It goes without saying that being separated from your family and loved ones and geographically severing family ties is never an easy thing, particularly when numerous complex immigration laws and procedures and standing in the way of your family reunification.
The whole family based immigration process has always formed the bedrock of the United States immigration system, and the promise of reuniting with family members has motivated prospective special immigrants to make a new home in the U.S. and lawfully enter the domestic labor market. However, it’s all too common nowadays to see misconceptions arising from the media, internet sites, and political figures when it comes to family based immigration.
To begin with, the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) confines the total number of family based immigration family visas that can be issued annually to foreign family members. The good news is that since President Biden took office in early January 2021, his administration has acted on several fronts to reverse the so-called “Trump-era restrictions” on immigration to the U.S. In that regard, while considerably more family-preference visas were issued in the fiscal year 2022, many of them still went underutilized because of processing delays.
All of this is adversely affecting people eligible to receive an immigrant visa and leading to further delays for the 4 million applicants waiting for a family based immigration visa number to become available. As a matter of fact, the State Department estimates that over 57,000 family-based visas went unused in 2022 out of the 226,000 made available by Biden’s administration.
Furthermore, the U.S. Department of State (DOS) is in control of deeding immigrant visas, while the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is in charge of determining immigrant permit eligibility. This can further complicate the process for first-time applicants, a process which often requires immense perseverance, patience, commitment, and an experienced immigration and family law attorney by your side. Therefore, as you can see, even though the entire process can sometimes be discouraging, it’s essential to keep the big picture in mind.
Receiving family-based immigrant visas is not impossible if you’re well-informed on the process so that you know what to expect throughout the process. This blog post will give you a top-level understanding of how family based immigration functions in the U.S. and everything you should know about it.
In a nutshell, family based immigration allows U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents (LPR) to bring their family members into the United States. In fact, family based immigration is so popular within the U.S. immigration ecosystem that it’s actually the most common form of legal immigration status to the country, making up two-thirds of all immigration that happens each year.
Usually, the process works by permitting U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents to sponsor particular family members to become green card holders. And to be fully eligible for a visa, the individual must be an immediate family member or within the family preference category of the sponsor. As you can tell, the family based immigration process includes a minimum of two family members—a petitioner and a beneficiary.
The petitioner needs to be a U.S. citizen or an LPR that is willing to sponsor a foreign relative for a green card, regardless of whether the relative is currently located in East Asia, Western Europe, East Africa, or else.
On the other hand, the beneficiary is a foreign citizen relative that wants to obtain a green card to lawfully reside in the U.S. In certain situations; the beneficiary may have a spouse, minor children, adult children, and even unmarried children that may qualify as derivative beneficiaries.
As a rule, the immigration process begins when a given petitioner files an immigration report with the U.S. government. First, the petitioner must start the process by filing a form called Form I-130, the so-called Petition for Alien Relative.
Once the I-130 petition is approved and a visa number becomes available for the beneficiary, the family member can apply to become a green-card holder. From there, the permanent residence for the beneficiary is given through adjustment of status or consular processing.
As simple as it may sound, receiving a family based immigration visa is not a quick or easy process, and it can take years for the beneficiary to receive a visa, which is precisely why you should consult with an immigration and family law attorney before committing to a single step of the journey.
This is particularly true for immigration efforts that involve family preference immigrants, as the wait time can be significant because of high demand and the limited number of family visas. On the flip side, immediate family members can receive their immigration visas in a shorter amount of time once they finish the extensive visa application process together with their immigrant families’ attorneys.
In today’s digital world of ubiquitous information, you might be wondering why—or even if—you should consult with an experienced immigration and family law attorney for your case when things like social media platforms and Google are packed with information right at your fingertips.
Well, the current American immigration law is quite extensive and complex and continues to evolve at a breakneck pace, so keeping up with the latest laws, rules, legislation changes, and regulations is quite a task.
And not to mention all that legal jargon you’ll have to navigate—which can be very challenging for someone with a non-English speaking background. Below, we’ll share the top reasons you should always consult with a family immigration lawyer when trying to secure that family based immigration visa.
First things first, as immigration laws are continuously changing in the U.S., with the concerned institutions regularly introducing new family based immigration visa requirements and form updates in the latest visa bulletin, your immigration and family law attorney will come with extensive knowledge of the subject matter, regulations, and all other relevant policies and legislations involved.
Besides that, keeping abreast of the latest changes and developments is also a part of their professional responsibilities. In addition, as the whole application process can come with many unexpected hurdles that may result in the visa being delayed or refused, words can’t describe how helpful it will be for you. Whether you find yourself in the position of petitioner or beneficiary, always have a well-versed family immigration lawyer by your side to provide you with strategic options tailored to your current circumstances.
Filling out and submitting family based immigration visa application forms is never a straightforward task and can be arduous, even in the simplest of cases. As a matter of fact, it’s not uncommon at all for family based immigration applications to be refused because of simple yet fatal mistakes and incorrect information that the applicant wasn’t aware of at the time of filing out the form.
On top of that, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services are not obliged to contact applicants directly when some documents are missing from their application or are filled incorrectly. Furthermore, a visa refusal could also lead to numerous immigration bans on re-applying, which can reflect rather poorly on the applicant’s history if they ever want to apply for future visas—whether in the United States or overseas.
Having a family immigration lawyer oversee the entire application process will provide you with professional attention to detail and ensure not only that the application is airtight but also minimize the chances of getting the application refused. This might happen due to backlog forms and issues that are easily preventable when there’s an experienced immigration and family law attorney in the picture.
Last but not least, there are several different types of immigrant visas under U.S. immigration law—each of them coming with a distinctive set of legislations and requirements involved. Moreover, the application procedure for each of the different immigration visas available involves many correctly filled forms submitted, all with a great deal of supporting evidence and security checks that the applicant needs to include and go through.
And even after you get the initial phase right, there are many potential roadblocks that you may face on the family-based immigrants' application that has been submitted, a process that can take months and even years to complete.
However, by navigating your family based immigration process with the help of legal expertise, the experience can be far less stressful and hassle-free. Your lawyer will support you every step of the way by collecting and organizing all the necessary evidence, assisting you with the required documentation for the application, communicating with the relevant federal institutions on your behalf, and resolving any issues that may arise along the way.
In the end, family based immigration is and will remain the most common way for people to get a green card, as U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents can help certain potential family immigrants move to the United States for good.
Navigating the family relationships based immigration process on your own can be quite the hassle if you’re a first-time applicant, so it’s in your best interest to work closely with a family immigration lawyer by your side to ensure that you’re going to achieve the desired results.
And if you’re an immigration and family law attorney who wants to expand their business, perhaps it’s the right time to invest in Docketwise—the best-in-business all-in-one immigration law platform that provides everything from a robust CRM, full immigration forms library, easy-to-use client questionnaires, and industry-leading API integrations—all in one place. If you want to learn more about how Docketwise works, sign up for our Immigration Briefings newsletter to get informed on the latest immigration updates or schedule a demo.