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Marriage or Cross-Border Relationships

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To promote family unity, immigration law allows U.S. citizens and current Lawful Permanent Residents (LPRs) to petition for certain qualified relatives to come and live permanently in the United States. Eligible immediate relatives include the petitioner’s:

  • Spouse
  • Unmarried child under the age of 21
  • Parent (if the U.S. citizen is over the age of 21)

Immediate relatives have special immigration priority and do not have to wait in line for a visa number to become available for them to immigrate because there are an unlimited number of visas for their particular categories.

Process for Family-Based Green Cards

The first step of the green card process involves the filing of Form I-130, Petition for Alien Resident, by the U.S. Citizen sponsor with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
This involves the preparation and submission of a comprehensive package to USCIS emphasizing the legitimacy of the familial relationship.

Upon approval of the I-130 petition, USCIS will then create the physical green card for an applicant. There are two ways to do this:

  1. Adjustment of Status
    This is a procedure that allows an applicant to become a lawful permanent resident without having to attend an immigrant visa interview outside the United States.
    Learn more about Adjustment of Status from our blog post – Adjustment of Status.
  2. Immigrant Visa (Consular) Processing
    This is a process where an immigrant visa interview takes place at an Embassy or Consulate outside the U.S. that has jurisdiction over the beneficiary.
    Learn more about Immigrant Consular Processing from our blog post – Immigrant Visa (Consular) Processing

Both methods of filing have advantages and disadvantages, and a decision should be made based on the applicant’s location at the time of filing, future travel and work plans, and the couple’s preference for processing.

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