“Family-Based Immigration” refers to the process of having a family member sponsor a relative for Immigration benefits. While in some cases, it is possible for a family member to serve as a sponsor in connection with a temporary non-immigrant visa (like a tourist visa), Family Based Immigration more directly refers those cases where a family member sponsors a relative for a Green Card ( Immigrant Visa). Provided that the sponsor and immigrant can meet all of the qualifications, it remains as one of the most popular and straight forward ways to obtain a Green Card.
Under U.S. Immigration Law, ONLY U.S. Citizens and Legal Permanent Residents who are over 21 years old may serve as immigration sponsors.
A United States Citizen can sponsor his or her:
3. Child under 21
4. Child over 21
NOTE that Parents, Spouse, and Children under 21 are considered “Immediate Relatives” under U.S. immigration law and are entitled to a preference in the processing of the case. Immediate relatives are not subject to numerical limitations or caps, and they are also excused from certain minor immigration violations (eg. failure to maintain status, unauthorized employment) which allows them to adjust status and obtain their green card in the U.S., even though they may have technically violated the law. As I like to tell my clients, an immediate relative of U.S. Citizen can go to “the front of the line” and request that their green card be processed as soon as they are eligible.
However, one VERY IMPORTANT qualification (under Section 245(a) of the Immigration and Nationality Act) is that the sponsored immigrant was “inspected and admitted or paroled into the United States.” This means that IF the sponsored immigrant entered the U.S. without inspection (“EWI”) and was therefore NOT admitted or paroled, that they are not eligible to adjust status and obtain their green card in the U.S., EVEN IF they are married to a U.S. citizen. While that sponsored immigrant may still be ELIGIBLE to obtain a green card through their immediate relative sponsor, they can only do so by leaving the U.S. and going through consular processing in their home country. Depending upon the facts and circumstances of the sponsored immigrants case, this may trigger additional grounds of inadmissibility, such as the 3/10 Year Bar which may effectively prevent the sponsored immigrant from returning to the U.S. until they have remained outside of the U.S. for 3 or 10 years, depending on the facts of their case.
Since sponsorship does not extend beyond parents, spouses, children, and siblings (brothers/sisters), the unfortunate result is that US Citizens and Permanent residents may NOT sponsor their aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, or grandparents, or other distant relatives. Only these very close and immediate relationships will qualify for sponsorship.
NOTE however, that a United States Citizen can also serve as a sponsor for his/her fiancee for a K-1 visa, which is actually a non-immigrant visa that only allows the fiancee to travel to the United States in order to marry the sponsor (within 90 days) and then to apply for permanent residence (green card).
Also, a Lawful Permanent Resident (Green Card Holder) can sponsor his or her:
2. Child under 21
3. Child over 21 (who is not married)
If you have questions or need assistance in with your Family-based Immigration case, call South Florida Immigration Lawyer Sean D. Hummel at (954) 385-3111.