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How To Get A Green Card For Your Family

Applying for an immigrant visa or a green card for your family is a complex and time-consuming process. The preparation and filing of such a case has to be done right the first time; otherwise you will waste much time and energy trying to make sense of the confusing paperwork. By hiring an experienced legal team to handle this for you, you can avoid a lot of stress and save a lot of time. 

If you are a US citizen or have a green card, you can sponsor and apply for your relatives to immigrate to the US from their country or, in some situations, to get green cards if they are already living in the US. It is important to consult with an experienced immigration lawyer to decide which process is the best strategy for your specific situation.   

Your relative who wants to move to the US, or legalize if already present in the US, will be classified into a category, based on a preference system. Immediate relatives have priority over others, which means you will be able to get a visa or green card faster for your immediate relatives, like your spouse, parents, or children. 

The US immigrant visa and green card process can be an incredibly confusing journey, but with expert legal guidance, you can save a lot of time, energy and money. This article  explains the basics of getting an immigrant visa and/or green card for your relatives. 

What is the difference between an immigrant visa and a green card?

If your relative or family member is in another country, he or she will need an immigrant visa to be allowed to travel into and live in the US. This immigrant visa will be put inside their passport after their application is approved by a consular officer following their interview at a  US Embassy in their country. 

After your family member enters the US, then a green card (and a social security card) will be mailed to them in a few weeks. A green card is a physical card which contains the immigrant’s photo and personal information on it. It shows that the holder is a permanent resident of the United States. A green card allows the holder to work anywhere in the US legally (together with a social security number) and to re-enter the US after temporary travel abroad.  

So, an immigrant visa allows a person to enter legally into the US and a green card allows them to stay and live permanently in the US. 

There are situations when your relative or family member is already in the US. Maybe they are here on a tourist visa, student visa, work visa or some other way. It may be possible for them to get a green card in the US without going to the US Embassy in their country to get an immigrant visa. This process is called adjustment of status. Consult with the experienced legal team at Meimaris Law to find out if this is an option for your relative. 

How does your relative or family member qualify for a green card?

The immigration process begins when the US citizen or green card holder files an immigrant petition at the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Sometimes, if your relative or family member is already in the US, they can apply for adjustment of status at the same time.  

There are different ways to get a green card, including:

  • Family-based green cards

This category of green card is the subject of this article. These green cards are given to immediate or close family members of US citizens or green card holders. Immediate family includes your spouse, parents, children (including step-children) and siblings. 

  • Employment-based green cards

Specific jobs will help you, and occasionally your family, get a green card so you can work and live in the US. Your employer is the sponsor for these types of green cards. 

  • Green card lottery

Every year the US government will randomly select up to 50,000 people from a pool of entries from six different geographic locations in the world to receive a green card. The green card lottery is also known as the Diversity Visa Program. 

How can you help your relative become a US permanent resident?

Who you can sponsor for a green card will depend on whether you yourself are a US citizen or a green card holder. 

If you are a US citizen, then you can apply for a green card for your:

  • Spouse
  • Parent, if you're at least 21 years old
  • Unmarried child under 21 years of age
  • Unmarried son or daughter over 21
  • Married son or daughter
  • Brother or sister, if you're at least 21 years old

If you are a green card holder, then you'll be able to apply for a green card for your:

  • Spouse 
  • An unmarried son or daughter

What is the application process for getting a green card for your relatives?

If you are a US citizen or green card holder, and your relative wants to come and live in the US or to adjust their status if they are already in the US, it is your responsibility to start the green card application process for your family member. 

What happens after you apply for a relative's green card?

As soon as your immigrant petition has been approved by the Immigration Service (USCIS), an immigrant visa will “immediately” be available for the following types of family members:

  • Parents
  • Spouses
  • Unmarried children under 21

After USCIS approval, any other relative must wait for an immigrant visa number to become available for them based on their preference category because they are not immediate relatives. 

Once the immigrant visa number becomes available, they will be given the opportunity to file additional paperwork with the National Visa Center (including the sponsor’s Affidavit of Support with supporting financial documents), and after that is completed, they will be scheduled for an interview at the US Consulate for their immigrant visa. 

How long do you have to wait for a green card for relatives?

Your immediate relatives won't have to rely on the availability of visas, so they will be able to get their green cards much  sooner than any of your extended family. However, it still takes several months to even process the application forms. 

Just because the immigrant visa will be “immediately” available does not mean that it will be quick. Several more months are needed for immigrant visa processing by the National Visa Center and the US Consulate before the immigrant visa will be given.

Other relatives have to  wait several years before getting a case number which allows them to apply for their visa. 

It is possible to check the Visa Bulletin which is published and updated monthly by the US State Department to track how long it will take for a visa to become available. You may track it at this link: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/legal/visa-law0/visa-bulletin.html 

There are only a certain number of green cards available for each country of origin every year. If the quota of people submitting petitions for their family members to get visas is already met for this year, there will be a longer waiting time for your application. 

Some of the countries that have regularly have longer waiting lists because of the limited availability of green cards are:

  • India
  • Mexico
  • China
  • Philippines 

Because of the annual limits on how many green cards are given out and the unpredictable nature of how many people will apply for green cards, it is hard to give an exact figure when trying to calculate a waiting time. 

We hope this blog post has helped you understand how to get your relatives a green card to join you in the US. 

The application process for getting your relatives a green card can be long and complicated, but with the guidance  of our team at Meimaris Law, we can review and evaluate  your particular circumstances and  make a plan for the best course of action  for you and your family to take. 

We encourage you to schedule a free consultation with our legal professionals so you will be able to make an informed decision about the best strategy for your particular situation. 

Get in contact today with the Meimaris Law team to make your application as stress-free as possible.

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