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Get a Green Card Through Family

Heartland Immigration is proud to help U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents (green card holders) secure green cards for their family members so they can live and work permanently in the United States. Managing the complex U.S. immigration laws involved can be difficult, and delays and obstacles encountered along the path can prove trying. Heartland Immigration’s lawyers will help you navigate the system, serving not just as legal counsel, but also as a supporter and confidant throughout the process – you can count on our immigration attorneys for sound technical advice and compassionate, dedicated advocacy.

Who Can Petition for Whom?

American Citizens and legal permanent residents (LPRs, which are green card holders) can start the process that will lead to a US green card for certain family members. They do this by submitting a petition to the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS), demonstrating a qualifying family relationship with the person for whom they are petitioning, who is referred to as the “beneficiary” in immigration parlance.

A U.S.
citizen can petition for their:

  • spouse;
  • child;
  • parent; and
  • sibling

A green card holder, on the other hand, can only petition for their:

  • spouse; and
  • unmarried child

Grandparents, cousins and more distant relatives unfortunately cannot benefit from U.S. family-based immigration.

How Long Does it Take to Get a Green Card?

How long it takes for a foreigner to get a green card depends on the status of the person petitioning for them and on the nature of the relationship with that person.

Immediate Relatives

U.S. citizens petitioning for “immediate relatives” get a significant preference: there is no waiting period before the foreign beneficiaries can get an immigrant visa (if they are abroad), which leads to a green card after they enter the USA, or get a green card through adjustment of status in the U.S. (if they are already in the U.S.).

A U.S. citizen’s immediate relatives include a:

  • spouse (categorized as IR-1);
  • unmarried child under age 21 (IR-2);
  • orphan adopted abroad (IR-3);
  • orphan who will be adopted in the U.S. (IR-4); and
  • parent (IR-5; note that the U.S. citizen has to be at least 21 for this)

For these beneficiaries it is just a matter of months before their petition is processed and the beneficiary can get a green card; usually between three months and around a year.

Family Preference Categories

All persons who are not immediate relatives of U.S. citizens can expect to wait longer for the process to unfold. In some cases much longer. These people fall within one of four of the “Family Preference Categories,” each with their own waiting period due to the fact that there exists a congressionally-mandated cap on how many people in each category may be admitted in the U.S. each year. The beneficiary’s country of citizenship can also make a difference in timing. Demand for green cards through family-based immigration is much greater than supply every year, so there is a long waiting line to go through for these beneficiaries after a petition is filed on their behalf.

The family preference categories include:

  • Family First Preference (Referred to as F1): Unmarried children of U.S. citizens and their minor children, if any
  • Family Second Preference (F2): Spouses, children under age 21, and unmarried sons and daughters age 21 and over of legal permanent residents
  • Family Third Preference (F3): Married children of U.S. citizens, and their spouses and minor children, if any
  • Family Fourth Preference (F4): Siblings of U.S. citizens, and their spouses and minor children, if any (U.S. citizen must be at least 21 years of age to petition for this category)

Beneficiaries in these family preference categories have to wait until a visa number becomes available to them before they can apply for an immigrant visa (if they are outside the USA) or apply to adjust status (if they are in the U.S.). The Department of State oversees the process of assigning visa numbers. Every month it issues what is called a visa bulletin, which shows when a beneficiary becomes “current” (meaning a visa number is available), based on their priority date (the day the petition was accepted by USCIS). The shortest waiting period among the family preference categories is around four years. The longest, sadly, has stretched to over 20 years.

How Does the Green Card Work Application Process Work?

The road to a green card through family starts with a petition being filed with USCIS in the U.S. (or overseas at a U.S. embassy or consulate if the petitioner has resided in that country for at least six months) by the qualifying family member (the U.S. citizen or green card holder). The petition is processed by USCIS. If approved, and the petition was an immediate relative petition or if a visa number has become available (after the long wait), the beneficiary will either apply for adjustment of status (the request for this can be filed simultaneously with the petition in immediate relative cases) or undergo consular processing.

Adjustment of status is for beneficiaries who are already in the U.S. on a nonimmigrant visa, and entails applying to USCIS for them to recognize you as a legal permanent resident; they mail you a green card if you are approved. Consular processing is for beneficiaries who are abroad, requiring them to apply for an immigrant visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate in their country. Once granted, they travel to the U.S. and receive their green card in the mail from USCIS shortly after arriving.

If you are already married to a foreigner who is abroad and want them to come to the U.S., you can apply for a K-3 visa for them. This process is generally much quicker than going through the immigrant petition process.
Contact Us to learn more.

Give Heartland Immigration a call today to for answers to questions such as how can I get a green card for the United States:

Give us a call today to learn more about how we can help you get a K-1 fiancé visa:

Nationwide: 1-855-USA-IMMIGRATE (1-855-872-4664)

Dallas: (972) 543-3812

Los Angeles: (949) 614-0106

New York: (347) 630-9629

Chicago: (773) 683-1728

Indianapolis: (812) 269-8201

Oklahoma City: (405) 232-2749