There are many people from different countries who want to obtain a green card and immigrate to adie United States. Therefore, the United States offers different types of green cards and immigrant visas. The main categories are as follows
- Family Based Green Cards (for those who wish to immigrate to the United States with their family).
- Employment Based Green Cards: for those who intend to work for a U.S. employer.
- Diversity Visa: for those with low immigration to the U.S.
- Returning Resident Visa: this visa is for individuals who were unable to return to renew their immigrant status for reasons beyond their control.
This article explains what a family-based green card is, its types, requirements, how to apply for it, and other relevant details.
What is a Family Based Green Card?
The Family Sponsored Green Card is an immigrant visa that allows the applicant to bring immediate family members to the United States. Immediate family members include spouses, children, parents, and siblings, but more distant relatives such as grandparents and cousins are not eligible.
Obtaining a green card through a family member means that you will live permanently in the United States. You can live in a state of your choice, go to school, and work for a U.S. employer.
You will also be allowed to obtain a U.S. driver’s license, enter and leave the U.S. for a period of time, and if you do not violate any visa requirements, you can apply for U.S. citizenship after a short period of time.
Depending on the type of family-based green card, there may be an annual limit on the number of visas issued. If there is an annual limit or cap on visas, visas will be processed in chronological order.
This means that if you apply before the annual limit is reached, your application will be processed. Otherwise, you will have to wait until the next year or until it is your turn.
What are the types of Family Based Green Cards?
There are different types of family-based green cards that vary depending on whether or not the family member lives in the United States. If the family member is a U.S. citizen in the U.S., the following types of visas apply.
- An IR-1 visa for the spouse of a U.S. citizen.
- IR-2 visas for unmarried children under 21 of U.S. citizens
- IR-3 visas for children of U.S. citizens adopted abroad
- IR-4 visas for children adopted in the U.S. by U.S. citizens
- IR-5 visas as green cards for the parents of U.S. citizens over the age of 21.
These visas are called “Immediate Relative Visas” and there is no annual cap. This means that they will be processed regardless of the number of people in front of them, as long as they meet the requirements, no matter who applies.
If a family member in the U.S. is not a U.S. citizen, they must be a lawful permanent resident (LPR) or a more distant relative. The following family-based visas are available to applicants in this category.
- F-1 visas are issued to unmarried sons and daughters of U.S. citizens and their minor children.
- F-2 visas are granted to the spouse and minor children (F-2A visas) or adult children (F-2B visas) of a U.S. permanent resident.
- F-3 visas are granted to married children of U.S. citizens traveling to the United States with their spouses and minor children.
- F-4 visas are granted to brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens traveling to the United States with their spouses and minor children. To apply for this visa, the U.S. citizen must be at least 21 years old.
These visas, called family preference visas, are issued in limited numbers per year: 23,400 per year for F-1 visas, 114,200 for F-2 visas, 23,400 for F-3 visas, and 65,000 for F-4 visas. Once these caps are reached, the remaining applicants will be processed over the next few years.
What are the requirements for the Family Based Green Cards?
Family-based green cards have different requirements because they apply to different individuals. The main requirement common to all green cards is that the person must have a valid address in the U.S. and the person’s status must be verified. In other words, the applicant must have valid documents proving that he or she is a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident.
In addition, the applicant must prove that he or she has no criminal record and is in a family relationship with someone in the United States. If the person in the U.S. is your spouse, you must provide a valid marriage certificate. If the person is a child, parent or sibling, you must provide a valid birth certificate.
How to apply for Family Based Green Cards?
Because there are so many different types of family-based green cards, each application process is different. However, the general process is outlined below.
Most family green card applications are divided into two parts:
- A U.S. citizen/LPR submits a family petition to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
- Once the petition is approved, the foreign family member must file an application with the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in their home country.
As you can see, the application process in the United States must begin with the U.S. citizen/LPR filing a petition with the authorities. If the petition is not approved, the applicant will not be able to apply for a visa at the U.S. Embassy.
Filing the Petition
A petition may be created by filing a Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative. This petition must be completed in full by the U.S. citizen/LPR and submitted to USCIS. A fee must also be paid in order for the petition to be processed.
The petition then goes through the Department of Homeland Security, which will process it within a couple of months. Once it is processed, the petitioner will be notified of its status. If the petition is denied, USCIS will notify the petitioner of the reason for the denial. If the petition is approved, it will be submitted to the National Visa Center (NVC), which is the main point of contact for family-based green cards.
The NVC sends a packet of information and instructions to the petitioner abroad. This packet also includes the case number and billing ID number that will be used to initiate the application at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad.
Applying for the IR-2 visa
For immediate relative visas, there is no cap and there is no waiting period before the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in your country can begin the application process. However, if you have a family preference visa, you must wait until your priority date to apply. The application process includes the following steps
File Form DS-260
Form DS-260, Immigrant Visa Electronic Application, is the form that immigrant visa applicants must submit. The application can be accessed through the NVC case number and is linked to the applicant’s case and approved petition.
The applicant, or someone assisting the applicant, must complete all sections that include questions about the applicant’s information, background, and purpose for moving to the United States.
Complete medical examination and vaccination
In the United States, there are requirements for medical examinations and immunizations that must be completed by citizens and immigrants. Any person wishing to immigrate to the United States must receive the required medical examinations and immunizations.
The NVC packet that the applicant receives after the petition is approved indicates what medical procedures and vaccinations the applicant must receive.
These documents and medical examinations must be completed and signed by a licensed physician. These documents will be attached to the petitioner’s support file and sent to NVC.
Compile documents file
In addition to your application, you must include a set of supporting documents that explain to the NVC why you should be allowed to immigrate to the United States. The documentation must be sent to NVC and the file must include the following, but NVC may request additional documents
- A valid passport that is at least six months old at the time you plan to enter the United States
- Form I-864, Affidavit of Support, signed by the U.S. petitioner
- Form DS-260 Confirmation Page
- Documentation of medical examinations and immunizations
- Two photos per person for U.S. visas that meet photo requirements
- Court records, criminal records, and/or police certifications
- If you have served in the military, bring your military service record with you
Applicants for immigration to the U.S. must attend an interview at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate to which they are applying; NVC will schedule the interview after verifying that the applicant has submitted all required documents.
You must appear for the interview on the assigned date and time and answer the interviewer’s questions.
Receive NVC packet and travel to the U.S.
Once the family-based green card is approved, the individual can travel to the United States. Your passport will be stamped with a visa and the Embassy will give you a package to take with you to enter the United States.
This package must not be opened under any circumstances. Only the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services officer at the point of entry to the U.S. can open the package and decide whether or not the applicant will be admitted.
What are the fees to pay for the Family Based Green Cards?
There are several fees that must be paid by the petitioner and applicant during the family green card application process.
The amount of the fee is determined by USCIS, the Department of Homeland Security, and the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where you are applying. The major categories of fees that must be paid are.
- Form I-130 Application Fee
- Form DS-260 Processing Fee
- Fees for medical examinations and vaccinations
- Fees for obtaining and translating all supporting documents
- The USCIS immigration fee must be paid after you receive your visa and before you travel to the United States.
How to get a Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) status?
The next step after obtaining a family resident visa is to obtain Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) status in the United States.
To change your status from an immigrant visa to an LPR, your petition must first be approved by USCIS, you must obtain a visa, and you must reside in the United States.
You must then file a Form I-485 (Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status) with USCIS. This form will be processed and if approved, you will receive your green card in the mail in a few weeks.