The family-based green card is one of the most popular ways to become a U.S. lawful permanent resident. Despite this popularity, the process is quite complex, and the family-based Green Card timeline is strictly defined. There are a number of hurdles that must be cleared to secure permanent resident status for a family member.
What’s the procedure and timeline for getting a green card through family-based immigration?
- The person who is already a permanent resident of the U.S. must establish the family relationship by completing Form I-130, which is issued by the USCIS. Keep in mind that you must be at least 21 or older to file petitions for siblings or parents, and your residence in the U.S. is required as a sponsor. For each direct relative, including your own children, a separate Form I-130 form is required.
- Once the I-130 is approved by the USCIS, you (the petitioner) will receive a letter of notification. Remember, however, that the USCIS may also return your petition or ask for additional materials.
- After the letter of approval from the USCIS is received, the U.S. Department of State will issue a visa number.
- Once the visa number is secured, your family member beneficiary will be able to apply for permanent residence at a U.S. consulate (if they are living abroad) or, if they’re already living in the U.S., complete the Adjustment of Status process or the I-485 packet.
When the time arrives for your family member to immigrate, you will be required to serve as their financial sponsor by completing Form I-864.
The goal of this form is to ensure U.S. officials that the person immigrating to the U.S. will have the necessary financial means necessary to live in the U.S. and not have to rely upon government support.
In essence, the I-864 form is a contract of sorts between you (the petitioner) and the U.S. government stipulating that you will support the person who is immigrating if he or she is unable to do so. It’s essentially a back-up economic plan if the immigrant encounters financial problems.
Family based green card timeline: How long the process lasts
As for how long the process should take, it depends upon your relationship with the person seeking permanent resident status.
If you are sponsoring a spouse, child or parent, that person is an immediate relative. There is no waiting list for persons in this category, and an invitation for them to apply will be sent as soon as the I-130 petition is approved.
It’s important to make it easy for U.S. government officials to verify the relationship between you and person you want to sponsor. To that end, provide as much biographical information as possible. For example, official copies of birth certificates and marriage certificates are the documents of choice to establish a family relationship.
For people in other categories, the process can take anywhere between five (5) months to several years.
Why do I need an immigration lawyer to help me with family-based immigration?
Applying for U.S. citizenship is a complicated process. If just one required item is listed incorrectly, a host of negative consequences could be triggered.
The more common family-based immigration mistakes include:
- problems with translation (if a document is submitted in another language, an English translation of the document must be attached);
- wrong dimensions on required photographs (the USCIS has specific required dimensions for photographs, including size, position, background, etc.);
- sending original documents rather than copies;
- unknowingly relying upon fraudulent sources for help (practically everyone immigrating into the U.S. will need some assistance from someone or some government agency; the key is to use resources that are reliable and trustworthy);
- not sending the information packets via traceable delivery methods, such as the U.S. Postal Service, FedEx or UPS;
- having misspelled names, inaccurate dates of birth or different information on different forms;
- submitting unsigned forms that require a signature;
- not having the current version of a particular form (the USCIS regularly makes changes to their forms); and
- the petitioner’s green card not being valid because of expiration (it’s crucial to remember that you cannot file a petition for your family member if your own green card is not valid).
For family-based immigration in Chicago, call the Sverdloff Law Group, P.C.
Here at the Sverdloff Law Group, our goal is to bring families together in the U.S., and keep them together. Each person intending to move to and live here has different goals. Whatever your goal is, the key is that you’re sharing your life with those who matter the most to you: your family.
Family-based immigration is a complicated process. That’s why it makes sense to leverage the skills and expertise of a law firm that knows the ins and outs of the immigration system, and can make the process as much less stressful.
We can help you with practically any family-based immigration issues, and will work one-on-one with you, starting with our first meeting and continuing until the completion of the immigration process.
Even if your family member is already here in the U.S. but has been targeted for deportation, we can work with you and your family to find avenues for a successful solution.
Immigration lawyer Chicago offices are located at 103 S. State Street in Chicago, so for a free initial consultation, call us at 312-238-9090.