Family Unity Could Take Time
I often receive inquiries on what constitutes qualifying relationships for family immigration sponsorship. Under President Trump’s proposed immigration plan, only spouses and children of U.S. citizens and permanent residents (“green card” holders) may be sponsored to immigrate to the U.S. However, his proposal is not the law, so I will aim to answer the question of “what is a qualifying relationship” and “can I still sponsor my brother.”
First, let’s go over three different processes because they will be referenced later on:
- I-130 family petition. This is the petition submitted by a U.S. citizen or permanent resident to sponsor a qualifying relative.
- I-485 adjustment of status application. This is the application filed by the sponsored relative in the U.S. to get the “green card.”
- Consular processing. If the sponsored relative does not live in the U.S., he/she will complete the immigration process by submitting additional forms, documents, and payments via the “National Visa Center”. Eventually, the relative will have an interview at a U.S. consulate, usually in his/her home country. If the application is approved, the relative will be issued an immigrant visa to enter the US as an immigrant. The green card will come in the mail 2 to 4 weeks after entry.
Immediate Relatives. An immediate relative is the spouse, child (under 21 years old), or parent of a U.S. citizen. There is no quota in this category and an immigrant visa is immediately available. The I-130 and I-485 applications can be submitted at the same time for a qualifying relative if the relative is in the U.S. Even if the relative is in the U.S. without valid immigration status, he/she can still be issued a green card without leaving the U.S., as long as the relative entered the U.S. legally. You should be aware that only U.S. citizens, not permanent residents, are allowed to sponsor their parents.
First preference category (F1): Unmarried sons and daughters of U.S. citizens. In U.S. immigration law lingo, “sons and daughters” refer to children who are 21 years or older. “Children” refers to those who are under 21 years old.
Second preference category A (F2A): Spouses and children of permanent residents.
Second preference category B (F2B): Unmarried sons and daughter of permanent residents. Please note that if a person starts off as an unmarried son or daughter, but later gets married, he/she will be disqualified from this category. The qualification will not be reinstated if he/she later gets a divorce.
Third preference category (F3): Married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens, regardless of age. Please note that only U.S. citizens can sponsor their married sons and daughters. Permanent residents may not.
Fourth preference category (F4): Brothers and sisters of adult U.S. citizens. Only U.S. citizens may sponsor a brother or sister. A permanent resident cannot.
There is no category for uncles, aunts, nephews or cousins. Same sex couples qualify the same as heterosexual couples. Step children, step siblings, and adopted children may qualify if they meet separate requirements.
If the qualifying relationship falls under F1, F2A, F2B, F3, or F4, the U.S. citizen or permanent resident must first submit an I-130 petition in the U.S. After that is approved, the relative must wait for his/her “priority date” to become current (think of it as a “green card” quota), before submitting the I-485 application or going through consular processing.
The Approximate Current Wait Time For A “Green Card” Quota
Please note that the wait time changes monthly. You should also note that four countries – China, Mexico, India, and the Philippines – have a separate queue due to the increased number of applicants from those countries. It sometimes does not change for months, or it can shift up or down widely because of changes in the law, which may spike applications. However, as of November 2017, the approximately wait times for each category are:
Immediate relative: No wait
F1 category: 6.5 years for all, except it is 21 years for people born in Mexico and 10.5 years for people born in the Philippines.
F2A category: 2 years for all.
F2B category: 7 years for all, except it is 21 years for people born in Mexico and 10.5 years for people born in the Philippines.
F3 category: 12 years for all, except it is 22 years for people born in Mexico and the Philippines.
F4 category: 13 years for all, except it is 14 years for people born in India, 20 years for people born in Mexico, and 23 years for people born in the Philippines.
Are You Kidding Me?
These wait times spur the question: “You can’t seriously mean that a “green card” holder has to wait 2 years to be united with his/her spouse and children, and a U.S. citizen has to wait over 23 years to sponsor a brother or sister from the Philippines.” Unfortunately, the wait time is real. It is determined by a complicated formula of annual quotas of all “green cards” and how a specific country has used up the quotas over years, as well as used and unused quotas in various categories. The wait time is published by the Department of State monthly in the Visa Bulletin. You may view the latest Visa Bulletin and subscribe to it at this site: https://travel.state.gov/content/visas/en/law-and-policy/bulletin.html.
The proposed changes are likely to eliminate the category for U.S. citizen siblings. Discussion and proposal to eliminate this category has been floated in various immigration proposals in past years, long before Donald Trump became the President of the United States. If Congress passes any immigration reform, it will likely cancel this category. Pending applications will likely be grandfathered, however. Therefore, while the wait time is unbelievably long, it does not hurt to submit an application to secure your place in line.
I believe in family unity and the immigration categories that bring families together. I was just helping a family who was bringing the last sibling in China to the U.S. Both parents have passed away, and the rest of the brothers and sisters are already in the U.S. as either U.S. citizens or permanent residents. For some reasons, one brother was never included in the process. The families have been trying to bring him to the U.S. for years. They have followed the law and waited patiently. They finally have their turn, and the brother will soon be joining the rest of the siblings in the U.S. This is what family unity and legal immigration is about. I believe that it would be a mistake to eliminate any of the above-referenced family categories. However, the risk of losing some of the categories is real. If these categories apply to you, you may want to consider acting quickly to submit an application and save your place in line before it is too late.
If you have questions about your personal situation or would simply like to discuss options for you or a loved one, please call me at (480) 344.4577 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org