One of the most sought-after visas to the USA is the family based green card. This is the quickest way to acquire a green card and migrate to the US as permanent residents.
If you are a citizen or a permanent resident in the USA and you wish to bring your family members to this country, you can petition the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for an immigrant visa.
Similar to the other visas for immigration the family based immigrant visa also has various sub-categories under it. The sub-divisions are based on the relationship between the family member and the sponsor.
What Is A Family Based Green Card?
The family based green card refers to a visa for immigration that permits a family member of the sponsor (Who is either a resident or a citizen in the US) to migrate to the US. The family member can be the sponsor’s
Distant relatives usually do not qualify. They include:
- Grand Parents
Once you get a family based green card you can migrate to the US permanently. This migrant status allows you to enjoy the following benefits.
- Get a driver’s license in the US
- Live in any state that you wish to
- Attend school/college/university in the US
- Work for an employer in the US
- Travel in and out of this country for the specific periods as permitted under this visa
- Apply for a Citizenship if you have been successful in abiding the laws and rules set by the US government and after completing a specific period in the country
Different Types Of USA Family Based Green Cards
The family based immigration visa to obtain a green card in the US has been broadly classified into two. They are
- Category for immediate relatives and
- Category for family preference
The applications for these categories are considered differently. The procedure for application and the time for processing depend on the relationship between the sponsor and their family member/members.
Sponsor A US Citizen (Immediate Relative Visa)
If the sponsor of the family member is a US citizen one among the following visas can be applied for.
- For a spouse- IR-1 Visa
- Unmarried children who are below 21 years of age IR-2 Visa
- Adopted children who are from other nations- IR-3 Visa
- Adopted children living in the US and who is adopted by a Citizen living here IR-4 Visa
- Green card for the parents of the sponsor – IR-5 visa
All the above-mentioned visas belong to the Immediate Relatives visa category. There is no annual cap for these visas. The visas applications will be processed without any delay if the applicant has met all the requirements successfully.
Sponsor A Lawful Permanent Resident /Applicant A Distant Relative (Family Preference Visa)
The following visas are granted in the situations where
- The sponsor is a permanent resident in the US
- The applicant is a distant relative of the sponsor
- F-1 Visa – Sons/Daughters who are unmarried and minor children of the sponsor who is a US citizen
- F-2 (A) Visa- Spouse and minor children of the sponsor who is a permanent resident in the US
- F-2(B) Visa- Adult children of the lawful permanent resident
- F-3 Visa- Visa granted to the US citizen’s married children along with their spouses and children who are minor.
- F-4 Visa- Visa granted to the US citizen’s siblings and their spouses and minor children. To apply for this visa the US citizen has to be 21 years or more.
Requirements To Get A Family Based Green Card In USA
The requirements for the family based green cards vary since there are different types of visa categories under it. This is based on the status of the sponsor in the US and the relationship to the family member.
However, there are a few requirements that are common to applicants and sponsors. They are the following.
- The sponsor must have a valid address in the US.
- Their status has to be verified- submit documents that prove their citizenship in the US or their lawful permanent residency.
- No criminal records for the applicant
- Documents proving their relationship with the sponsor (Spouse, siblings, children)
- This can include valid marriage certificates, birth certificates, etc.
Applying For A Family Based Green Card
The process of application varies depending on the Family based immigrant visa category. In general, the proceedings are as follows.
- The sponsor (Lawful Permanent Resident/ US citizen) petitions to the USCIS for the family members.
- The petition gets approved
- The family member applies to the US consulate or the US embassy within their native country
Unless the petition is approved by the US authorities, the family member cannot apply for the family based green card.
How To File A Petition?
Given below are the steps to file for a petition.
- Form I-130 is the petition for foreign relatives
- The sponsor has to fill all the necessary sections and the petition must be filed with the USCIS
- Payment of fees for filing petitions
- The petition goes to the Department of Homeland Security
- Takes a few months for processing
- Once the processing completes the petitioner gets notified
- USCIS will give the reasons in case the petition gets denied
- If approved the petition goes to the NVC (National Visa Centre)
- A package is sent to the applicant in the foreign land
- The package contains information and instructions for the visa applicant
- Also contains the Invoice number and case number
- These numbers are necessary to start the procedure for application at the US consulate/US Embassy in the foreign land
Applying For The Visa
There is no annual cap for the Immediate Relative Visa which means the applicant can start the process in their country without having to wait. However, the applicant has to wait till they reach their turn in the priority list if they’ve applied for a Family Preference Visa. This visa has an annual cap.
The following are the important steps to follow for applying for a family based immigrant visa.
- Duly fill the DS-260 form and submit it
- The confirmation number that you receive must be attached to the supporting documents
- Complete the medical examination and take the necessary vaccines prescribed
- Attach the poof along with all the other documents
- Attach all the necessary supporting documents
- Attend the interview at a US Embassy/ US Consulate within the applicant’s country
- Once the visa has been approved they get a visa stamp in their passport
- The applicant also receives a package from the NCV
- The package must remain unopened and they have to submit the package at the entry point in the US (To the immigration officials)
The Supporting Documents To Be Attached
- A valid passport
- Affidavit of support from the sponsor in the US
- Form I-864 duly signed
- Confirmation page after filing Form DS-260
- Proof of medical examination and vaccination
- Photographs of each applicant- Two US Visa photos each
- Police clearance certificates/ No criminal records certificate
- Military records for those who have served in the military
There are various fees involved while applying for a family based immigrant visa.
- Fee for filing form I-130
- Processing fee for the DS-260 form
- Fee for translation of supporting documents
- Fee for medical examination and vaccination
- USCIS fee for immigrants
Getting A Green Card In The US
Once the applicant has moved and started living in the US with the family based immigrant visa he/she has to complete the following procedure
- File form I-485 at the USCIS
- Application to adjust status/ register as a permanent resident
The application gets processed and once approved the applicant gets the green card through mail within a few weeks.
Waiting List For Family Based Green Cards To The US – Interesting Statistics
More than four million people from all over the world are currently on the waiting list for family based green cards to the US.
The recent official data states that there are around 2, 27,000 people from India who are either waiting for their green cards or to get an LPR (Legal Permanent Residency) to the US.
USA Family Based Green Cards – Waiting List Statics
|Rank||Country||Number Of People In The Waiting List|
As of November 2019. Source Homeland Security.
The majority of applicants in the family based green card waiting list are siblings of the sponsor living in the US.
The largest number of people who are on the waiting list for family based green cards to the US are from Mexico. There are almost 1.5 million applicants who are on the waiting list from this country.
Mexico is followed by our country India with Two Lakh Twenty Seven Thousand people. China occupies the 3rd position with almost 1, 80,000 people on the waiting list.
Remember, there could be a maximum limit to the number of visas issued each year. This depends on the category of family based immigrant visa chosen by the applicant.
The visas are processed in the chronological order of the applications received. If there is an annual cap and you’ve failed to apply in time you’ll have to wait for your turn in the following year.
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