Lim Law – Orlando & Central Florida Immigration Attorney
Family Visas and U.S. Immigration
At their best, U.S. immigration laws grant opportunities to reunite families and to bring family members to the United States. As a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident, you may be able to sponsor relatives living in another country to receive family visas and immigrate to the United States.
Many factors influence the ease and speed of this process:
– the relationship between you and your family members
– whether you are a U.S. citizen or a lawful permanent resident
– in some cases, your family’s country of origin.
The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) established two large groups of family members: the categories of ‘immediate relatives’ and ‘family preference’.
Immediate Relative Immigration Visas
If you are a U.S. citizen (not a lawful permanent resident), you may sponsor the following relatives:
- your spouse (IR-1)
- your parent(s) if you are a minimum of 21 years of age (IR-5)
- your unmarried children under 21 years (IR-2)
- an orphan adopted abroad (IR-3) or to be adopted in the U.S. (IR-4)
The U.S. sets no limits on the number of your close relatives who may emigrate from any country. If they legally enter the United States, close relatives are free to accept employment and will not have to apply to extend their stay.
Family Preference Immigration Visas
If you are a U.S. citizen, your more distant family members may be able to apply for certain Family Preference visas. If you are a lawful permanent resident, these visas may provide immigration opportunities for certain family members. The government sets a limit on the number of visas available in each category. Be prepared for a wait time that could extend to several years.
Family Preference Categories
Note: When a child marries or reaches the age of 21 years s/he is no longer considered a minor and is referred to as a “son” or “daughter”.
Category Family 1 (F1): Unmarried sons and daughters of U.S. citizens, and their minor children, if any.
Category Family 2 (F2): Spouses, minor children, and unmarried sons and daughters (age 21 and over) of legal permanent residents.
Category Family 3 (F3): Married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens, their spouses and their minor children.
Category Family 4 (F4): Brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens age 21 and over, their spouses and their minor children. U.S. citizens must be age 21 years or over.
Conditional Permanent Residence for Spouses
If you are a U.S. citizen and you and your spouse have been married two years or less, he/she will be granted conditional permanent residence status. This conditional status lasts for two years, dating from the time your spouse becomes a legal resident.
You and your spouse must apply together to remove the conditions on your spouse’s residence (Form I-751). You must file your application during the 90 days before the expiration date on your spouse’s green card. Failure to apply in this time frame could mean your spouse loses conditional resident status and may be removed from the country.
Minors (your unmarried children/stepchildren under 21) are also considered conditional residents. They must also file a petition to cancel their conditional status. As parents who hold conditional resident status, you can include your minor children in your request for removal of the residency conditions.
Affidavit of Financial Support
If you are a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident sponsoring relatives for family immigrant visas, you must complete an affidavit of support (Form I-864) for each applicant. This form is proof that you can adequately support your family at an income level at or above 125 percent of the federal poverty level.
If your household income does not meet minimum requirements, other assets such as evidence of checking and savings accounts, stocks, bonds, or property may support your claim. Another person may be asked to act as co-sponsor.
Immigration Forms for Family Visa Applications
NOTE: This is not necessarily an exhaustive list of forms, and not all forms may be required for every applicant. Consult an immigration attorney for counsel specific to your circumstances.