U.S. Law Center

Is family-based visas an important topic to you?

It often takes years for those who are immigrants in California or elsewhere in the United States to ensure that their closest family members and relatives will be able to come join them in this country. The U.S. government offers family-based visas in a variety of circumstances. If you recall navigating the U.S. immigration system when you emigrated from another country, you likely remember what a complex system it can be.

It can also be quite stressful trying to keep all your paperwork straight, comply with notices to appear at official hearings or interviews, and to do everything you need to do to adhere to U.S. immigration laws, regulations and policies. Perhaps, you were a lawful permanent resident (LPR) who filed a petition to sponsor a family member's journey to the United States.

Making sure to file proper paperwork is important

If, since filing an initial petition of sponsorship, you have since become a naturalized U.S. citizen, you will need to update your paperwork. Also, if you plan to sponsor an immigrant, you must reside in the United States and be able to prove that you have a domicile, or residence. You must be age 18 or beyond to sign an Affidavit of Support.

Did you have a baby abroad?

Maybe, after obtaining citizenship, you traveled abroad and gave birth to a child overseas. It may be possible for your child to qualify as a U.S. citizen. If a consular officer determines that your child does not qualify for citizenship, he or she will need a visa to live in the United States.

Which relatives can you sponsor?

It is often possible to sponsor a spouse, sibling, uncle, aunt or cousin so that he or she may enter and reside in the United States on a family-based visa. For immediate relative immigrants, meaning a spouse, a child under age 21 (provided you are a U.S. citizen) or an orphan you are adopting, there are an unlimited number of visas available. 

Certain other types of visas, however, such as those pertaining to a more distant relative, may be limited in number per fiscal year. It is highly important to make sure you satisfy the requirements according to your legal status as well as the exact type of family based visa you wish to help your family member acquire.

The National Visa Center

If you file a petition for a family based visa, the National Visa Center will process it. This takes time. If your petition is approved, you will have additional paperwork to fill out, plus numerous fees to pay. Your loved one will also need a passport to travel to the United States. Obtaining a passport is a separate process with its own requirements and regulations.

Problems sometimes arise

Whether you're acting as a sponsor for a family member or someone is sponsoring you to come and live in California or another state, any number of issues can arise that delay or somehow impede your journey. This is why it's always a good idea to stay closely connected with someone who is well-versed in U.S. immigration law.

An attorney will know what to do if a problem arises, especially one pertaining to your or your loved one's legal status or eligibility to enter the U.S. on a family-based visa.

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