Family Based Immigration Lawyers in Inland Empire

Providing Guidance to Clients Seeking Permanent Residency Status

It is estimated that as many as 8.3 million relatives of U.S. citizens and permanent residents have applied for a green card and are waiting for a decision as of 2023. In spite of the backlog caused by yearly caps on certain types of green cards and processing delays at USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services), more than 40% of all new green card holders that arrive in the United States obtain their residency status through a family member.

Applying to bring a family member to the USA is a lengthy process that requires multiple steps. For that reason, many applicants find it beneficial to work with a skilled immigration attorney who can assist them throughout the process and maximize their chances of approval. The immigration law attorneys at the Espinoza Law Group explain how family-based immigration laws work in the United States and go over the ways an experienced immigration law attorney can help you navigate this process more efficiently. For questions about family-based immigration matters in Southern California, contact the Espinoza Law Group at 213-667-0701.

How Does Family-Based Immigration Work in the United States?

In the United States, the family-based immigration process usually involves a petitioner and a beneficiary. The petitioner is a relative living in the United States as a permanent resident or citizen. The petitioner initiates the application process through which they ask the USCIS to grant a green card and permanent resident status for their beneficiary. The beneficiary is their relative who wishes to immigrate to the United States.

If you are thinking about initiating a petition for your loved one, it is important to know that there are two different categories of family-based migrants, which are immediate relatives and family preference. This is crucial because immediate relatives can receive a visa shortly after having their application approved, while those who fall under the family preference category may be subject to a yearly limit that caps the number of visas available per country per year. That often means family members who are considered to be in the family preference category may need to wait until a visa becomes available, which could take several years in some cases.

What Do I Need to Do to Bring My Family Members to the USA?

If you are planning to petition for your loved ones to come live in the United States, it may be a good idea to speak to an experienced immigration attorney to ensure your loved one is eligible for a family-based immigrant visa and to receive guidance on the necessary forms and supporting documents you may need to include in your petition. In general, the process of applying for a green card for a family member begins with the petitioner filling out form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative. The form is filed with the USCIS and is necessary to establish a family relationship between the petitioner and the beneficiary.

If the beneficiary is outside the United States, they will need to complete their application through their local U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If a visa is available, the beneficiary will be asked to submit their application, which includes several different forms, supporting documents, and the payment of all processing fees required for an immigrant visa. It is important to remember that the beneficiary will also need to submit form I-864 Affidavit of Support, showing that the beneficiary will be financially supported by the petitioner and will not become dependent on government assistance once in the United States.

In addition, the beneficiary may also be called for an interview at their local U.S. Embassy or Consulate, after which the consular officer will decide whether to approve the petition or not. If approved, the beneficiary will receive a set of documents called a visa packet, which should be presented to the officer at the port of entry once the beneficiary arrives in the United States. After the beneficiary is admitted into the country, they should receive their permanent resident card (green card) around 45 days after their arrival.

What Is the Role of a Sponsor, and What Do You Need to Become One?

A sponsor plays a critical role in a family-based immigration petition. In order for the beneficiary to be considered for a green card, they must show that they will be financially supported by the petitioner while in the United States and will not become a burden to the government welfare system. In other words, the petitioner assumes a contractual responsibility to sponsor the beneficiary through their transition to become a permanent resident and at any point after that if the beneficiary becomes unable to support themselves.

The petitioner and the sponsor can be the same person as long as they meet the eligibility criteria. In order to sponsor a beneficiary, you must meet specific requirements, such as having an income that is 125% of the Federal poverty level or higher. If your income alone does not meet the requirement, you may add the income of another person in your household. You can also include other assets, such as savings accounts and investment funds. If you still don’t meet the income requirement, you can ask another person to be a joint sponsor. This person can be a relative or even a friend who is willing to share the financial liability for your immigrant relative and who meets the income criteria. Besides the financial requirement, you must also be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, be living in the United States at the time of filing the affidavit of support, and be at least 18 years of age.

What if I Am a Permanent Resident Wanting to Bring Family to the U.S.?

Both U.S. Citizens and permanent residents may petition for their family members to become permanent residents in the United States. However, if you are a lawful permanent resident (green card holder) and not a U.S. citizen, you are only allowed to petition for a green card for your spouse and unmarried children. You may not petition for a green card for your parents, siblings or any other relatives.

On the other hand, if you have already attained citizenship status, you have more options. Only U.S. citizens may petition for other relatives, such as their parents or siblings. It is worth noting that you must also be at least 21 years old before you can initiate a petition. It is also worth noting that different family members may be subject to different waiting periods for a visa – while parents are considered immediate relatives and may receive a visa right away, siblings are not considered immediate relatives and may need to wait several months or even years before a visa becomes available.

I Submitted My Application and Received an RFE. What Should I Do?

An RFE (Request for Evidence) is a letter sent by the USCIS in response to an application that may be missing information or has insufficient supporting documentation. Some of the most common reasons for receiving an RFE include missing evidence to document the sponsor’s income, insufficient evidence of birth (such as a missing long-form birth certificate), or simply missing initial evidence (such as when someone forgets to include all the pages of a form or leaves important fields blank).

If you received an RFE letter, your case has not yet been denied, but all work on your application has been paused until you submit the information that the USCIS is requesting. If no response is submitted, your application will likely be denied, so be sure to submit the required evidence in a timely manner, according to the deadlines on your RFE letter.

If you are unsure about what additional information or supporting documentation to submit, it may be a good idea to talk to a skilled family-based immigration attorney. Your attorney can assist you with the steps required to respond to your RFE letter and can support you through the next steps of the process.

The best way to avoid unnecessary delays – such as making mistakes on your petition and having to respond to an RFE letter – is to work with an attorney right from the beginning. Your attorney can better assist you with the entire process of preparing your petition, filling out all necessary paperwork, gathering the necessary evidence to support your case, and avoiding having to wait even longer for your loved one to be approved for a family-based green card. The skilled immigration attorneys at Espinoza Law Group can assist you with all aspects of filing a family-based petition for your loved ones. Contact our law firm at 213-667-0701 for an initial consultation to learn more about how we can help you.