowed into the United States, each Preference is assigned a numerical quota each year. 

These are the four preferences:

  • First preference – Sons and daughters of U.S. citizens who are not married and are at least 21 years old.
  • Second preference 
    • A lawful permanent resident’s spouse and any children under 21 who are not married.
    • Sons and daughters of lawful permanent residents who are not married and are at least 21 years old.
  • Third preference – married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens.
  • Fourth preference – siblings of U.S. citizens (if the U.S. citizen is 21 years of age and older)

Application: What It’s Like and How Long It Takes

The procedure typically begins when a petitioner submits an immigration request to the government of the United States. They must submit a petition for an alien relative, Form I-130. The family member is qualified to submit an application for a green card once this form has been accepted and a visa number has been available for the relative. After that, residency is granted either through a consular procedure or status modification.

The process of applying for a visa might take years since immigration is neither quick nor simple. Due to strong demand and the small number of available visas, the wait times can be lengthy, particularly for immigrants including family preferences. On the other side, if they have successfully completed the lengthy visa application procedure, immediate family members can obtain their visas in a shorter period of time.

What Paperwork Normally Has To Be Submitted With A Family-Based Immigration Petition?

The following papers are often needed, depending on the relationship between the Sponsor and the Beneficiary: certificate of naturalization, birth certificate, marriage license, adoption paper, and/or divorce decree. Most often, the Sponsor is required to submit W-2 documents for the most recent years as well as employment proof. The beneficiary must also provide their passport, visa, I-94, photographs, and medical examination report, among other documents.

What Are The Benefits of Family-Based Immigration?

Immigrants depend on their ethnic groups and families because they give them various forms of assistance that help them integrate more quickly, get employment, or launch their own companies. They aid immigrants in better comprehending American institutions, values, and culture. Furthermore, immigrant communities and family members usually promote business formation by lending money or giving cash as well as encouraging the development of human capital. In the past 15 years, the proportion of immigrants who launch new U.S. enterprises has more than doubled.

Besides that, adult immigrants contribute financially to the United States without costing the country anything for their basic schooling. Also essential in providing care for children and family members as they age are adult children, siblings, and parents. Other family members may be able to work longer and make greater economic contributions as a result of this aid. 

Points to Remember

  • The sponsor is required to be a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident, at least 18 years old, a resident of the country, and in good financial standing. An alternative is occasionally to engage a joint sponsor if a single sponsor is unable to satisfy these requirements.
  • The number of visas granted to a sponsor’s spouse, children, and parents is unlimited. Other family members who fall under the family-preference category, however, are subject to yearly visa capitations.