Permanent Residence for Family Members

Goel & Anderson understands that uniting families of foreign nationals in the United States can be a lengthy and extremely frustrating process. We take great pride in our efforts to help United States citizens and permanent residents sponsor their close family members so they can be reunited permanently in the U.S.

The following summary provides a general overview of an often-complex procedure for which we develop pragmatic, comprehensive and flexible solutions to expedite the process.

Congress has designated the following family-based groups as eligible for permanent residence:

  • "Immediate Relatives" of U.S. citizens - Family members of United States citizens who are eligible for immediate relative status, i.e., parents, spouses, and children (under age 21).
  • Other close family members of U.S. citizens - The first family-based preference is for unmarried sons and daughters (age 21 and older) of United States citizens; the third family-based preference is married sons and daughters (age 21 and older) of United States citizens, and; the fourth family-based preference is brothers and sisters (siblings) of United States citizens who are age 21 or older.
  • Close family members of U.S. Permanent Residents - the second preference applies to spouses, children (under age 21), and unmarried sons and daughters (age 21 and older) of U.S. permanent residents;

Congress has capped family-sponsored immigrants at 480,000 annually. Immediate relatives of U.S. citizens may be admitted in unlimited numbers, but come under the overall cap which effectively reduces the available visas for other family-sponsored immigrants. However, since annual immigrant visas available to other family-sponsored categories may not be reduced below 226,000 annual visas, regardless of the demand for visas among immediate relatives of U.S. citizens, it means the annual cap can be raised to accommodate the excess numbers used by immediate relatives.

With regard to all other family-based groups, only a limited number of immigrant visas are available within the annual cap for persons from each foreign state and within each preference category. The U.S. Department of State’s Visa Office keeps track of assignments of immigrant visas within the preferences, and by country, to assure that the numerical limit placed on each category and for each country are not exceeded. An immigrant visa is assigned based on the alien's "priority date." For persons seeking immigration through close family relationships, the priority date is the date the immigrant visa petition (I-130) is filed with USCIS. There are often significant backlogs with available visas for most family-based immigration categories. Information on current visa availability is provided in the State Department’s Visa Bulletin.

Most family-based cases are initiated when the sponsoring relative files a Form I-130 immigrant visa petition with the appropriate USCIS Service Center. When a petition is approved and the “priority date” becomes current (i.e. after any applicable visa backlog has passed), the sponsored individual may apply for an immigrant visa through Consular Post Processing (CPP) at a U.S. consulate abroad or, if eligible and in the U.S., he or she may apply to adjust status to permanent residence while in the U.S.