United States citizens and lawful permanent residents can assist their relatives in applying for Immigrant Visas to reside lawfully in the United States. The end-result of an Immigrant Visa is a green card. There are two categories of Family-Based Immigrant Visas: Immediate Relatives and Family Preference.
Immediate Relatives do not have a yearly limit on the number of visas issued. In this category, United States citizens can apply for spouses, parents, and unmarried children/stepchildren under the age of 21. Obtaining an Immediate Relative Immigrant Visa can take approximately 9-12 months. Caruso Law Group can guide you through the multi-step process and help your relative feel confident going into the consular interview.
Family Preference Immigrant Visas are limited, meaning there is a cap to the number of visas issued yearly. Within this category, there are subcategories, which determine how long your relative may wait before receiving a visa. Many of these applications take years from start to finish. Caruso Law Group can advise you of the subcategory available to your relative and go over an expected time frame for visa issuance.
- If you are a United States Citizen, you can file for your children over the age of 21 and siblings.
- If you are a Lawful Permanent Resident, you can file for your spouse, children under the age of 21, and unmarried children over the age of 21.
Obtaining an Immigrant Visa is a two-step process. First, an I-130 Petition for Alien Relative is submitted to USCIS. Once the petition is approved, the second step begins: Consular Processing. An Immigrant Visa application is processed at the National Visa Center, which coordinates with the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in your relative’s country to schedule an Immigrant Visa interview. The Immigrant Visa is issued after a successful interview. Entering the United States with the Immigrant Visa triggers production of your relative’s green card. In some instances, your immigrant relative’s spouse and/or children under the age of 21 are eligible to receive Immigrant Visas as derivative family members.
ADJUSTMENT OF STATUS
If you are an immigrant who entered the United States with inspection, you may be eligible to adjust your status within the United States to become a lawful permanent resident, i.e. green card holder. A family-based Adjustment of Status application begins with the United States citizen or lawful permanent resident relative submitting an I-130 Petition for Alien Relative to USCIS. Once the I-130 Petition is approved, the immigrant submits the I-485 Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, along with applications for employment and travel authorization to USCIS. If you are considered an immediate relative of the petitioner (spouse of a United States citizen, an unmarried child under the age of 21 of a United States citizen, or the parent of a United States citizen who is at least 21 years old), your ability to adjust status is immediate, and you can file your I-485 Application at the same time as the I-130 Petition. If you do not fall into the immediate relative category, you must wait for your Family Preference category to become current before filing the I-485 Application with USCIS.
Although the process to receive your green card can take up to a year to complete, approximately 90 days after your I-485 Application is submitted, you will receive employment and travel authorization. [Note: In some situations, travel authorization is not possible. Caruso Law Group can advise you of your ability to request travel authorization as part of your I-485 Application.] Your employment authorization card will enable you to request a social security number and, in most states, apply for a driver’s license. You may renew your employment authorization throughout the time it takes USCIS to reach a decision on your I-485 Application.
Most I-485 Applications and some I-130 Petitions require the immigrant (and, in some instances, the immigrant’s spouse) to attend an interview at a USCIS office to answer questions about the application. Following the interview, USCIS will issue an approval notice, a request for evidence, or a Notice of Intent to Deny. Once your I-485 Application is approved, your green card is produced by USCIS and mailed to you. If you receive a request for evidence or a Notice of Intent to Deny, you have a limited window of time to submit a response to USCIS or your application(s) will be denied. Caruso Law Group can help you prepare a thorough response to USCIS if your I-130 Petition or I-485 Application is not immediately approved.
Caruso Law Group is an immigrant visa law firm that can assist you in preparing a complete I-485 Application, including the applications for employment and travel authorization. Attorney Caruso can help you (and your spouse) prepare for your USCIS interview and attend the interview with you.
REMOVAL OF CONDITIONS
If you received your green card through marriage to a United States citizen or lawful permanent resident and you were married for less than two years at the time your green card was issued, you are considered a conditional permanent resident. Conditional permanent residency status is valid for two years. Within 90 days of your conditional permanent residency period expiring, you are required to submit Form I-751, Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence. Failing to file the I-751 Petition prior to your conditional green card expiring could result in a Notice to Appear in immigration court and the loss of your lawful permanent resident status. It is preferred to file the I-751 Petition with your spouse, but if this is not possible (e.g., if you are divorced or if you are estranged from your spouse), there are waivers available under certain conditions. An essential part of the I-751 Petition is providing evidence of a bona fide, good faith marriage. Some examples include:
- Birth certificates of mutual children
- Joint bank and/or credit card statements
- Mortgages, loans, or rental agreements with both names
- Affidavits from friends or family members attesting to your good faith marriage
Once your I-751 Petition is submitted, your conditional permanent residency is extended initially for one year, allowing you to continue residing and working lawfully in the United States. If the application pends for over one year, the conditional status will automatically extend until the application is adjudicated. Many applicants who submit an I-751 Petition must attend an interview before a USCIS officer. Upon approval of the I-751 Petition, you will receive a new green card with a 10-year validity. The I-751 Petition process can take one year or more to complete. Caruso Law Group can help you and your spouse prepare a thorough I-751 Petition with sufficient evidence of your bona fide, good faith marriage. Caruso Law Group can also help applicants who will not be filing jointly with their spouse request a waiver of the joint-filing requirement. If you are scheduled for an I-751 interview, Caruso Law Group can help you prepare for the interview and attend the interview with you.
K-1 FIANCE(E) VISA
A United States citizen and a foreigner can get married in the United States if the foreigner obtains a K-1 Visa. The two-step process begins when the United States citizen submits an I-129F Petition for Alien Fiancé(e) to USCIS. Once the petition is approved, the foreigner can submit a K-1 Visa application through a U.S. Embassy or Consulate in their country and then attend a visa interview at that location. The K-1 Visa is granted following a successful interview. Once the foreigner enters the United States with the K-1 Visa, the foreigner and the United States citizen must be legally married within 90 days. If a marriage does not take place, the foreigner is required to return to his or her country. Following marriage, the foreigner must submit an application to adjust his or her status to lawful permanent resident, i.e., receive a green card. Children of the foreigner under the age of 21 may also come to the United States with K-2 Visas. Applications to adjust the children’s status to lawful permanent resident must be submitted after the marriage takes place. Obtaining a K-1 Visa can take 7-9 months. Caruso Law Group can guide you through the process, helping your fiancé(e) arrive in the United States, where you can begin your life together.