The United States has a long history of helping families reunite and build their lives within the same community. A huge part of our immigration system is built around the idea that families should be together. Having that longstanding history, however, does not mean it is an easy process. Family-based immigration has strict rules and deadlines that must be followed. A mistake can delay the process or result in a sad outcome for you and your loved ones.
At Rogers & Rogers, PC, our family immigration lawyer in Pennsylvania understands family-based immigration law and how it can impact families and communities. We help our clients and their family members meet deadlines and file immigration petitions that are completed timely, properly, and sufficiently. We are proactive and identify issues to be addressed immediately to avoid delays. Contact us at (412) 434-7500 to schedule a Free Initial Consultation today.
What is Family-Based Immigration?
Family-based immigration is part of the visa system that allows a U.S. citizen or permanent resident to sponsor non-citizen family members so that the latter can join the family in the United States. Through this program, visa holders can also lawfully work, attend school, and enjoy other rights and freedoms that U.S. citizens and permanent residents enjoy.
There are two types of family-based visas:
- Immediate relative; and
- Family preference.
If approved, these visas are a path to permanent residency, also known as green card holders.
Most family-based immigration petitions are filed within the United States. The U.S.-based family member (the petitioner) files a petition on behalf of their relative (the beneficiary) with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The petitioner must also pay the relevant processing fees and provide all the necessary supporting documents.
At Rogers & Rogers, PC, our immigration lawyer in Pittsburgh, PA will guide you through the process, making sure all the necessary documents are filed, persuasive arguments are made, and all deadlines are met.
Family-Based Immigration Categories
The two family-based immigration categories are immediate relatives and family preference.
The immediate relative category includes any of the following immediate relatives of a U.S. citizen:
- Widows or widowers
- Unmarried children under 21 and adopted children
Immediate relative visas are prioritized. There's no cap or limit to the number of visas issued each year in this category.
The bars to adjustment are also more flexible when it comes to immediate relative visas. This means that factors that otherwise might disqualify an individual from adjusting their status to permanent residence (such as overstaying their visa or engaging in unlawful employment) do not apply.
The family preference category is for extended family members of U.S. citizens, as well as immediate and extended relatives of U.S. permanent residents.
For U.S. citizens, the family preference visa includes:
- Unmarried children aged 21 or over
- Married children
For U.S. permanent residents, the family preference visa includes:
- Unmarried children
The number of family preference visas available is capped each year, resulting in long wait lists. The Department of State publishes a Visa Bulletin monthly, and as part of this bulletin, updates on immigration petitions and green cards are given.
A U.S. citizen cannot use family-based immigration petitions for other relatives, such as grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and inlaws.
Family Immigration Checklist
The family-based immigration process requires a series of forms to be filed with the USCIS. The first and most critical of these is Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative.
In addition to completing the form, the petitioner must include legible photocopies–translated into English where necessary–of any relevant supporting documentation.
Supporting documentation for Form I-130 may include:
- Proof of the petitioner's U.S. citizenship or permanent residency, like:
- Birth certificatesNaturalization or citizenship certificatesCurrent U.S. passports or green cards
- Proof of the qualifying relationship, like:
- Birth certificatesMarriage certificatesEvidence of bona fide marriage,
- , documentation showing property co-ownership, shared residence, combined financial resources, affidavits from people who know you and who can attest to your relationship and shared lifeAdoption decrees or certificatesEvidence of legal custody of an adopted child over a two-year period
Other required or potentially necessary forms include:
- Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Resident or Adjust Statute
- Form I-485 Supplement A, Adjustment of Status under Section 245(i)
- Form I-797, Approval or Receipt Notice
- Form I-94, Arrival/Departure Record
- Form I-864, Affidavit of Support under Section 213A of the INA
- Form I-864EZ, Affidavit of Support under Section 213A of the ACT
- Form I-693, Report of Medical Examination and Vaccination Record
- Form I-601, Application for Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility
- Form I-212, Application for Permission to Reapply for Admission into the United States after Deportation or Removal
- Form I-612, Application for Waiver of the Foreign Residence Requirement
- Form I-508, Request for Waiver of Certain Rights, Privileges, Exemptions and Immunities
- Form I-566, Interagency Record of Request – A, G or NATO Dependent Employment Authorization or Change/Adjustment to/from A, G or NATO Status
Ensuring you provide sufficient documentation and all the right forms to support your application is crucial.
Three Common Challenges to Family Immigration in Pennsylvania
The largest percentage of lawful permanent residents in the United States comes from family-based immigration. However, the process is not without its challenges, and many family members' petitions are denied.
1. Visa Caps
While there are an unlimited number of visas for immediate family members, family preference visas are subject to annual caps. This means there can be substantial backlogs and lengthy wait times (years or even decades) for extended family members wanting to immigrate to the United States.
2. Insufficient Evidence
Evidence of a qualifying relationship is necessary for both immediate family and family preference visas. This evidence is especially important when it comes to spouse applications, where the petitioner must demonstrate a bona fide marriage. Gathering sufficient evidence of a relationship can be challenging, especially where official records are limited due to things like lack of rules or policies to maintain records or things like a war, where records have been destroyed.
3. Does Not Include All Family Members
Other extended family members such as grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and inlaws are not eligible for immediate family or family preference visas. People often assume that family-based immigration applies to any and all family members. They blindly go through the process, ultimately wasting time and resources, only to file the wrong paperwork. Alternative visa pathways need to be found for these relatives.
How Can a Family Immigration Attorney in Pennsylvania Help Your Immigration Case?
Bringing family members to the United States via family-based immigration can be a highly emotive and stressful process. Letting a professional do the heavy work for you can bring both a lot of relief and the right results. Here are five reasons why you should consider retaining our immigration attorney in Pittsburgh, PA.
- Information. Our family immigration attorney will help you understand what is involved in the immigration process. Plus, immigration rules, regulations, and policies change often, and our immigration lawyer will keep you updated on everything you need to know.
- Time unwasted. Our family immigration attorney can advise you as to the right category of visa to apply for and guide you each step of the way. In particular, we can help you complete the application form and compile the necessary supporting documents to ensure your application is properly prepared.
- Delay prevention. As already mentioned, you must meet deadlines or else risk delays or denied petitions. As your legal representative, you will not have to worry about these deadlines because we make sure deadlines are met.
- Appeals. If your petition is denied for any reason, we can move forward with a strong appeal. We already know the ins and outs of your case. The appeals process can be overwhelming, but we can help make sure a positive outcome is reached.
- Protection of rights. Above all else, we protect the rights of our clients. Throughout the immigration process, you may come across some people who abuse their positions. We will make sure you and your loved ones are treated with respect and dignity and that your rights are upheld to the full extent of the law.
Contact an Immigration Lawyer in Pittsburgh, PA Today
Family immigration is a way to keep families together and to help build our communities in Pennsylvania. Handling an immigration case, however, is not easy – even for family-based immigration.
At Rogers & Rogers, PC, we help you get the confidence you need to make sure your loved ones secure a legal path to the United States. Contact our immigration lawyer in Pittsburgh, PA today by using our online form or calling us at (412) 434-7500 to schedule a Free Initial Consultation. We look forward to bringing your family members home.