Chicago Law Office of Christine Contreras

How to Petition a Family Member Who is in Another Country

For immigrants who have gained United States citizenship or permanent residency, one great benefit is the ability to petition family members who are still living in their home country to be able to join them here in the United States.

One of the things that affects the speed of the process is the relationship of the family member to the citizen or permanent resident. Immediate family members of U.S. citizens have the easiest path, because there is no limit to the annual number of green cards that can be given out to this group.

In this case, immediate family includes:

  • Spouse of a U.S. Citizen
  • Unmarried Child Under 21 Years of Age of a U.S. Citizen
  • Orphan adopted abroad by a U.S. Citizen
  • Orphan to be adopted in the U.S. by a U.S. citizen
  • Parent of a U.S. Citizen who is at least 21 years old

A different category, “family preference,” includes specific family members of citizens and immediate family of permanent residents:

  • Family First Preference (F1): Unmarried sons and daughters of U.S. citizens, and their minor children, if any.
  • Family Second Preference (F2): Spouses, minor children(F2A), and unmarried sons and daughters (age 21 and over) of permanent residents(F2B). At least seventy-seven percent of all visas available for this category will go to the spouses and children; the remainder is allocated to unmarried sons and daughters.
  • Family Third Preference (F3): Married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens, and their spouses and minor children.
  • Family Fourth Preference (F4): Brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens, and their spouses and minor children, provided the U.S. citizens are at least 21 years of age.

For these categories, there are annual green card quotas, and applications beyond the quotas go on a waiting list based on the filing date of the application.

The Petition Process

The application process itself follows these steps:

  1. Filing Form I-130, the Petition for Alien Relative. Supporting documentation of your legal status, citizenship and your relationship to the family member is required and sent to USCIS for processing. After receiving the I-130 petition and verifying that it is complete, USCIS issues a receipt notice to the petitioner. Once the I-130 is approved, it will be forwarded to the National Visa Center who will collect all of the documents for the consulate abroad.
  2. Documentation is then submitted by the Applicant for consular processing. Fees will need to be paid to commence this step and documentation will need to be submitted to the National Visa Center. Once all documents, background checks, and fee payments have been completed, the National Visa Center will forward the case to the consular office abroad and a visa interview will be scheduled. Submitting the Affidavit of Support (Form I-864, a document that states you will support the person you have petitioned) is a requirement at this step which must also be completed and submitted.  
  3. The applicant has to attend a Visa Interview. The Applicant will then have to go to his or her local embassy for an interview. For a spousal petition, extensive questions about the personal relationship may be asked to determine whether the relationship is genuine. Other questions may include the individual’s health, criminal record, education, and employment history. It is at this interview which the Consular Officer determines if the Applicant is admissible to the United States. If the application is approved, the immigrant visa will be sent to the Applicant within a few days normally. An immigrant visa fee will be required before entry.
  4. Arrival in the U.S. and interview with border official. At the point of entry, there is one more interview to confirm that the person is indeed eligible to enter the country.

The green card arrives in the mail. Receipt of the green card usually happens within a few weeks of arriving in the United States.

The petition process can be drawn out and require continuous follow-up. That is why it’s best to hire the services of an immigration attorney. Contact us today to get the process started!