Each year, just under four million individuals are on the waiting lists for family-based immigration to the United States. Family-based immigration allows a relative of a U.S. citizen to enter the country legally and live and work in the country. As a path to legal permanent residency, family-based petitions also allow immigrants to eventually apply for naturalization and become U.S. citizens.

If you have a family member you’d like to help immigrate to the U.S., you must complete the family-based petition process with the U.S. Department of State. A family-based immigration lawyer in Los Angeles can review your situation, explain your options, and help you determine the best path to reunite with your family in the United States.

What is a Family-Based Petition?

Under immigration law, a petition is an act of filing a request to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to legally allow a non-U.S. citizen into the United States. The petition helps non-U.S. citizens become lawful permanent residents (Green Card holders).

Family-based petitions are specifically intended for U.S. citizens or Green Card holders to petition the USCIS on behalf of a non-U.S. family member. These petitions are the primary way for U.S. citizens and permanent residents to reunite with their families in the United States.

Who Can Qualify for Family-Based Immigration?

A non-U.S. citizen may qualify for family-based immigration in the United States if they are sponsored by a family member who is either one of the following:

  • A U.S. citizen, either natural-born or naturalized, OR
  • A lawful permanent resident with a valid Green Card

The petitioning U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident must establish their relationship with their foreign relative. The Department of State distinguishes two categories of family members: Immediate Relatives and Family Preference Categories. Each category has its own visas and associated requirements.

A Los Angeles family immigration lawyer can help you understand the different family-based visas and walk all family members involved through the filing process.

Types of Immediate Relative Visas

As a petitioner, you can file for one of the following relative visas. For each type, you must be a U.S. citizen:

  • IR-1: Immigrant visa for spouses of U.S. citizens. The foreign relative must be married to them.
  • IR-2: Immigrant visa for the U.S. citizen’s unmarried children under 21.
  • IR-3 and IR-4: Immigrant visa for the U.S. citizen’s adopted orphans. IR-3 is for children adopted abroad, whereas IR-4 is for orphans to be adopted in the United States.
  • IR-5: Immigrant visa for parents of a U.S. citizen 21 or over.

What Documents Do You Need to Apply for a Family Visa

Whether you are a foreign spouse, family member, or relative of a U.S. citizen, applying for the visa you need requires collecting and submitting the correct documents. An immigration lawyer in Los Angeles, California, can help you gather the necessary documentation depending on your specific visa. Typically, you must complete and submit the following during the application process:

  • Proof of petitioner status. The petitioner must prove they are a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident. A copy of the passport, birth certificate, naturalization certificate, or Green Card can help prove the petitioner’s status and age if required by the visa.
  • Evidence of relationship. The foreign relative must submit documentation proving familial ties with the U.S. citizen relative. Examples include birth certificates, marriage certificates, and adoption papers. They may also need to bring supporting documents such as school records, photographs, military service records, or third-party affidavits proving their identity and relationship status.
  • Form I-130. This USCIS form, known as the Petition for Alien Relative, must be completed and filed by the U.S. person petitioning for you. This form is necessary regardless of familial ties with the petitioner.
  • A valid passport and photographs. The non-U.S.-based relatives must be able to travel internationally lawfully. If you are an immigrating relative, ensure you have a valid passport before traveling to the United States and obtain at least two passport-style photographs.
  • Form DS-260. Also known as the Immigrant Visa Electronic Application. You will need to complete this online Department of State form during the visa application process.
  • Medical records. You must complete a medical examination during the application process. The USCIS offers guidance on finding a medical doctor. After the exam, keep all relevant records and fill out Form I-693, Report of Immigration Medical Examination and Vaccination Record.
  • Police certificates. You must be able to provide certificates proving you have a clean criminal record in all countries you’ve resided in since the age of 16.
  • Form I-864. Also known as the Affidavit of Support Under Section 213A of the INA. Your U.S. petitioner must complete this USCIS form to prove they meet the federal income requirements to support you financially.

The Process of Immigrating Through a Family Member

Although the specifics may vary depending on the visa type, you will follow a few general steps during the family immigration process. Your attorney can guide you through the following:

  • Determining eligibility. Find out whether you qualify for family-based immigration and choose the right type of visa to apply for. Los Angeles family immigration lawyers can help you determine which family-based category you fall into and which visa best suits your needs.
  • Petitioner Files Form I-130. Your U.S. relative must start the process by completing and submitting Form I-130 to the USCIS.
  • USCIS review. The USCIS reviews the application. Processing times may vary. If the USCIS returns an approval response, the petition will be forwarded to the nearest National Visa Center (NVC)
  • NVC review. All approved I-130 petitions receive an NVC case number. The NVC will notify you and your petitioner on two occasions: when they receive the visa petition and when an immigrant visa number is about to become available.
  • Complete Form DS-260. When invited to do so by the NVC, log on to the Department of State portal and complete Form DS-260.
  • Petitioner Files Affidavit of Support. Your U.S. relative must prove they have enough income or assets to support your financial needs by submitting Form I-864.
  • Submit Supporting Documents. Submit all documents the NVC requests to complete your application and process your case number. They may include dentification, photos, civil documents, and police certificates.
  • Complete the interview and examination. Visit your local U.S. embassy or consulate and meet with a visa officer. You will undergo an interview and a medical exam to assess your eligibility for your chosen visa. If the visa is approved, you will be asked to pay USCIS immigration fees and hold onto a visa packet. Do not open or unseal this packet.
  • Travel to the United States. Travel to the United States before the visa expires. Upon arrival, present the unopened visa packet to a Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer. Once you enter the United States, you will receive your Green Card at your specified U.S. address.

File an Accurate Petition in Los Angeles

Family-based immigration is a lengthy and complex procedure requiring you to understand many rules and file numerous forms. While it is not a legal requirement, a skilled family immigration lawyer can help you make the application process smoother.

They can guide you through immigration laws and regulations, help you avoid common mistakes and delays, and give you the best chance of reuniting with your family in the United States.

For a Free Consultation, contact us at (213) 624-1793 or info@avazianlaw.com