Area of Law: USA Travel and Immigration
Answer # 1058
Family Based Green CardRegion: Ontario Answer # 1058
USA citizens or permanent residents may sponsor certain family members for a green card. Some of the categories include:
- immediate relatives (spouses, unmarried chidden under 21 and parents of US citizens who are over 21);
- preference categories (unmarried children over 21, married children and brothers and sister of US citizens who are over 21); and
- special categories (battered spouse or child, K non-immigrant, individuals born to diplomats, V non-immigrant or widowers).
The application process for qualifying family members who are already in the USA in lawful non-immigrant status involves adjustment of status in order to enable them to remain. In this scenario, the family member may be eligible to apply for permission to work while the application is pending. The applicant must remain in the USA, but can also apply for permission to travel while the application is pending. Approval of the permission to travel and adjustment of status is discretionary.
Alternatively, qualifying family members who reside abroad and wish to join their family members in the USA can be sponsored through consular processing, where the applicant attends an interview at a local consulate abroad. At the interview, the validity of the relationship will be assessed as well as the applicant’s admissibility.
The family sponsorship application process involves documenting the genuine family relationship, as well as the family’s ability to live and support itself in the USA. If approved, the family member can reside permanently in the USA and work or study.
The family relationship can be evidenced through a wide variety of documents which include but are not limited to: birth certificates; marriage certificate; photo; letters or other forms of correspondence such as emails; receipts from travel; receipts from gifts; affidavits or letters from family and friends; leases; shared finances; shared insurance policies; phone records; text message records; shared purchases; and other documents.
The family’s ability to live and support itself can be documented by the original affidavit of support as well as employment letters, tax returns, bank account statements and other documents. Intent to reside in the USA must also be demonstrated if the application is made from abroad.
The duration of application process varies depending on the category of the family member and nationality. For example, while visas are available for immediate relatives of USA citizens, congress limits the number of relatives in certain family preference categories, so applicants must wait for an immigrant visa number to become available, which can take several years. Well-prepared documentation can help avoid unnecessary delay.
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