One of the most important and rewarding things that we do at Schierer & Ritchie is uniting families through family-based immigration. Our attorneys are well versed in American immigration law and can help you bring your family members into the United States, unifying and strengthening your family and community.
United States immigration law permits U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents the right to petition for their relatives to come to the United States. The process varies depending on the immigration status of the petitioner and the relationship with the relative.
If you are a U.S. citizen, you may petition on behalf of:
- Your spouse.
- Your minor child (under 21 years old).
- Your parent(s).
- Your adult child (married or unmarried) and his or her children.
- Your sibling and his or her spouse and children (if you are at least 21 years old).
If you are a lawful permanent resident (green card holder), there are greater limitations on the relative members who you are eligible to sponsor for entry into the U.S. Green card holders may petition for:
- Your spouse.
- Your minor (under 21) child.
- Your adult (age 21+) unmarried child.
Grandparents, cousins, in-laws, aunts, and uncles cannot sponsor relatives for immigration.
Unlimited Family-Based Immigrants
Immediate relatives of U.S. citizens experience the shortest waiting period when applying for a visa. For this purpose, an immediate relative is defined as a spouse, an unmarried minor child, an adopted foreign orphan, or a parent.
Limited Family-Based Immigrants
For more distant relations and for some relationships with U.S. permanent residents, there are a limited number of visas available each year. There are always more applicants than there are available visas (“oversubscribed”), so the waiting period may be much longer.
Temporary Fiancé(e) Visas
A K-1 visa, also known as a temporary fiancé(e) visa, allows the holder to enter the United States and stay for 90 days in order to marry their American fiancé(e). If, during this time, the couple decides not to marry, the foreign national must return to his or her home country. Once married, the foreign national must apply for their green card.
K-1 visa holders with children may be eligible to receive K-2 visas for their children.
Marrying a U.S. Citizen
Marriage to an American citizen is perhaps the most well-known method of obtaining a green card. However, it is a more complex process than you might think. As part of the application process, the couple must undergo an interview with a government immigration official.
The purpose of this interview is to determine whether the marriage is legitimate or simply a means of immigrating to the USA. Even for “real” marriages, this can be extremely stressful. At the law offices of Schierer & Ritchie, we can help couples prepare for the marriage interview and pass the test with confidence.
Requirements to Sponsor a Relative
In order to sponsor a family member to immigrate into the United States, you must fulfill several requirements. Among them are:
- You must be able to prove that you are a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident.
- You must be able to prove the relationship between you and your relative.
- You must demonstrate that you are able to provide financial support for your relative (at 125% above the poverty line or higher), and accept financial responsibility for them.
- You must be at least 18 years old.
- You must have a residence in the United States.
Do stepfamilies qualify for family-based immigration visas? The answer is yes—with certain restrictions. Speak with one of the experienced immigration lawyers at Schierer & Ritchie for assistance filing a petition for your stepfamily members.
Widows/Widowers and Abused Spouses
If you are a widow or widower of a U.S. citizen, American immigration law allows you to become a permanent resident more easily, regardless of the length of time you were married. This is because widows and widowers are permitted to sponsor themselves.
Abused spouses are also allowed to self-sponsor. In these special cases, the attorneys at Schierer & Ritchie can help you file the correct application for your green card.
The Family-Based Immigration Process
There are several key steps in the process of applying for a family-based green card.
The U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident (the “sponsor”) files the visa petition. This application requires the sponsor to verify his or her citizenship or residency status as well as prove that a family relationship with the immigrant exists.
After a waiting period (which can be lengthy—months or even years), United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will approve or deny the application. If the application is denied, the applicant must determine why, correct the error, and re-file. If it is approved, USCIS will forward the application to the National Visa Center (NVC).
Immediate relative cases will soon receive further paperwork from the NVC. In this step, sponsors will generally be required to prove they are financially capable of supporting the immigrant.
If this step is approved, the case will be forwarded to the U.S. consulate in the immigrant’s home country, where the immigrant can submit an application for a green card. This is called “consular processing.”
For the more distant relationships mentioned above, the immigrant’s case will be given a place on the waiting list for a visa. This is called the “Priority Date” and refers to the date that USCIS received the petition.
The wait for a visa is typically a matter of years. When the visa becomes available, the immigrant must submit an application for a green card at the U.S. consulate in the home country.
Why Choose our Peoria Family Immigration Attorneys?
For families that are separated by international borders, the thought of being united in America may seem like a dream. We can help you make that dream come true. At the law offices of Schierer & Ritchie, we will help you determine the best way to bring your relatives into the U.S. Our compassionate and knowledgeable attorneys do their best to avoid delays and give your relatives the best chance at obtaining U.S. residency and citizenship.
We are proud of our track record of successful family-based immigration. You may visit our Testimonials page to read about a few of our many notable successes.