Family Visas: Your Guide to Bringing a Loved One to the U.S.
Family visas authorize close relatives of a U.S. citizen or permanent resident to visit or live in the United States. Learn more here from our attorneys.
Author: Massiel Silva Tadeo, Founder, Tadeo & Silva
Attorney Massiel Silva Tadeo is a partner and owner at The Tadeo & Silva Law Firm. She specializes in removal (deportation) defense, family immigration, and hardship waivers. Published on: January 14, 2021, Last updated on: March 27, 2023.
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What Are Visas?
One of the greatest privileges of obtaining U.S. citizenship or lawful permanent residency is petitioning the federal government to grant entry to your relatives still living in their native country. The documents that allow such entry are known as family visas.
Under the current rules, a quota of 480,000 visas can be granted to non-immediate family members of naturalized U.S. citizens every year.
That number does not include visas that are designated for spouses, parents, or children under the age of 21. No annual limit is set on those visas, as the government wants to encourage you to reunite with your immediate family members in our great nation.
Once the federally-mandated limit of 480,000 issued visas is met for the year, non-immediate relatives seeking a visa will have to wait until October 1, when the fiscal year starts over.
Whether you are seeking a family visa for a spouse, a child, a parent, or a sibling, having a skilled immigration attorney on your side can increase your odds of successfully bringing them to the United States.
To begin the process and learn more about your options, please contact Tadeo & Silva Immigration Attorneys today.
Categories of Family-Based Immigrant Visas
The process of obtaining a family visa largely depends on your relationship with the party you are applying to sponsor.
The limit on non-immediate family relationship visas makes that process slower and more tedious than applying for a visa for an immediate family member. Known as the “Family Preference” categories, non-immediate family members include:
- F-1 (Family First Preference) – Unmarried sons and daughters age 21 and older of a U.S. citizen and their minor children.
- F-2 (Family Second Preference) – Spouses, minor children, and unmarried sons and daughters age 21 and older of a U.S. lawful permanent resident.
- F-3 (Family Third Preference) – Married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens, their spouses, and any minor children.
- F-4 (Family Fourth Preference) – Brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens, their spouses, and any minor children. The petitioner must be at least 21 years of age.
The immediate relative category is much more narrow than the family preference category. According to the U.S. Department of State, only the following relatives may qualify for the immediate relative immigrant visas program:
- IR-1 – The spouse of a U.S. citizen
- IR-2 – Unmarried children under the age of 21 of a U.S. citizen
- IR-3 – Orphan who has been adopted abroad by a U.S. citizen
- IR-4 – An orphan who is going to be adopted by a U.S. citizen
- IR-5 – The parent of a U.S. citizen, the petitioner, must be at least 21.
Just like each family is unique, sponsoring a family member is different for each category, and the way it may apply to your situation may vary as well.
At Tadeo & Silva Law, we help immigrant, and mixed-status families determine the best course of action to unite everyone based on their unique story and circumstance. Our attorneys then begin putting this plan into action with the ultimate goal of helping your family realize the American Dream.
Derivative Visas for Family Members
If you have researched the process of obtaining a visa through family-based immigration, you may have seen the term “derivative visas for family members” or “derivative classification.” Essentially, those are the visa benefits we discussed earlier that are available to spouses or unmarried children who are 21 or older.
Non-immigrant derivative visas are offered to foreign nationals who have displayed their intent to stay in the United States for an extended period but are not ready to commit to pursuing a permanent residence status.
The most popular non-immigrant visas include the B-1 and B-2 visitor visas and the H-1B, L-1, and T.N. visas.
Your immigration attorney can help explain the difference between these options if you have a relative who wants to spend an extended time with you in the U.S. without committing to becoming a green card holder. It is important to note that no derivative options are attached to these visitor visas.
Navigating immigration law can be a confusing process, and it is essential to have an experienced immigration lawyer on your side. Whether you are sponsoring a relative through the family preference category or are looking for a way to bring an immediate family member to the U.S., the immigration attorneys at Tadeo & Silva Law can help.
Contact us today to learn more about the options available and how we can assist you.
Required Forms for Family Visas USA
Several forms must be filled out to obtain family visas in the USA. Again, any mistakes you make on any of these forms can cause your application to be moved to the back of the line while the government waits for you to correct any errors.
The department of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will provide you with the following forms, which must be filed together in one package to apply for your relative’s visa:
- Form I-485 – Application to Adjust Status
- Form I-130 – Petition for an Alien Relative
- Form I-130A – Supplementary Information for the Applicant (this form is only used if the relative is a spouse of a U.S. citizen)
- Form I-944 – Declaration of Self-Sufficiency
- Form I-864 – Affidavit of Support
- Form I-693 – Proof of Medical Examination and Vaccination Report
- Form I-765 – Optional Application for Employment Authorization
- Form I-131 – Optional Application for Travel Document
You will have to prepare some of these forms, while the relative you are sponsoring will be responsible for filling out the others. Each form in the package will indicate who is responsible for the preparation.
Remember that this list of forms is not all-inclusive. Your attorney will help you determine precisely what information needs to be supplied in your application for the best chance of a successful reunification with your family in the States.
How Long Do Family-Based Visas Take to Process?
The type of family-based immigrant visa you will be applying for will significantly impact how long the process takes. Since there is no limit on the annual number of visas issued to immediate family members, applicants for I.R. visas do not have to wait in line for a visa number.
Conversely, applicants for Family Preference visas are placed in line where they have to wait to receive their assigned visa number. Another factor that slows down the F.P. visa is what country the applicant is coming from. Nations with a high rate of U.S. immigration, such as Mexico, the Philippines, and China, may experience longer-than-normal wait times.
In contrast, processing Form I-130, which is used for immediate family members, typically only takes about five months as long as it contains no mistakes. Still, there have been cases of the process taking a year or more when there are mistakes on any part of your application.
The process may also be slower depending on how busy the USCIS and National Visa Center (NVC) are at the time. It is important to note that any mistakes made on Form I-130 can cause significant delays in the process, so you should consider working with a family immigration attorney who can ensure that your paperwork is in order.
Learn More About Family-Based Immigration Visas Today
Family-sponsored immigration visas are the government’s way of ensuring that foreign nationals looking to make the United States their new home legally do so. The pathway to a green card and citizenship can be lengthy, but the results are worth it.
You should consult the advice and services of an immigration attorney if you want to help your relatives join you in the U.S. Your attorney can help gather and prepare the documents you and your relatives need while also helping you through any interviews the government mandates during the process.
If you’re ready to begin the process or want to learn more about your legal options, an experienced immigration attorney can help.
Contact an Experienced Immigration Attorney Today
Working with a family immigration attorney can help make bringing your loved one to the U.S. as smooth and straightforward as possible, so you can experience the joys of being reunited with your family in the U.S.
At Tadeo & Silva, we understand the importance of family and are dedicated to helping our clients reunite with theirs in the United States. Our team is composed of experienced immigration attorneys committed to assisting lawful permanent residents (LPRs) bring their relatives to the United States.
We will ensure that you clearly understand the immigrant visa petition process and provide you with the legal options for beginning your application. Our attorneys will help you understand and comply with the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) requirements, so you and your family can be together soon in the U.S.
Contact us today to learn more about our immigration services and how we can help you bring your family to the United States. We look forward to hearing from you and helping you reunite with your loved ones!
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