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Immigrant Visas are designed for people who want to live and work in the United States permanently.  We call this visa “green card.”  There are many ways you can file for green card.  One of which is by a family based application. 

Family Based Green Card Applications:


     I.        Immediate Relatives:  Immediate relatives are the children, spouses, and parents of United States Citizens.  If the U.S. Citizen person and the relative are in the United States, petition process usually takes six months.  If the child, spouse or parent is in a foreign country, he or she must apply at a consulate in his or her country, or spouse of a U.S. Citizen may file for fiancée visa (K-3 Visa) to come to the United States and marry the U.S. Citizen petitioner within 90 days of arrival to the United States.  The petitioning U.S. Citizen must be financially responsible for the relative and must have a level of income that is sufficient under the poverty guidelines.  Joint U.S. Citizen sponsor(s) is or are allowed as well.  For poverty guidelines, please visit http://www.uscis.gov/files/form/I-864P.pdf 

    II.        Brothers and Sisters (Fourth Preference):  A U.S. citizen can sponsor his or her brother or/and sister for green card.  However, the processing times are long.  It is a long process, but it is after all a process and you have nothing to lose.  We recommend the U.S. Citizen sponsor to file for the I-130 form for his or her brother and get a priority date and wait until the green card visa date is current and file for green card thereafter.  To check the priority dates of visa availability please visit the U.S. Department of state website at http://travel.state.gov/visa/frvi/bulletin/bulletin_3258.html

  III.        Other Relatives:

First Preference
: Unmarried Sons and Daughters of Citizens. 

Second Preference
: Spouses and Children, and Unmarried Sons and Daughters of Permanent Residents: 

A. Spouses and Children: 77% of the overall second preference limitation, of which 75% are exempt from the per-country limit;

B. Unmarried Sons and Daughters (21 years of age or older): 23% of the overall second preference limitation.

Third Preference: Married Sons and Daughters of Citizens.
Again, before filing for any of the above petitions, please note the processing times and visa availability dates at http://travel.state.gov/visa/frvi/bulletin/bulletin_3258.html


1.    How soon can I apply for green card if I am married to a U.S. Citizen?

You can apply for green card immediately.  Even on the day of marriage.  If you just entered the United States, you must wait 60 days from your entry to file the application.  If you are a frequent traveler and an investor, 60 day rule shall not apply.

2.    Do I still acquire the green card if I am divorced?

Depends.  If you have been married for less than two years prior to your application for green card, you are awarded a conditional green card for two years.  After the expiration of two years, you apply for permanent green card.  If you are divorced prior to filing for your green card, your application will be terminated.  If, however, you divorce after acquisition of the conditional green card but prior to filing for the permanent green card, you can still apply for a permanent green card, by filing the I-751 form with supporting evidence that you entered into marriage in good faith, i.e. for love.  Wedding photographs, travel photographs, joint accounts, and jointly named legal documents can be shown as proof of bona fide marriage.

3.    What documents do I need to file for the green card?

Adjustment forms, applicable fees, copies of your passport, copy of proof of citizenship for your spouse (birth certificate or naturalization certificate, proof of your spouse’s income, copy of your birth certificate, your medical exam report from an approved physician and four passport photographs of you and your U.S. Citizen spouse.  The application process usually takes 6 months.

4.    Can I travel out of the United States during the pendency of my application?

Yes.  You need to file for advance parole and have it approved.  Otherwise, your application will be terminated upon your exit from the United States.

5.    What if I entered the U.S. illegally or I came to the U.S. under the visa waiver program?

If you entered the U.S. illegally, you cannot file for green card not unless you filed for immigration benefits prior to April 30, 2001.  Visa Waiver entrants can file for green card.  If you entered the U.S. legally (visitor, student, investor, etc.) and overstayed your status you can still file for green card even if you did not file for immigration benefits prior to April 30, 2001.

6.    Can I apply for green card myself only?

Yes.  If you are a spouse, child or parent who is subject to extreme cruelty or battery may file a self-petition independently of the abusive U.S. Citizen Spouse or parent.

7.    Can I apply for my adopted child?

Yes.  If you are a U.S. Citizen and adopted a child or children under 16 (if another adopted sibling in same family, age limit becomes 18) with two years of legal custody and residing with parents for two years.

8.    What if I am in deportation proceedings?

You can still apply for green card even if you marry a U.S. Citizen, while in deportation proceedings.  This is true even if you have criminal convictions (except in drug cases) as long as extreme hardship is shown.  You can even marry your spouse while being detained in immigration detention.

9.    What if my marriage looks sham?

If you do not enter marriage in good faith you will be deported.  The best thing to do is withdraw your application, because you don’t want to be adjudged guilty of marriage fraud.  Cut your losses and abandon the application.

10.  Do I have to be married in the United States?

No.  As long as you have a valid civil marriage certificate from another country all you need is certified translation of that certificate and immigration will recognize that certificate.


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