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What Are the Different Family Green Card Categories?
Once a person obtains a visa, that doesn’t mean they are automatically granted a green card or permanent resident status. They must first obtain a sponsor who will petition them for permanent resident status. The person sponsoring the immigrant is called the “petitioner”, while the immigrant is known as the “beneficiary”.
In many cases, the beneficiary is a family member of the immigrant, while in other cases it is the employer (for work-based visas). There are several different family members who may be allowed to petition their relative for a green card. These family green card categories include:
- Immediate Relatives of a U.S. Citizen
- Family Member of U.S. Citizen
- Family Member of a Permanent Resident
- “Special Categories” of Family
Which Family Green Card Category is the Most Commonly Used?
Most people petition their loved ones through the “Immediate Relatives of a U.S. citizen” category. Persons eligible for this category include: Spouses of U.S. citizens’ unmarried children who are under 21 years old (with at least one citizen parent); parents of a U.S. citizen who is under 21; step children/step parents of a U.S. citizen; and certain relatives by adoption.
This Immediate Relative category tends to be favored by immigrants since it allows the petitioner to bypass several requirements, such as “priority dates” and other limitations. They may also be able to file for an adjustment of status simultaneously along with the petition. This can save several months in the overall green card processing time. Requirements and eligibility factors for the other family categories may vary widely.
What Does the “Special Categories” of Family Involve?
The “Special Categories” for family-based green card petitions was created to accommodate green card applicants who fall into certain categories. They may have special needs or may be involved in a special situation that would qualify them for a green card application. These persons must meet various qualifications and must also submit their application within a certain time frame.
The Special Categories of Family green cards are:
- Battered Spouse, Child, or Parent: Under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), battered spouses, children, or parents can file a petition for themselves, without the abuser being notified. This allows them to seek independence and safety from their abuser. The VAWA provisions apply equally to men and women
- K Nonimmigrant: This category is usually used for immigration based on fiancé status
- Person Born to a Foreign Diplomat in the U.S.: The parent’s diplomatic title must be listed in the “Blue List” (the State Department Diplomatic List)
- Widows and Widowers of U.S. Citizens: These can apply for a green card if they were married to a U.S. citizen, at the time of the citizen’s death. The marriage must have been legal and entered into in good faith (i.e. not to obtain immigration benefits)
Do I Need a Lawyer for Help with a Family Green Card?
Applying for a green card can be a complex and time-consuming process. If you or a loved one needs assistance with a family category green card, it’s to your benefit to hire an immigration lawyer for help. A qualified immigration attorney in your area can help you with the necessary documents for your application. Also, your attorney can represent you in court if additional hearings are needed.
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Last Modified: 10-17-2014 03:26 PM PDT
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