Family-based immigration

by Tudor Mihai Neagu on Oct. 04, 2018


Summary: Family-based immigration, also known as "family reunification," is one of the most popular ways to immigrate to the United States.

There are three major ways to get a green card in the United States: asylum, family petitions, and through employment or investment.  I discussed about asylum last time.  Today, I want to discuss the family petition.  This is the main way in which people get green cards in the US, and the concept is simple: if you have family in the United States, you are important because of what you mean to your US citizen family members.  However, whether you get a green card, and how long you have to wait for a green card depends on that relationship.  So let’s go over that now:

The first three relationships are called “immediate relatives,” and these are the most important because if you know someone like this, you may be eligible for a green card right away, without a wait.   These are: 1) Spouse of a US citizen, meaning that your wife or husband is a US citizen, 2) unmarried children of USCs under 21 of USCs, meaning that you are a child under 21, unmarried, and your mom or dad or both are citizens, or you were adopted, 3) parents of citizens 21 years or older, meaning that you have a child who is a citizen and is over 21. 

The next categories our government deems to be more distant, so for these people there is a waiting period:

F1) unmarried adult sons and daughters of citizens (over 21), there is approximately an 7 year wait for them; 

F2A) spouses and unmarried children under 21 of green card holders, there’s only about an 18 month wait for them; 

F2B) unmarried adult sons and daughters (over 21) of green card holders, there’s a wait of just under eight years for them;

F3) Married sons and daughters (over 21) of citizens, about an 11 year wait for them;

F4) Brothers and Sisters of citizens, longest wait, about a 14 year wait for them;

No other relationships matter. 

Don’t get into sham marriages, penalties include up to 5 years in prison and $250k fines for lying under oath. 

Now, 8 and 14 years may sound like a long time, and it’s discouraging, but that time passes whether you file or not, and you don’t want to be sitting here 8 or 14 years later in the same situation, when you could have applied and gotten your green card by now. 

If you are present in the United States out of status, meaning your visa expired or you walked across the border, you’re going to have a harder time getting a green card through family, especially if you are not an immediate relative, in the first category.  If you entered illegally, you might have to go back before reentering.   

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