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Family-Based Immigration

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What is family-based immigration?

Family-based immigration is a pathway for foreign nationals to obtain permanent residency (green card) in the United States based on their close family relationships with U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents. This system is designed to promote family reunification, allowing eligible family members to live and work in the U.S. permanently.

There are two main categories for family-based immigration:

  1. Immediate Relatives: This category is reserved for the closest family members of U.S. citizens, including spouses, unmarried children under the age of 21, and parents (if the U.S. citizen petitioner is at least 21 years old). There is no annual cap on the number of visas issued in this category, which means that there is no waiting period for visa availability once the petition is approved.
  2. Family Preference Categories: This category is for more distant family members of U.S. citizens and certain family members of lawful permanent residents. The family preference categories are divided into four groups (F1, F2A, F2B, F3, and F4), with each group having a specific set of eligible relationships and annual visa limits. The waiting time for visa availability in these categories depends on the demand for visas and the applicant’s country of origin.

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How many visas are available for sponsors’ extended family members?

Each fiscal year, a maximum of 480,000 family preference visas are available, as established by Congress in 1990. Although there is no limit on the number of visas issued to immediate relatives, the number of such visas is subtracted from the 480,000 cap, which in turn determines how many other relatives can be admitted to the U.S. each fiscal year. In the fiscal year 2015, spouses and children (immediate relatives) constituted about 69 percent of family immigration and 44 percent of total legal immigration to the U.S.

What are the requirements for family visas?

Sponsoring a family member to immigrate to the U.S. consists of several stages, such as submitting an application, participating in multiple screenings and background checks, attending an interview, paying a fee, and completing a medical examination. The sponsoring relative, who must be at least 18 years old (or 21 in specific cases) and residing in the U.S., initially files a petition for their family member(s) with USCIS. This petition must validate the authenticity of their relationship and comply with income requirements. The sponsor is also required to submit an affidavit of support, indicating their financial responsibility for the applicant(s). The prospective immigrant then undergoes a thorough screening process, encompassing criminal, national security, and health-related checks, to ensure they do not pose a threat to public welfare. USCIS assesses all green card applications to confirm that the immigrant will not become a public charge dependent on public assistance.

How long does it take to get visas for eligible family members?

The wait time for obtaining a green card can range from years to even decades, depending on the applicant’s relationship with their sponsor. Immediate relatives (spouses and minor children) typically receive their green cards soon after meeting all the criteria of the comprehensive visa process, while the wait time for other family members may vary based on their family preference category.

Owing to the numerical and per-country limitations combined with high demand, significant backlogs exist in most family preference categories. In 2017, out of the approximately 4.7 million applicants in the family preference categories, over 3.9 million were on the waiting list, with USCIS processing the remainder. The vast majority of family members from high-demand countries, such as China, India, Mexico, and the Philippines, face long waiting times of years or even decades for a green card. For example, as of January 2018, the U.S. government was processing cases involving brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens who submitted applications more than 13 years prior.

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We provide services from the beginning of the process to the final point. We can establish a business entity, negotiate agreements, draft contracts, and handle the entire immigration process for the investor and his/her family.


We welcome you to call our office at +1818-858-0406 or complete our convenient online form, and our team will be happy to guide you towards a successful, stress-free resolution.

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