Family Sponsored Permanent Residence

Both U.S. citizens and permanent residents are eligible to petition for certain relatives, but permanent residents may only petition for their spouses and unmarried children.

United States citizens may file I-130 immigrant petitions on behalf of several types of relatives, including:

  • Spouses (a U.S. citizen may also file an I-129F nonimmigrant petition to bring a fiancé(e) to the U.S. for the purpose of marriage)
  • Unmarried children under age 21
  • Parents
  • Unmarried sons or daughters age 21 or over
  • Married sons or daughters
  • Siblings

Permanent residents of the United States (green card holders) may file I-130 immigrant petitions on behalf of:

  • Spouses
  • Unmarried children under age 21
  • Unmarried sons or daughters age 21 or over

Parents, spouses, and unmarried children (under the age of 21) of a U.S. citizen are “immediate relatives” who are outside the annual numerical limits for immigrant visas, and do not have an additional wait for a visa number. The immigrant visa process may take place in the U.S. through adjustment status or abroad via consular processing.

For relatives of permanent residents (green card holders), as well as unmarried children over 21, married children and siblings of U.S. citizens, there are numerical limits and years of waiting in many cases. Backlogs are especially long for natives of certain countries, such as Mexico and the Philippines. In such cases, it is essential to obtain up-to-date legal guidance on possible short-term nonimmigrant visas that may be appropriate for the family member.

Procedures for Family-Sponsored Immigrants: Adjustment of Status or Consular Processing

For “immediate relatives” of United States citizens, the steps in the process may depend on whether or when the foreign national relative enters the U.S., and whether they have maintained a valid nonimmigrant status in the U.S. A decision must be made as to the timing of filing an I-130 visa petition, as this could impact the relative’s ability to travel to the U.S. in nonimmigrant status.

The most streamlined process is called “concurrent filing” of the I-130 visa petition with an I-485 application for adjustment of status to permanent residence. Evidence that must be submitted includes proof of the familial or spousal relationship, evidence of petitioner’s U.S. citizenship or permanent resident status, birth certificate of the adjustment of status applicant, evidence of termination of prior marriage(s), and evidence of the petitioner’s ability to support the beneficiary financially. In cases where the petitioner’s documented personal income does not meet the minimum annual income requirement, a “joint sponsor” may provide financial information and agree to support the new immigrant if needed.

If the beneficiary is outside the United States, after the approval of the petitioner’s I-130 application, the application must be processed through the National Visa Center and then sent to a U.S. consulate or embassy in the applicant’s home country for “consular processing.” This includes a medical exam by a U.S. Department of State (DOS) approved panel physician and an immigrant visa interview. Evidence of the relative’s relationship with the petitioner must be filed with USCIS at the time of the petition filing, and financial support information must filed with DOS during the Consular Processing phase of the case. After interview and approval at the U.S. Consulate, an immigrant visa is issued, which is used by the relative to travel to the United States. Once the new immigrant presents their immigrant visa upon arrival in the U.S. and pays the necessary card production fee, they receive their “green card” in the mail.

Petitioning to Bring a Fiancé(e) to the United States

When a U.S. citizen wishes to bring their foreign national fiancé or fiancée to the U.S. for a wedding ceremony, a visa petition on Form I-129F is required. After approval of the petition by USCIS, the foreign national must be interviewed at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate in their current country of residence.

Evidence of the relationship must be presented at the time of the I-129F petition filing, and financial support information is submitted during the consular processing phase of the case. After issuance of the K-1 fiance(e) visa, the wedding must take place within 90 days of arrival in the U.S. An application for Adjustment of Status to Permanent Residence on USCIS Form I-485 must then be filed, and both parties must appear for an interview at a local USCIS office.

Conditional Permanent Residence Status

Regardless of the process used to obtain marriage-based resident status in the U.S., when permanent residence is granted on the basis of a marriage that took place within the previous two years, the residence status is “conditional” for a period of two years. After two years, the couple must petition to remove these conditions in order for the foreign spouse to receive unrestricted permanent resident status.

Our office has extensive experience in filing marriage-based adjustment of status applications and K-1 fiancé(e) visa petitions for individuals from all corners of the globe. We highly recommend contacting an immigration attorney well in advance to planning any marriage ceremony or related travel plans. Planning ahead can save a couple time and money, as many couples are not aware of the lengthy timing and process involved in immigrating a spouse or future spouse to the United States.