Family-Sponsored Permanent Residence
Hackensack NJ Family-based Immigration Lawyer
We here at Jeffrey B. Steinfeld, PC understand the emotional and financial difficulties associated in being apart from a family member.
Long delays, government administrative snafus and security clearance issues are not uncommon. At Jeffrey B. Steinfeld, PC, we strive to reduce the difficulties associated with family-based immigration. We clearly explain any potential problems, provide the most accurate processing time estimates available, and perform any needed follow-ups with an agency or embassy. Please contact Jeffrey B. Steinfeld, PC for a case-specific evaluation of your family-sponsored immigration case. If you live or work in the New York / New Jersey metro area, please call or email us to arrange an in-person consultation in our Hackensack, NJ office.
There are five categories under which an individual can obtain permanent residence through relatives.
- Immediate relatives of US citizens: There are no quotas and no priority date waiting for immediate relatives of US citizens. They are defined as: spouses of US citizens (including widows and widowers who were married to the US citizen for at least 2 years and are applying within 2 years of the citizen's death); unmarried people under 21 who have at least one US citizen parent; parents of US citizens, if the US citizen is 21 or over.
- First Preference-Unmarried sons and daughters of US citizens (23,400 per year, plus unused visas from the fourth Preference);
- Second Preference-(F2A) Spouses and unmarried children of US citizens (114,000 per year, plus excess over 226,000 the floor for family based immigration, plus unused visas from the first Preference); (F2B) Unmarried sons and daughters of green card holders who are at least 21.
- Third Preference-Married sons and daughters of US citizens (23,400 per year, plus unused visas from the first and second Preferences);
- Fourth Preference-Brothers and sisters of US citizens (65,000 per year, plus unused visas from the first second and third Preferences).
The waiting period to obtain an immigrant visa through relatives will vary depending on one's preference category and one's country of origin. Nationals of Mexico, India, People's Republic of China and the Philippines generally have longer waits in these categories. Please see the Visa Bulletin to find out which cases are being processed in your preference category.
Unless the beneficiary is an immediate relative of a US citizen (see above), one will not be eligible to process the immigrant visa abroad or file for adjustment of status in the US unless there is a visa currently available under the annual quota preference system found at the US State Department's Visa Bulletin. One's priority date is established when form I-130 is filed.
Permanent Residence through Marriage to a US Citizen:
In cases of marriage to a US citizen, when the alien spouse is in the United States, an application must be filed with the CIS office having jurisdiction over the U.S. citizen's (petitioner's) residence. Usually, this is a one-step filing, meaning that one applies for petition approval, adjustment of status, and work authorization all at the same time. The CIS will issue an employment authorization document (EAD), usually within 90 days of applying. The CIS then arranges marriage interviews for the couple. This may take from two months to over two years, depending on the CIS jurisdiction. The CIS will examine documents and question the applicants to determine the bona fides of the marriage. Documents one should be prepared to produce include: wedding photographs, tax returns, joint bills, joint leases or deeds, joint bank accounts, insurance documents naming each spouse as beneficiaries. If the immigration officer suspects that the marriage was entered into solely for immigration purposes, CIS may investigate at the candidate's home and place of work. If the marriage is less than 2 years old at the time of approval, then the green card will be issued as conditional, and it will expire in 2 years. The applicant and spouse must file papers to have the conditions removed within the 90 day period prior to the expiration of the green card.
Frequently asked family-based immigration questions:
- My relative/spouse entered the US illegally: When an alien enters without inspection (EWI), or with fraudulent documentation, they are ineligible to adjust under current immigration law, unless the petition was filed prior to April 30, 2001. In that case, and if certain conditions are met, they are eligible to adjust under INA section 245(i) (see FAQ: What is section 245(i)). In certain cases, aliens may be "grandfathered" in under INA sec. 245(i) if they filed another type of case prior to April 30, 2001 and other certain conditions are met. This prohibition even applies to spouses of US citizens. Please contact ILG for a more case-specific analysis of this regulation.
- My spouse/relative overstayed his/her authorized period of stay I-94 card: For spouses of US citizens and other immediate relative filings, one may still adjust status in the US even if you have overstayed your visa. However, for the other family preference categories, an alien cannot adjust status if he/she has overstayed their visa. In fact, if one overstays a visa by 180 days or more, one is barred from adjusting or reentering for 3 years. Furthermore, if one overstays for 365 days or more, one is barred from adjusting or reentering for 10 years. (see FAQ: consequences of remaining in the US illegally) However, if the priority date was established prior to April 30, 2001, then an alien who has overstayed can adjust status under sec. 245(i), if certain conditions are met (see FAQ: What is sec. 245(i)).
- Do I make enough money to sponsor my relative? All sponsors must submit form I-864, Affidavit of Support, which assures the government that you are financially capable of bringing an immigrant relative to the United States. Most sponsors must earn 125% of the poverty income level-please see form I-864P for the current guidelines (see the current poverty level guidelines).
All sponsors must submit the following documentation with their I-864.
- Proof of current employment or self employment
- Your individual Federal income tax returns for the most recent 3 tax years, or an explanation if fewer than 3 are submitted. Your W-2s or 1099 forms may also be required, see the I-864 instructions for details. If you are using the income of persons in your household or dependents to qualify as a sponsor, you must also submit a separate Form I-864A, Contract Between Sponsor and Household Member, for each person whose income you will use. If you are unable to show enough income on your own, one may use a joint sponsor for the Affidavit of Support.
Each family-bases immigration filing has its own issues. Please contact Jeffrey B. Steinfeld, PC for a case-specific evaluation of your case. If you live or work in the New York / New Jersey metro area, please call or email us to arrange an in-person consultation in our Hackensack, NJ office.