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Family-Based Immigration

Foreign nationals may apply for permanent residency through a family member who is either a US citizen or lawful permanent resident. While a permanent resident may only sponsor a spouse and unmarried children, a citizen can petition for parents, brothers, sisters, and married children as well.

Relatives are classified into two main categories, then assigned preference levels, based on their relationship to the sponsors.

Category I: Unlimited Family-Based (does NOT need a visa number)

  • Spouse and unmarried children under 21 years of age of a US citizen
  • Parent of a US citizen who is at least 21 years old

Category II: Limited Family-Based (must have a visa number)

  • Family-Based First Preference (F1): Unmarried sons and daughters (21 or older) of U.S. citizens, and their children.
  • Family-Based Second Preference (F2): Spouses, minor children (under 21), and unmarried sons and daughters (21 or older) of lawful permanent residents.
  • Family-Based Third Preference (F3): Married sons and daughters of U.S. Citizens, regardless of age, and their spouses and children.
  • Family-Based Fourth Preference (F4): Brothers and sisters of adult U.S. Citizens (21 or older), and their spouses and children.

What is the difference between a child and a son or daughter?

The immigration law defines a "child" or "minor child" as an unmarried person under 21 years of age. After a child turns 21, he or she will become a son or daughter. If a "child" gets married, he or she will be classified as a married son or daughter, regardless of age.

How to apply for a green card based on family relation?

If you fall under any of the above categories, your sponsor must file Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, with the USCIS and list you as the beneficiary. Form I-130 is typically submitted along with the following documents:

  • Documentation to show that your sponsor is a US citizen, such as birth certificate, naturalization certificate, un expired U.S. passport, etc.
  • Copy of the green card if the sponsor is a legal permanent resident.
  • Evidence to prove a family relationship between the petitioner (sponsor) and the beneficiary (you), including marriage certificate, Form G-325A, grand deed of an co-owned house, verification letter of joint bank accounts, birth certificate of a child, birth certificate of a sibling with at least one common parent, adoption decree, etc.
  • Filing fees

After I-130 is approved, and if your sponsor selected Adjustment of Status and a visa number is available to you (or not required), you may proceed to file Form I-485.

If Consular Processing was chosen on Form I-130, the approval notice will be forwarded to the National Visa Center (NVC) to begin the immigrant visa application process.

In either case the petitioner must provide Affidavit of Support (I-864 series of forms) to show that they are able to financially support you (at least 125% above poverty line) so you are unlikely to become a public charge.

When a visa number becomes available, and your background checks have cleared, your AOS or CP application will be processed. An approval at this stage means granting of permanent residency (issuance of green card) to you.

My son was born in the US, thus an American citizen, can he sponsor me to apply for a green card?

Your son may file an immigrant petition for you only after he has turned 21.

My son/daughter just became a permanent resident, can he/she sponsor me to apply for a green card?

No. A permanent resident can not sponsor his or her parents to immigrate to the US. They will become eligible, however, after becoming U.S. citizens through naturalization.

How is 125% of poverty line calculated?

In order to sponsor an immigrant through family relationship, your household income must be equal to or greater than 125 percent of the current poverty level for the size of your household. Note that sponsors on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces who are petitioning for their spouse or child only need to meet 100% of poverty lines, not 125%.

To meet the income requirement you may count wages, assets, income from dependents and intending immigrants, and a joint sponsor, under certain restrictions.

How to determine household size?

Your household size must include the following persons:

  • Yourself;
  • Your spouse;
  • Any dependent children under the age of 21;
  • Any other dependent listed on your most recent Federal tax return;
  • Any persons being sponsored by this petition;
  • Any persons you previously sponsored and must still support;

For example, if you and your spouse have two children, and you are filing immigrant petitions for your parents, your household size would be six (6). For 2009, the income requirement is $36,912.

What is the official poverty line?

The official poverty guidelines for immigration purposes are disclosed in Form I-864P, updated every spring. They are based on guidelines published in the Federal Register by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services under the authority of 42 U.S.C. 9902(2). They have typically been published in February, or sometimes in late January.

When are the poverty guidelines effective?

Immediately after they are published in the Federal Registrar. However, some programs may elect to adopt the new levels on a later date. For immigration petitions, always refer to Form I-864P for their exact effective dates.

Is there a separate poverty line for my state?

The Poverty Guidelines published by the USCIS are the same for the 48 Contiguous States, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Guam. Only Hawaii and Alaska have different guidelines.

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