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Family reunification is an important element of current U.S. immigration policy. According to immigration laws, foreign nationals who obtain immigrant visas, green cards, or citizenship may bring certain family members with them to the U.S.

However, the process for obtaining a visa is complicated. Depending on the circumstances, it could be years before an eligible family member receives the immigration permit he or she needs.

A Berwyn family immigration lawyer helps people reunite with their loved ones and established a rooted presence here in the United States. An immigration attorney’s knowledgeable guidance could ensure you understand the process, have reasonable expectations, and avoid errors that could cause delays.

The Basics of Applying for a Family Visa

Obtaining a family-based visa usually begins with seeking sponsorship from a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident. Although the timeframes for issuing a visa vary greatly depending on the familial relationship and whether the sponsor is a citizen or legal permanent resident, the procedures are similar.

The U.S. sponsor begins the process by submitting Form I-130 – the Petition for an Alien Relative. If the relative is already legally in the United States, he or she could file Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, when his or her sponsor files the petition. Doing so could speed up the application process. However, if the relative is abroad, he or she must wait until the sponsor’s petition is approved before filing a visa application.

Once an initial visa petition is approved, a potential immigrant’s sponsor must submit Form I-864, the Affidavit of Support. In this document, the sponsor agrees to meet the immigrating family member’s financial needs until he or she obtains citizenship or receives credit for 40 quarters of work in the U.S. The sponsor must also show adequate financial resources to provide for the immigrant. A Berwyn attorney could help a sponsor complete the Affidavit and compile any documentation necessary to support a family visa application.

Visas for Immediate Family Members

It is key to understand that different types of relatives need to pursue different kinds of visas. For example, the “immediate family members” of a sponsor can apply for an immediate relative permit.

The U.S. does not limit the number of visas it issues to the immediate family members of citizens. A citizen’s spouse, parents (if the citizen is over 18), and unmarried children under 21 can apply for this type of immigration, without needing to wait for more visas to become available.

Applying From Within the U.S.

If someone applying for an immediate relative visa is already in the U.S., he or she must submit Form I-485 and wait for an interview with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. It is wise to work with a Berwyn attorney to prepare a family immigration application, and the legal professional can be present during this required interview. If the immigration officer who conducts the interview approves the application, the foreign national should receive his or her visa within a few weeks.

Applying From Outside the U.S.

Applying for an immediate relative visa from outside the U.S. can be a longer and more-involved process. Once the sponsor’s petition is complete, the applicant must complete Form DS-260 and provide any relevant supporting documents. When USCIS accepts this submission, the applicant must schedule a medical examination, obtain proof of vaccinations, and have an interview with a Consular official in his or her country of residence.

A successful applicant will receive a visa package in the mail. He or she can schedule a flight to the U.S., but admission to the country is not guaranteed. An Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) official must approve his or her entry.

Family Preference Visas

Family preference visas, a different kind of family immigration permit, are an option for the more distant relatives of a sponsor. The U.S. limits the number of family preference visas it issues annually. The quantity of family preference visas available varies according to the applicant’s country of origin and relation to the sponsor.

Permits from the first, most prioritized category of preference family visas are available to a citizen’s unmarried children over 21. The second preference category is reserved for a green card holder’s spouse and unmarried children. The married children of citizens can apply for a family visa under the third preference category, and a citizen’s siblings are eligible for permits in the fourth preference category.

When a family visa petition is complete, USCIS assigns a priority date and processes applications in order based on that date. Unfortunately, the backlog for processing family preference visas is years long in some categories. A Berwyn lawyer could help a family monitor the availability of immigrant visas in specific categories and provide an estimated time for processing.

Consult a Berwyn Attorney Regarding Immigration for Family Members

If you want to sponsor a family member to immigrate to the U.S., speak with a Berwyn family immigration lawyer. They could assess your situation, offer guidance, and help you submit a comprehensive visa application. Working alone will likely result in unexpected complications, so discussing your options with our legal team should be a priority. Call today to get started.

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