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A key principle of immigration law in the United States is family unification. Family unification is encouraged for people holding both immigrant and nonimmigrant status. While there are many opportunities for citizens, visa holders, and green card holders to sponsor spouses, parents, children and other (qualified) family members, the processes can sometimes be daunting and take many years – sometimes even decades.
It is best to have a skilled immigration attorney guide you through the process. A skilled advocate can help you achieve success while avoiding costly and time-consuming delays. Even if you relative has unlawful status or a criminal conviction, it is important to consult with an attorney before starting any family based petition.
At the Skinner Law Firm, we assist people who are seeking to bring family members to the United States. We will review your situation and determine the best possible method to help your spouse, children, parents or other qualifying relatives gain a visa and ultimately permanent residence. Navigating a successful family-based immigration case depends on many factors. Call a West Chester or Media family-based immigration lawyer at (610) 436-1410 and schedule a consultation.
With multiple offices, we serve those throughout Pennsylvania and the greater Philadelphia region. We represent clients before the Philadelphia Immigration Court, York Immigration Court and beyond.
A nonimmigrant visa is a visa that permits a person to stay in the United States for a certain purpose and for a certain period of time. There are multiple types of visas available, including visas for temporary work assignments, to attend school, or to engage in ministerial or cultural purposes and beyond.
A person with one of these types of visas typically has an opportunity to bring immediate family members to come with him or her to the United States. In many cases, the visa for family members will have the same letter designation with a different number. For example, a graduate student studying at West Chester University of Pennsylvania on an F-1 student visa can obtain F-2 accompanying visas for his or her spouse and/or minor children. In cases like this families may be reunited while the student completes his or her studies.
Another frequently obtained visa is a fiancé visa. If a citizen is engaged to be married to a non-citizen who resides outside the United States, he or she may seek a K-1 visa, and also bring along the fiancé's young children. Once obtained, the couple will have 90 days to get married from the date of entry. If a citizen is already married and wishes to bring his or her spouse and accompanying minor children to the United States, a K-3 visa is available.
Citizens and other lawful permanent residents may sponsor certain family members for visas which may ultimately lead to permanent residency. Once a person obtains lawful permanent resident status, he or she may live, work, and/or study in the United States. While the physical green cards must be renewed every 10 years, the status is permanent. After a certain period of time and if all immigration requirements are met, citizenship may be available.
The first type of family sponsorship is the “immediate relative” category. A U.S. citizen can sponsor his or her spouse, children under the age of 21, and or his or her parents if the U.S. citizen is at least 21 years old. There are an unlimited number of visas available for people meeting this classification. There is no waiting period other than the time to process the visa application and other paperwork.
A U.S. citizen or permanent resident can sponsor other family members who do not meet the definition of “immediate relative.” These individuals fall into a category called “family preference groups,” which include the following:
For these groups, there are a limited number of visas. Depending on your preference group and country of origin, the wait time to process these visas could take decades. Immigrants from China, India, Mexico and the Philippines face the longest wait times. In addition, immigration from the fourth category - brothers and sisters - face the longest priority dates, sometimes up to 20 years for an available visa. Wait times are posted in a monthly Visa Bulletin from the State Department.
In some instances, if the status of the sponsor changes, the preference group also changes. For instance, if you are a lawful permanent resident seeking to sponsor your spouse from China, the wait may be two years. If you become a naturalized U.S. citizen, however, your spouse becomes an “immediate relative” and is eligible for a visa right away.
Change in status can also have negative consequences. If you are an unmarried adult son or daughter of a U.S. citizen and you get married while waiting for an available visa, you will be reclassified into another “family preference group.” As such, the time period for obtaining a visa may be remarkably delayed. However, this scenario does not come into play when a child reaches 21 years of age and essentially “ages out” of his or her status group. So long as a beneficiary petition is filed before the child turns 21, the Child Status Protection Act protects his or her family category.
A person may not be admitted as a permanent resident if immigration officials determine he or she is likely to be dependent on the government for assistance, also known as a public charge. Any person deemed a public charge is inadmissible to enter and/or obtain a United States visa.
In most cases involving family sponsorships, the government will ask the sponsor to complete an Affidavit of Support where the sponsor agrees to be financially responsible in the event that the sponsored person becomes a public charge. An Affidavit of Support can be completed by the sponsor or jointly by the sponsor and another family member.
The sponsor must be able to show sufficient means to meet this responsibility. An insufficient or incorrect affidavit can cause significant delays. In some cases, an Affidavit of Support is not required. An example would be where an individual can show he or she has worked at least 40 qualifying quarters. At Skinner Law Firm, we understand the nuisances of immigration law. It is best to have an experienced attorney assist you in preparation for family visas.
If you are seeking to sponsor a spouse, child, parent or other family member for a family visa, contact a knowledgeable attorney who can help you through this process. Even if you have already begun the process and are experiencing difficulties sponsoring a relative, it is never too late to obtain the services of a qualified attorney. At the Skinner Law Firm, our West Chester and Media immigration lawyers help people find the easiest and quickest path to sponsorship visas for loved ones. Call us today at (610) 436-1410 to schedule a consultation.