What are Family Based Green Cards?
A Family Based Green Card enables foreign family members of U.S. citizens and permanent residents to receive a Green Card and become lawful permanent residents in the US.
U.S. citizens can bring more distant relatives to the US than those who are permanent residents in the US. Moreover, applicants related to US citizens can receive their Green Cards and come to the US faster than family members of permanent residents.
The two categories of Family Based Green Cards are the Immediate Relatives category and the Family Preference category. Both of these groups include several visas that applicants can choose from depending on their relation to the U.S. citizen or permanent resident.
If you want to apply for one of the Family Based Green Cards, your U.S. relative, who will also be your sponsor, has to petition to USCIS on your behalf. It is not possible to self-petition for a Family Based Green Card.
What is the immediate relative category of the Family Based Green Cards?
You can qualify as an immediate relative of a U.S. citizen if one of the following applies to you:
- You are legally married to a U.S. citizen.
- You are an unmarried child under the age of 21 of a U.S. citizen.
- You are a parent of a U.S. citizen who is older than 21 years old.
If you determine that you are an immediate relative of a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, you can apply for one of the following visas:
- IR1 Visa intended for spouses of U.S. citizens.
- IR2 Visa intended for unmarried children of U.S. citizens who are younger than 21 years old.
- IR3 Visa intended for children adopted abroad by parents who are U.S. citizens.
- IR4 Visa intended for children adopted in the US by US citizens
- IR5 Visa intended for parents of U.S. citizens who are 21 years old or older.
The biggest advantage of the Immediate Relative category is that there is no limit on how many of these visas can be granted each year. As the visas from this group are always available, the waiting time tends to be relatively short.
What is the Family Preference category of the Family Based Green Cards?
You can qualify as a preference relative if one of the following applies to you:
- You are an unmarried child older than 21 years of age of a U.S. citizen.
- You are a spouse or unmarried child under the age of 21 of a U.S. permanent resident.
- You are an unmarried child aged 21 or older of a U.S. permanent resident.
- You are a married child (of any age) of a U.S. citizen.
- You are a brother or sister of a U.S. citizen
If you fall under the Family Preference category, you can apply for one of the following visas:
- First Preference, F1 Visa – for unmarried sons and daughters who are 21 years of age or older of U.S. citizens.
- Second Preference, F2A Visa – for spouses and unmarried children who are younger than 21 years old of US Green Card holders.
- Second Preference, F2B Visa – for unmarried children who are 21 years of age or older of US Green Card holders.
- Third Preference, F3 Visa – for married children of U.S. citizens
- Fourth Preference, F4 Visa for siblings of U.S. citizens who are 21 years of age or older.
Unlike visas belonging to the Immediate Relative category, these visas are subject to numerical caps. As a result, many applicants have to wait several years for their family preference Green Cards.
Who qualifies as an Accompanying Relative?
A spouse or unmarried children under the age of 21 of the primary applicant might also be eligible for a US Green Card as accompanying relatives. These individuals are known as derivative beneficiaries.
Accompanying relatives have to be included in the visa petition. This will initiate the immigration process for them. Later they need to submit their own applications to adjust their status to permanent resident and remain in the US.
The derivative beneficiaries can be included in all preference relative visa applications. Nevertheless, it is not possible to apply for a Green Card based on being an accompanying relative of someone who is related to a U.S. citizen.
How to apply for Family Based Green Cards?
Regardless of whether you are applying as an immediate or preference relative, all Family Based Green Cards follow the same application process.
First, your US relative has to file Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative and submit it to USCIS on your behalf. Once the petition is approved, you have to wait for the visa to become available.
When that happens, applicants who are abroad need to go through consular processing. That means that your approved Form I-130 is sent to a US Embassy or Consulate in your home country, and to proceed with your application, you have to complete Form DS-261 and submit it to them. You also have to pay the application fee of $325.
After you have completed this step, you need to file Form DS-260, Immigrant Visa Application along with all the required documentation. You also have to attend an in-person visa interview.
Applicants who are already in the US on a different visa have to apply for the adjustment of status. To do that you have to file Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status and submit it to USCIS.
What supporting documents are required for Family Based Green Cards?
When you are submitting your application for a Family Based Green Card, you have to include a number of documents to prove your eligibility for it. For visas from both the Immediate Relative and Family Preference categories, you need to submit:
- Passport valid for at least six months past the planned date of your admission into the US.
- Birth certificate if you are applying as a child of a U.S. citizen or permanent resident.
- Marriage certificate if you are applying as a spouse of a U.S. citizen or permanent resident.
- Marriage termination document (if applicable)
- A signed Affidavit of Support
- Medical examination form
- Two coloured passport size photographs.
If your original documents are in a language other than English, they need to be translated. Depending on your individual situation, you might be required to submit other documents too.
What is the cost of a Family Based Green Card?
How much you will have to pay for a Family Based Green Card depends on which visa category you qualify for and the country you are applying from. Nevertheless, all applicants have to pay the following fees:
- $535 filing fee for Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relatives
- $1,140 filing fee for Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust status
- $325 filing fee for Form DS-261, Immigration Visa Application
- $220 for the USCIS immigrant fee for immigrating to the US as a lawful permanent resident.
You might also have to pay medical and biometric fees, as well as fees for having your supporting documents translated if they were issues in a non-English speaking country.
What is the processing time of applications for Family Based Green Cards?
The waiting time for Family Based Green Cards differs depending on which visa category you fall under. Individuals who apply as immediate relatives receive their Green Cards much faster than those who are classified as preference relatives. That is because the visas belonging to the Immediate Relative Route are always available and there are no limits on how many of them can be given to applicants.
The wait for the family preference visas tends to be much longer with many applicants waiting as long as several years. The annual caps on these visas are as follows:
- 24,000 F1 visas
- 114,200 F2 visas, which includes 79,940 F2A visas and 34,260 F2B Visas
- 23,400 F3 visas
- 65,000 F4 visas
Once these limits are reached, no more applications will be processed that year and applicants have to wait for the visas to become available again before they can proceed with their application.
How can IAS help?
Our highly qualified immigration lawyers support clients from the very beginning of the application process until the very end. They can assess your eligibility for Family Based Green Cards, help you complete all the required forms, gather the necessary documentation, and submit your application to USCIS.
If you hire one of our lawyers, you will have access to expert advice and support at all times, which will make the application process stress-free. Thanks to their help you can avoid mistakes that could delay your application or result in your visa being denied.
No matter which Family Based Green Card you want to apply for, our lawyers can assist and answer all your questions.
Call us today on +1 844 290 6312 to find out more about how our immigration lawyers can help.
Last modified on July 17th, 2023 at 6:45 am
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Anyone applying for Family Based Green Cards needs to have a US financial sponsor. To be able to become a sponsor for their relative, the U.S. citizen has to have an income of at least 125% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines. They also have to provide proof of being able to financially support the applicant after they arrive in the US.
The application for Family Based Green Cards needs to be initiated by the U.S. citizen who petitions to USCIS for their relative. That said, it is not possible to apply for a Family Based Green Card without having a US sponsor.
The waiting time for a Family Based Green Card varies depending on whether you are applying as an immediate or preference relative.
For visas from the Immediate Relative category, the approval process after filing Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative takes between 5 to 12 months. For visas from the Family Preference category, it can take several years. The waiting time for these visas is based on how many people are waiting in line for them.
If your application for a Family Based Green Card is successful, you will be able to come to the US as a lawful permanent resident. That means you will be able to stay in the country permanently and work or study there without any immigration restrictions. You will also be able to travel abroad and re-enter the US as many times as you want without having to worry about losing your status.
A Family Based Green Card can also serve as a path to U.S. citizenship. After you have been living in the U.S. as a permanent resident for more than 5 years, or 3 years if you are legally married to a U.S. citizen, you will be able to apply to become a U.S. citizen.
You are considered an immediate relative of a U.S. citizen if you are:
- Their spouse
- Their unmarried child under the age of 21
- Their parent (provided that the US citizen if 21 years of age or older).
Children adopted in the US and abroad are also eligible for a Green Card under the Immediate Relatives category.
If you are eligible for a visa as an immediate relative, you can receive it anytime without having to wait for a Green Card to become available.