One of the most common avenues for obtaining permanent residence in the United States is sponsorship by a family member. Citizens, and in some cases green card holders, can petition for certain family members who are in or outside of the United States. Depending on the family relationship and the location where the application will be processed, the process and timeline for obtaining a green card for a family member varies widely. Following are some typical types of family based immigration petitions.


Adjustment of status is the process of obtaining permanent residence when the intending immigrant is in the United States. The most common form of adjustment of status for a family member is when a United States citizen petitions for an immediate relative. Immediate relative is a legal term under immigration law which means the parent, spouse, or unmarried child of a citizen. An adjustment of status petition is filed with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services and is processed entirely within the United States, culminating in an interview at a USCIS field office.


Consular processing is the term for obtaining a visa for a family member abroad. Unlike adjustment of status, when a family based green card petition is filed for a family member overseas, there is a two step process. First, an I-130 petition is filed with USCIS. Once the I-130 has been approved, the case is transferred to the US Department of State which administers the visa process at consular offices throughout the world. Ultimately the intending immigrant will go to an interview at a US embassy abroad and obtain a visa to travel to the United States and obtain a green card.


Immediate Relative Child Admissions in 2013


Immediate Relative Spousal Admissions in 2013


Immediate Relative Parent Admissions in 2013


Total Family Preference Admissions in 2013


A K1 fiance petition is a non immigrant family based petition that allows a fiance living abroad to travel to the United States for the purpose of marrying the petitioner and to file for adjustment of status. A K1 fiance visa requires that the couple marry within ninety days of arrival in the United States. The process first requires an I-129 petition with USCIS followed by an interview at an embassy abroad. Couples typically face the choice of pursuing a K1 fiance visa, or for the petitioner to travel abroad, marry, and pursue a spousal petition. There are advantages and disadvantages to each process.


When an intending immigrant does not qualify as an immediate relative under immigration law, a visa will not be immediately available. Depending on the immigration status of the petitioner and the relationship to the sponsored immigrant, the sponsored immigrant will fall into one of five preference categories. There are a limited number of visas available each year for each preference category, resulting in a waiting list for the processing of the family based petition. USCIS publishes a visa bulletin each month with the priority date for each visa preference category.

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