New York Family-Based Immigration Attorneys
Reuniting Loved Ones Through Tailored Legal Guidance
If you are a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident, our New York family-based immigration lawyers at J&K Law can help you sponsor your loved ones for green cards. Our firm is led by women of color who have a firsthand understanding of the complexities, obstacles, and challenges of the United States immigration system.
Our team has helped keep hundreds of couples together and has reunited countless children and parents with their loved ones in the United States. We can help you efficiently navigate each step of the sponsorship process and work to reunite your family as quickly as possible.
Understanding the Sponsorship Process
To obtain a United States green card for a loved one, you will need to sponsor them. Whether you are a U.S. citizen or a lawful permanent resident will determine what types of family members you can sponsor.
Family members that are potentially eligible for green cards will fall into one of two categories. Immediate relative categories are reserved exclusively for certain relatives of U.S. citizens. Family preference categories include family members of lawful permanent residents as well as other relatives of U.S. citizens.
Immediate relative categories include:
- IR-1: Spouses of United States citizens
- IR-2: Unmarried Children (Under the Age of 21) of United States citizens
- IR-3: Orphan Adopted Abroad by United States citizens
- IR-4: Orphans To Be Adopted in the United States by U.S. citizens
- IR-5: Parents of United States citizens
Family preference categories include:
- F1: Unmarried Adult Children (Over the Age of 21) of United States Citizens
- F2A: Spouses and Unmarried Children (Under the Age of 21) of Lawful Permanent Residents
- F2B: Unmarried Adult Children (Over the Age of 21) of Lawful Permanent Residents
- F3: Married Children of United States citizens
- F4: Siblings of United States citizens
Only United States citizens can sponsor their married children, parents, and siblings. Lawful permanent residents can only sponsor their children and spouses. Citizens and lawful permanent residents can sponsor their same-sex spouses. Many types of relatives, including grandparents, grandchildren, cousins, uncles, aunts, nephews, and nieces cannot be sponsored by either U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents.
In addition to determining who can be sponsored, a key difference between the immediate relative and family preference categories is the number of visas available to each. United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issues an unlimited number of visas to immediate relatives but enforces annual and regional caps on family preference on visas granted to family preference relatives. In practice, this means that a family member sponsored as an immediate relative will almost always receive their green card significantly faster than a loved one sponsored as a family preference relative.
Family preference beneficiaries will need to wait for a visa to become available to them after their petition has been approved. Wait times are influenced by a number of factors, including the beneficiary’s country of origin, their relationship to the petitioner, and the number of applicants ahead of them in the queue.
Waits can vary from just a few months to multiple decades. Our New York family-based immigration attorneys can assess your situation, determine whether your loved one can be sponsored as an immediate relative or family preference relative, and estimate what type of wait you should expect.
Applying for a Family-Based Green Card
The family-based immigration process begins when the sponsoring U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident, called the petitioner, submits the appropriate paperwork to USCIS. The petitioner will need to prove that they are a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident as well as the existence of a qualifying familial relationship. If all goes well, USCIS will typically make a decision within 5 and 12 months.
What happens next will depend on whether the approved petition’s beneficiary is an immediate relative or family preference relative. Immediate relatives do not have to wait for a visa to become available and can immediately move to adjust their status or initiate consular processing.
Family preference relatives will need to wait until their “priority date,” or place in line, becomes current. Again, wait times can vary dramatically and will depend on the beneficiary’s country of origin, the size of the current backlog, and the beneficiary’s relationship to the petitioner. F1 applicants will receive priority over F3 applicants, for example, and may experience shorter wait times.
Both immediate relatives and family preference relatives will need to go through consular processing or adjust their status once their visa is available. Consular processing involves scheduling an in-person interview at your country’s U.S. embassy or consulate if you are currently located outside the United States. If you are in the country on another visa, you can move to “adjust your status” by submitting additional forms and documentation to USCIS. We can work closely with you through each step of the family-based immigration process. Our team is familiar with both adjustments of status and consular processing and can help you avoid common mistakes.
How the Process Differs When Sponsoring Spouses
When you marry someone that is not a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident, you will likely want to promptly seek a green card so that you can build your life together in the United States. Though both current citizens and lawful permanent residents can sponsor their spouses, you should expect your petition to be heavily scrutinized.
USCIS is extremely wary of marriage fraud, and you must convince the agency that your marriage is authentic in order to obtain a green card for your spouse. In addition to submitting all of the paperwork and documentation that establishes a qualifying familial relationship, you will also need to provide an extensive amount of evidence that supports the legitimacy of your marriage. Your spouse’s in-person interview with a USCIS official will also involve evaluating the marriage’s authenticity.
If you have been married for less than 2 years by the time your spouse is granted lawful permanent residency, they will receive what is called a “conditional green card.” A conditional green card is only initially valid for 2 years. Should this green card expire, your spouse will begin to accrue unlawful presence and may be targeted for removal.
Spouses with conditional green cards will need to carefully “remove conditions” to receive unconditional residency. Removing conditions will involve jointly filing a new petition with USCIS in the 90-day window before the conditional green card expires. In most cases, you and your spouse will need to submit evidence of the evolution of your marriage and participate in another in-person interview that will again evaluate the authenticity of the relationship. If USCIS is satisfied, conditions will be “removed,” and a spouse will receive a nonconditional green card.
What Is The Diversity Visa Lottery?
The U.S. Department of State maintains a visa lottery program that issues 50,000 green cards to randomly selected immigrants that meet certain qualifications. If selected, your immediate family, will also receive green cards. This lottery exists outside the family-based immigration system and can help immigrants procure green cards without enduring multi-year waits. Your immediate family members that are included in the diversity visa lottery include your spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21.
Who Qualifies For Diversity Visa Lottery?
To qualify for the diversity visa lottery who must have a high school degree or at least 2 years of qualifying work experience. Additionally you, or your spouse if you are a national from an ineligible country, must be immigrating from a country that doesn't have a high rate of U.S. immigration.
You can also potentially apply under your parents’ native country if neither were residents of the country where you were born. If you meet all eligibility requirements, you can generally enter the diversity visa lottery free of charge between early October and early November, with results typically becoming available in May of the following year. We can assess whether you qualify for the lottery and, if so, help you enter.
Keep Your Family Together with Our Help
When your loved one is granted a green card, they become a lawful permanent resident of the United States. Nonconditional visas remain valid in 10-year increments and can generally be easily renewed. Lawful permanent residents can live and work practically anywhere in the country. They can also sponsor their own spouses and unmarried children, qualify for certain types of government benefits, and become eligible for permanent United States citizenship.
Our New York family-based immigration lawyers at J&K Law are committed to keeping families together. We understand what is at stake with your petition and are committed to giving your petition our full attention. That is why you will never have to communicate through associates or paralegals: Our experienced attorneys will work directly with you throughout the family immigration process and do everything possible to reunite you with your loved ones.