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Getting a Green Card Through a Family Member: Who Qualifies?

If you’re a relative of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident, there’s a good chance you are eligible for a green card.

Thinking of immigrating to the U.S.? Your chances of qualifying for a green card increase if you have family members who already live in the United States. The closer the relationship, the more rights you have. However, it’s important to note that nobody goes from having no status to becoming an U.S. citizen in the blink of an eye. The process can be lengthy and complicated, so it’s best to gather as much information as possible beforehand and ask for help whenever you feel like you’re in over your head.

There are certain advantages to family-based visas. First, your educational background and work experience have no impact on your eligibility. Instead, the main factor considered will be your relationship with the relative already in the U.S. Moreover, the children of your spouse may also qualify to accompany you if you’re accepted.

On the other hand, family-based immigration does not come with extra perks. Your visa can be denied or your green card can be taken away if you commit a crime or don’t abide by any guidelines set by immigration authorities. When all goes well, you’re free to apply for U.S. citizenship after five years – three if you’re married to and living with a citizen during all that time.

There are two types of relatives who can be eligible to immigrate to the U.S.: immediate relatives and preference relatives. The main difference? Immediate relatives may immigrate to the U.S. in unlimited numbers, so this is the best case scenario. Unlike the preference relative categories, immediate relatives aren’t controlled by any set annual limits or quotas. You’re considered an immediate relative if you’re the spouse of an U.S. citizen, unmarried child of a U.S. citizen (under the age of 21), or parent of a citizen, as long as the child petitioning for you is 21 or older. Stepparents, stepchildren and parents and children related through adoption can also qualify as immediate relatives under certain circumstances.

Meanwhile, immigrating as a preference relative is usually a longer endeavor, as it’s possible you’ll have to wait many years before being granted an immigrant visa. Preference relatives can include married or unmarried children of citizens (older than 21), spouses and unmarried children of lawful permanent residents, sisters and brothers of citizens, and more.

Whichever the case, your U.S.-based relative will need to sponsor you and prove they have enough income to support you for you to get an immigrant visa to the United States.

Do you have additional inquiries about the subject? Attorney Emmanuel V. Meimaris provides legal counsel on matters related to immigration, family law, real estate and business.
Book a free consultation by calling (781) 636-3636 or filling out this form.

2 years ago

What Is a Fiancé Visa and How Does It Work?

If you’re the fiancé of a U.S. citizen and plan to come to the United States to get married, you qualify for a K-1 nonimmigrant visa. The only catch? You have to get married within 90 days.

A K-1 nonimmigrant visa, commonly known as a fiancé(e) visa, is available to foreign fiancés of U.S citizens who plan to travel to the States to get married. It’s important to note that the K-1 is a temporary visa. If you plan to live in the United States after the wedding ceremony, you’ll have to apply for a green card.

Moreover, the process can be lengthy and involves a solid amount of bureaucracy. Hence, it’s always best to consult with an experienced immigration attorney before embarking on the complicated journey of applying for a fiancé visa. Here’s some basic info that will help.

Who qualifies for a fiancé visa?

Engagement to a citizen doesn’t automatically mean that the foreign fiancé is entitled to a K-1 visa. As expected, you and your fiancé need to meet certain criteria to qualify. You both need to be legally free to marry and prove that you have met each other in person at least once within the two years prior to filing the petition. Plus, you need to get married within 90 days of you being admitted to the U.S. As long as you meet all these conditions you can start the application process, which is likely to last at least six months.

What are the first steps to getting a fiancé visa?

First, the U.S. citizen needs to complete and file the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Petition for Alien Fiancé. They will be required to submit additional documents as well, including proof of citizenship and evidence of your relationship. Once the USCIS approves the petition, they will forward it to the National Visa Center which will conduct background checks and request from you, the fiancé, much additional information and forms.

After that, your file will be transferred to the U.S. embassy or consulate that has jurisdiction over your place of residence. You’ll get further instructions about any additional documentation needed to complete the process. The final step involves being interviewed at the U.S. consulate.

Anything else I should know?

Generally, your a fiancé(e) visa will be valid for four months from the date it was issued. However, once you enter the U.S., you’ll only have 90 days to get married. If you plan to apply for a green card afterward, it’s best to schedule the ceremony sooner rather than later, to ensure you’ll have enough time to put together the necessary paperwork for adjustment of status.

Having an experienced immigration attorney to guide both the U.S. citizen and a fiancé(e) from the beginning of this lengthy process can reduce the amount of waiting time and stress throughout this complicated process.

Do you have additional inquiries about the subject? Attorney Emmanuel V. Meimaris provides legal counsel on matters related to immigration, family law, real estate and business.
Book a free consultation by calling (781) 636-3636 or filling out this form.

2 years ago

How a Foreign-Born Child Can Obtain US Citizenship Through a Parent or Grandparent

In order to determine if a child born outside the US and regularly residing outside the US can become a US citizen, you need to consult the law that was in effect at the time of the birth. These laws have changed a few times as years went by, but they generally require that at least one parent was a US citizen and that he or she has lived in the United States (established residence) for a certain period of time.

Pursuant to INA Section 320, which went into effect on February 27, 2001, if a child meets all the conditions required by the law (including being under the age of 18, being unmarried and in the physical and legal custody of a US citizen parent or guardian), he or she automatically gains US citizenship through the process of acquisition. However, a policy effective as of October 29, 2019, more narrowly restricts the application of that law.  Specifically, USCIS no longer considers children of U.S. government employees and U.S. armed forces members residing outside the United States as “residing in the United States”.  Consequently, those children are no longer considered to have acquired citizenship automatically. Instead, the avenue of naturalization is open to such a child, with the U.S. citizen parent of that child applying on the child’s behalf under INA 322.

It is important to note that some laws also make provisions regarding the parent’s marital status at the time of birth – so if the child was born out of wedlock, he or she may be required to provide evidence that establishes his or her blood relation with the US parent.

Another option exists. The child may be eligible to obtain citizenship through the grandparent. Even if the child’s U.S. citizen parent does not meet the physical presence requirement or has died, the child’s grandparent or legal guardian can apply for citizenship on the child’s behalf, as long as the grandparent or legal guardian meets the physical presence requirement (and, in the case where the US citizen parent has died, applies within 5 years of the parent’s death). This provision still applies even if the grandparent in question has died.

The law treats adopted children the same as biological children if they meet certain requirements. Generally, INA Section 320 applies to a child adopted by a U.S. citizen parent if the child was adopted while under the age of 16 and if the child has been in the legal custody of, and has resided with, the adopting parent for at least two years; or who is an orphan on whose behalf an immediate relative petition has been filed while under the age of 16. The adoption must be final for the child to acquire U.S citizenship.

The process begins with the filing of an Application for Citizenship and Issuance of Certificate. USCIS will review this and either approve or deny the application. If approved, USCIS will schedule the child to appear for an interview in the US with his or her parent or grandparent. At that time, they are required to present all the original documents of the copies submitted with the application, as well as any other required documents that will establish his or her eligibility.

The laws regarding citizenship obtained through acquisition are extremely complex, which is why retaining an experienced immigration attorney to represent you in the process is not only smart, but necessary. The attorney can help you navigate the bureaucracy and ensure that you accomplish your objective of becoming a US citizen.

Book a free consultation by calling (781) 636-3636 or filling out this form.

2 years ago

Common Errors That Can Threaten a Marriage-Based Immigrant Visa

Contrary to popular belief, marriage to a U.S. citizen or green card holder does not automatically guarantee an immigrant visa. Here are the most common mistakes you must avoid during the application process to prevent any problems.

The first thing you need to do when applying for a marriage-based immigrant visa is to make sure you do it in a timely manner. Government processing times are always changing, so you should be very patient. Moreover, the process can vary based on both your and your spouse's place of current residence and immigration status, so you should start putting together the paperwork required as soon as possible. Here are a few other errors you should steer clear from:

  • Failing to file all of the necessary forms

As already mentioned, there is a lot of paperwork involved, and failing to file a form or pay a fee may result in your application being delayed or even rejected. Plus, always make sure that you send your case to the correct address, since filing locations change periodically.

  • Being dishonest in your application

This should go without saying; never lie in your application. If the immigration office catches you in a lie, they will doubt the legitimacy of your application, which can lead to your application being rejected. Plus, be prepared to provide solid documentation of a bona fide relationship as evidence. This can involve engagement and wedding-related documents, evidence that you have traveled together, records of communication, and more.

  • Not preparing for the interview

The application process involves an interview, so it’s best to prepare ahead of time. Review with your spouse the particulars of your relationship - how you met, details of your engagement, wedding, finances, and so on, to make sure you are on the same page. Also, never miss a scheduled appearance. If the immigration office schedules an appointment for a time you cannot attend, you or your attorney can reschedule. While not ideal, since this can delay the process, it is better than to simply not show up.

Obtaining a marriage-based visa can be a lengthy process, but it does not have to be an overwhelming one. An experienced immigration attorney will help you choose the best visa strategy for your case, provide expert assistance every step of the way, and ensure you have all the information you need to avoid costly errors during the application process.

Do you have additional inquiries about the subject? Attorney Emmanuel V. Meimaris provides legal counsel on matters related to immigration, family law, real estate and business.
Book a free consultation by calling (781) 636-3636 or filling out this form.

2 years ago

How to Get a Green Card for Your Parents If You Are a U.S. Citizen

If you are a U.S. citizen and at least 21 years old, you can get green cards for your parents, since they are considered to be immediate relatives.

Under immigration laws, parents are viewed as immediate relatives. This is a great thing, since there is no limit to the number of green cards given out every year for this category. That means they will not have to join a lengthy waiting list, ensuring a quicker application process. Even so, there are several conditions they need to meet in order to qualify for a green card.

First, the U.S. citizen has to prove he or she has sufficient income or assets to support the parent/s once they get to the U.S. Next, the parents have to prove they meet all the guidelines for a green card. This means that they can be denied entry if they have a record of immigration violations or criminal convictions, or if they carry a disease that presents a public health risk, and so on. Once established they have a clean record and bill of health, you can jump-start the application process.

The U.S. citizen will be required to fill out a specialized form, also called Petition for Alien Relative, meant to prove his or her status as a citizen, as well as the child-parent relationship. Consequently, you will have to provide copies of your proof of citizenship along with your birth certificate, or similar proof of your parents’ relationship to you. Every parent gets their own form, so you will have to submit two separate forms if you plan to petition for both parents.

Once the petition is approved, the USCIS will transfer the file to the National Visa Center for immigrant visa processing and later, to the U.S. Consulate or Embassy in your parents’ home country and they will receive more information about what documents and forms they are required to fill out at this stage. At the same time, the U.S. citizen will have to submit an Affidavit of Support. Finally, each parent will be called in for an interview that will decide whether his/her immigrant visa is approved.

This privilege extends to adoptive parents and step parents, although the application will be more complicated. An experienced immigration attorney will guide you through the process and provide all the information you need to ensure things will go as smoothly as possible.

Do you have additional inquiries about the subject? Attorney Emmanuel V. Meimaris provides legal counsel on matters related to immigration, family law, real estate and business.
Book a free consultation by calling (781) 636-3636 or filling out this form.

2 years ago