What Is A Family-Based Visa?
A family-based visa is any visa that’s based on a familial relationship. As an American citizen you can petition for your spouse, you can petition for your parent, you can petition for your child or you can petition for your brother or sister. As a permanent resident you can petition for your spouse, you can petition for a minor child, or you can petition for an adult child who is unmarried, but it’s more limited. Those are the only people that a permanent resident can petition for, so there is a difference between a family petition by a citizen versus a family petition by a permanent resident.
How Long Does The Process To Be Approved For A Family-Based Immigration Visa Take?
Timeframes can vary widely. You have to consider whether the whole case is going to be done in the United States – this is called an “adjustment of status” – or is it going to start in the U.S. but finish at a U.S. embassy or consulate outside the United States. The most difficult and the longest scenario is when you apply for a brother or sister. Depending on the country, it can take anywhere from 12 to 24 years. The best place for the sibling to be from would probably be Canada and the worst place is probably the Philippines. Each country has a limited number of applications that can be approved every year, and there are so many applications from the Philippines that it takes much longer than anywhere else in the world.
When you apply for somebody in the United States, those cases in Las Vegas usually take 12 to 19 months on average, but the timeframes do change every month. Even the timeframes that it takes to get a work and travel permit can change every month. In the past it always took three months, but now it can take five and a half to seven and a half months for a work and travel permit. It would be a little bit faster in Las Vegas because they have a lighter workload. Chicago might take an extra year just because they have so many more applications. Those timeframes are reported every single month on the USCIS website, and they do change.
If someone calls me today and I give them an estimated time and they get back to me in six months, that time could be completely different because things do change. It’s not as consistent as it used to be. You have to be aware of the times and then if for some reason you reach the maximum time you can contact the government and provide them with that information. They usually do a pretty good job once you contact them for them for the most part.
What Documents Are Needed For Family-Based Green Card Applications?
Normally when you file one of these cases you have to include evidence that you are either a citizen or a permanent resident. If you were born here you send a copy of your birth certificate and the picture page of your passport. If you’re a naturalized citizen, it’s always best to show them a copy of your naturalization certificate. If you’re married couple you send your marriage certificate, and for every divorce that you’ve had you have to present a divorce decree. If your spouse passed away then you have to provide a death certificate.
Those are the basic things to start with. The person that’s going to be immigrating also sends a copy of their birth certificate. If it’s not in English then it has to be accompanied by an English translation. You always have to have a copy of the foreign language document and the English translation if needed. You have to submit a passport-type photo and pay a filing fee. When they get the application they’ll review it, and if they think they’re missing something they’ll let you know. One of the things people often miss are tax documents to show that they make enough money to sponsor the person.
It can be slightly different when the person is getting approved outside the United States. Usually most countries require a police certificate. It’s different in every country but that’s usually the thing they ask for. That’s basically the background check before you’re allowed in.
There are some people that don’t have birth certificates – it’s rare but I have seen people from China and India that were never issued birth certificates. In that case you would need to get an affidavit from two people who can vouch for their place and date of birth, but they’re pretty flexible about that. Usually you can get their government to issue a birth certificate. We had a situation once with an Indian lady who went to her consulate in Los Angeles and they actually made her a birth certificate. That was very helpful because without that it would have been very difficult – at her age, the people who could vouch for her birth were already deceased. As always, you have to meet the rules and requirements although there are exceptions.
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