There are a lot of people from various countries who want to immigrate in the U.S with a Green Card. That is why the U.S has come up with different types of Green Cards of U.S immigrant visas that people can apply for. The major categories are as follows:
- Family Based Green Cards for people who want to join their families in the U.S
- Employment Based Green Cards for people who want to work in the U.S for a U.S employer
- Diversity Visa for people with low rate of immigration to the U.S
- Returning Resident Visa for people who for reasons beyond their control could not return to renew their immigrant residence status
This article will go through the Family Based Green Cards, what they are, the types, requirements, ways to apply, and other relevant details.
What is a Family Based Green Card?
A Family Sponsored Green Card is an immigrant visa which allows the applicant to join their close relatives in the U.S. Close relatives can be your spouse, children, parents, or siblings but more distant relatives such as grandparents and cousins do not qualify.
Getting a Green Card through family means that you can move permanently to the U.S. You can live in any state you want to, go to school, and work for a U.S employer. You are allowed to get a U.S driver’s license, travel in and out of the U.S for specific periods of time, and if you do not violate the rules of your visa, after a while you can also apply for a U.S citizenship.
Depending on the type of Family Based Green Cards, there can be annual limits on the number of visas issued. If a visa has an annual limit or a cap, then the visas are processed in a chronological order. So, if you have applied before the limit for that year has been reached then your application will be processed. Otherwise you must wait until the next year or until your turn comes.
What are the types of Family Based Green Cards?
There are various types of family Green Cards, and they are different based on the status of the person who is your family and lives in the U.S. For those whose family in the U.S is a U.S citizen, the following types of visas are applicable.
- IR-1 visa for the spouse of a U.S citizen
- IR-2 visa for the unmarried children under 21 years old of a U.S citizen
- IR-3 visa for children adopted abroad by a U.S citizen
- IR-4 visa for children to be adopted within the U.S by a U.S citizen
- IR-5 visa as a Green Card for parents of U.S citizens who are at least 21 years old.
These visas are called the Immediate Relative visas and they do not have an annual cap. This means that anyone who applies will be process regardless of the number of people before them if they meet the requirements.
If the family you have in the U.S are not U.S citizens, then they must be Lawful Permanent Residents (LPRs) or more distant relatives. For this category of applicants, these are the following Family Based Visas they can apply for:
- F-1 visa is given to unmarried sons and daughters of U.S citizens and their minor children
- F-2 visa is given to the spouse and minor children (F-2A visa), or adult children (F-2B visa) of U.S Lawful Permanent Residents
- F-3 visa is given to married children of U.S citizens who will go to the U.S with their spouses and minor children
- F-4 visa is given to siblings of U.S citizens who will go to the U.S with their spouses and minor children. For this visa to apply, the U.S citizen must be at least 21 years old.
These visas are called Family Preference visas and they have annual limits on the number that can be issued. The F-1 visa has an annual cap of 23,400 visas, the F-2 visa has 114,200 visas, the F-3 visa has 23,400 visas and the F-4 has 65,000 visas available each year. Once these limits are reached, then the rest of the applicants will be processed in the years ahead.
What are the requirements for the Family Based Green Cards?
Since the Family Based Green Cards are different and apply to different people, the requirements also vary. The main requirement for all of them is that the person who is in the U.S must have a valid U.S address and their status must be verified. This means that they must have valid documents which prove that they are either U.S citizens or Lawful Permanent Residents.
Additionally, the applicants must have no criminal records and must prove that they have family relations with the person in the U.S. If the person in the U.S is the spouse, then they must present a valid marriage certificate. If the relation is between children and parents or for siblings, then they must present a valid birth certificate.
How to apply for Family Based Green Cards?
Because there are so many different Green Cards for families, the application procedure can also be different. However, a general overview of the procedure can be found below.
Most Family Based Green Card applications are divided in two parts:
- The U.S citizen/LPR petitions for their family to U.S Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)
- When the petition is approved, the family member from the foreign country must apply to a U.S Embassy or Consulate in their home country
This shows that the application procedure must start within the U.S, with the U.S citizen/LPR petitioning to the authorities. The petition must be approved, otherwise, the applicant cannot begin applying to the U.S Embassy for their visa.
Filing the Petition
The petition can be done by filing Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relatives. This petition must be filled by the U.S citizen/LPR in all the necessary sections and then submitted to USCIS. There is also a fee which must be paid for the petition to be processed.
The petition will then go through the Department of Homeland Security and processed within a few months. The petitioner will be notified about the status when the processing is complete. If the petition is denied, USCIS will let you know what the reasons were for the denial. If the petition is approved, it will then go to the National Visa Center (NVC). The NVC will then be your main contact for the Family Based Green Card.
The NVC will send a package with information and instructions to the applicant in the foreign country. The package will also include the case number and invoice ID number which will be used to start the application from the U.S Embassy or Consulate in the foreign country.
Applying for the IR-2 visa
For the Immediate Relative visas, there is no cap so there is no waiting time for the applicant to start their process in the U.S Embassy or Consulate in their home country. However, for Family Preference visas, the person must wait until their priority date is current for them to begin their application. The application has these steps.
File Form DS-260
Form DS-260, Immigrant Visa Electronic Application is the form which all applicants for immigrant visas must submit. The application can be accessed by using the NVC case number which links it to your case and the approved petition. The applicant or someone helping them must fill out all the necessary sections, which will have questions related to the applicant’s information, background, and purpose of immigrating to the U.S. When you submit the DS-260 form, you will get a confirmation page and number which you must attach to your supporting documents.
Complete medical examination and vaccination
The U.S has certain medical and vaccination requirements which its citizens and immigrants must fulfill. Anyone who wants to immigrate to the U.S must get the necessary medical check-ups and vaccines. The NVC package which the applicant received after the approval of the petition will specify what medical procedures the applicant must complete and the vaccines they need to get. The documents and the check-ups must be completed by a licensed doctor who will sign them. These documents will be attached to your supporting file which you will then send to the NVC.
Compile documents file
Besides the application form, you must also attach various supporting documents to give NVC a better reason as to why you should be allowed to immigrate to the U. The supporting documents must be sent to the NVC and the file must contain the following but the NVC can require additional documents:
- Your valid passport for more than 6 months after your planned entry into the U.S
- A signed Form I-864, Affidavit of Support from the U.S petitioner
- Form DS-260 confirmation page
- Medical examination and vaccination documents
- Two photographs per individual according to the Photo Requirements
- Court and criminal records and/or police certificate
- If you served in the military, you must bring your military records
Every immigrant applicant for the U.S must attend an interview at the U.S Embassy or Consulate where they are applying. The NVC will first make sure that you have submitted all the necessary documents and then will schedule the interview. You must attend the interview at the scheduled date and time and answer any questions that the interviewer has.
Receive NVC packet and travel to the U.S.
If the Family Based Green Card is approved, the person can travel to the U.S freely. The visa will be stamped on their passport and the Embassy will give them a package which they must bring to the U.S when they first enter the country. This package must not be opened under any circumstances. Only the U.S immigrant officials at any U.S point of entry are allowed to open it and decide whether the applicant is allowed to enter the country or not.
What are the fees to pay for the Family Based Green Cards?
There are various fees that the petitioner and the applicant must pay throughout the application process for the Family Based Green Cards. The amounts vary and are set by USCIS, the Department of Homeland Security and the individual U.S Embassy or Consulate where you are applying. The main categories of fees that must be paid are as follows:
- Form I-130 filing fee
- Processing fee for the Form DS-260
- Medical examination and vaccination fees
- Fees to get and translate all the supporting documents
- USCIS Immigrant Fee which you must pay after you receive your visa and before you travel to the U.S. USCIS will not issue you a Green Card without you paying this fee.
How to get a Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) status?
The next step after you have gotten your Family Based Green Card visa is to become a Lawful Permanent Resident of the U.S. This is usually known as getting the Green Card. To change your status from your immigrant visa to an LPR, you must first have an approved petition from USCIS and the visa, as well as live in the U.S.
Afterwards, you must file Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status to USCIS. This form will be processed and if approved you will get your Green Card in the mail after a few weeks.