Family Immigrant Laws

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What Are Family Immigrant Laws?

Family immigrant laws cover situations where a person wishes to assist a relative in relocating permanently from another country to the United States. Family immigration is a common way for foreign nationals to obtain lawful permanent resident status or U.S. citizenship. What usually occurs is that a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident petitions their relative to travel to the U.S. under a family-based visa. This is a complex process and can take a long time, depending on the waiting times for such visas. 

Family immigrant laws may also cover accompanying visas, which allow a foreign national to travel to the U.S. with a family member who has been granted a valid visa. This usually happens in the case of work visas; however, accompanying visas are usually temporary in nature.

What is a Family-Based Visa?

Family based-visas allow a U.S. citizen to petition a request to have their foreign relative relocate to the U.S. The way this works is that the U.S. citizen files a petition based on the foreign relative’s relation to them. There are categories of family immigration based on either “immediate relatives” or “family preference” categories. Immediate relatives usually include spouses and unmarried children; the family preference categories are divided into 5 more categories, and include relations such as married children, fiancés, and more distantly-related persons.

Family based visas are issued according to a yearly limit called a “quota.” For instance, for family preference 1st category, the quota is a maximum of 23,400 visas issued per year. Each category has a different quota. Immediate relative visas generally are not subject to quotas.

Can I Help a Relative Obtain a Family Immigrant Status?

A person can usually begin the process by filing a petition request through U.S. immigration services. This will require many different forms, documents, and some fees. The relative being petitioned will need to submit various documents such as a photo ID, a valid passport, record of previous residences, and results from a physical exam. Various interviews and meetings with immigration authorities may also be required. 

In addition, there may be other, non-standard routes to assist with legal immigration status for family members. For instance, a family member who has overstayed a previous visa may become eligible for re-entry after some time if they agree to voluntary departure. The form for this is Form I-212, “Application for permission to reapply for admission into the United States after Deportation or Removal.” The person who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident may be called upon in the future to testify on behalf of the relative in front of an immigration board. 

Do I Need a Lawyer for Help With Family Immigrant Laws?

Assisting a family member with immigration can be a difficult task. You may wish to hire an experienced immigration law attorney for help with family immigrant laws. Your attorney can provide you with valuable legal advice as you play your part in the process. Also, a qualified lawyer can help represent you if you need to make an appearance or attend a meeting in an immigration court. 

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Last Modified: 09-16-2013 12:13 PM PDT

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