Generally speaking, the normal route is for a family member who is legally in the U.S. to petition (sponsor) their family member who may be located in a different country.  This can be done by:

  • U.S. Citizens
  • Permanent Residents (green card holders)

This can be done by assisting the foreign relative in filing for a family-based visa.  When doing so, the U.S.-based person must provide evidence in support of the petition, such as documents that would prove that they are related.  Waiting times for family-based visas can depend on a number of factors, including the number of family visas that were issued in the year before. 

Are There Any Alternatives for Helping Family Members Get Legal Immigration Status?

Besides the normal routes for obtaining legal immigration status for family members, there may be other alternatives available.  For example, legal immigration status can be granted through the following routes:

  • Cancellation of Removal:  An undocumented immigrant who has been in the United States for over 10 years may file for cancellation of removal, if they can prove that removal would cause “extremely unusual” or “exceptional” hardship to an immediate relative or spouse
  • Re-Entry:  In some cases, immigration authorities may allow a person who is in the U.S. illegally to leave the country and then return after some time has passed.  This is sometimes related to voluntary departure laws and may be an option for some family members who are already in the country.
  • Violence Against Women Act (VAWA):  The VAWA may allow battered children, spouses, or parents of U.S. citizens/permanent residents to petition for legal status even if they are in the country illegally.  They victim is usually required to help law enforcement in bringing charges against the abuser

Lastly, while not technically a family-based petition, it is also possible for a person to petition their future spouse for immigration into the U.S. using a fiancé visa petition. 

Do I Need a Lawyer for Help With the Immigration Status of Family Members?

Immigration laws can often be complex because they are subject to change from year to year. If you or one of your family members needs help with their immigration status, you should speak with an immigration lawyer immediately.  Your immigration attorney can assist you with your status and can research the laws to determine your options.  Your lawyer can help represent you in court if needed, as you may have several options that you might not be aware of.