A US green card makes you a permanent resident in the country. This means you can live, work, and study in the United States forever. There are different types of green card routes, but one of the most popular is the US Family Green Card.
In this post, you’ll find all you need to know about the green card route.
What is a US Family Green Card?
The US Family Green Card, as the name implies, is a route that allows families of US residents to join their relatives in the country. Through the Family Green Card route, immediate relatives of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents can immigrate to the United States and gain permanent residency.
Unlike permanent residents, U.S. citizens have more leeway in bringing in extended family members for a visit. Similarly, family members of US citizens have a faster path to obtaining a Green Card and immigrating to the United States.
Green Cards for family members are obtainable through either the “Immediate Relatives” or “Family Preference” categories. Applicants in each category can select from many different visas based on their relationship to the U.S. citizen or permanent resident sponsoring their application.
Your U.S. relative, who will act as your sponsor, must file a petition with USCIS on your behalf if you want to apply for a Family-Based Green Card.
Immediate Relative Category
You can apply as an immediate relative if one of these things is true:
- You and a U.S. citizen are legally married.
- You are the unmarried minor child of an American citizen.
- You are the parent of a citizen of the United States who is more than 21.
You may apply for one of the following visas if you meet any of the above criteria:
- IR1 Visa: for people who are married to U.S. citizens.
- The IR2 Visa: for children of U.S. citizens who are under 21 and are not married.
- IR3 Visa: for U.S. citizen parents who adopt a child from another country.
- IR4 Visa: for US citizens who adopt children in the U.S.
- IR5 Visa: for parents of 21-year-old or older U.S. citizens.
There is no annual cap on the number of visas issued under the Immediate Relative category. A short waiting time is typical since visas in this category are readily available.
Family Preference Category
You can apply as a preference relative if one of these things is true:
- You are an adult child of a U.S. citizen who has not married and is over 21 years old.
- You are the spouse or unmarried child of a U.S. permanent resident under 21.
- You are 21 or older, have never been married, and one of your parents is a permanent resident of the U.S.
- You are the married child of a U.S. citizen, no matter how old you are.
- You have a brother or sister who is an American citizen.
You may apply for one of the following visas if you meet any of the above criteria:
- F1 Visa: for unmarried adult children (21 years and older) of US citizens. It’s the first preference of the category.
- F2A Visa: for unmarried children not up to 21 and spouses of US permanent residents. It’s the second preference of the category.
- F2B Visa: for unmarried adult children (21 years and older) of US permanent residents. It’s also the second preference of the category.
- F3 Visa: for married children of US citizens. It’s the third preference of the category.
- F4 Visa: for brothers and sisters of US citizens up to 21 years and older. It’s the fourth preference of the category.
These visas are subject to quotas, in contrast to visas under the Immediate Relative category. As a result, many applicants must wait several years to receive their Green Cards if they take the preference route.
In addition to the Immediate Relative and Family Preference categories, there’s also the less popular accompanying relative category.
Accompanying Relative Category
In some cases, the primary applicant’s spouse and unmarried minor children may also be able to apply for and receive US Green Cards as accompanying relatives – officially known as derivative beneficiaries.
All eligible family members must be listed in the visa application of a Family Preference applicant. After that, they must file their own application to become lawful permanent residents and continue living in the United States.
All visa petitions based on a preference category may contain derivative beneficiaries. However, accompanying family members of U.S. citizens are not eligible to apply for Green Cards.
How To Apply for the US Family Green Card
The procedure for applying for a Family-Based Green Card is the same regardless of whether you apply as an immediate or preferred relative.
To begin the process, your US relative will fill and submit Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, to the USCIS. There will be a waiting period for the USCIS to process the visa if they approve the petition.
In such a case, you will need to undergo consular processing if you’re outside the US. Afterward, the USCIS will send your authorized Form I-130 to the appropriate United States Embassy or Consulate in your country. Next, you’ll need to submit a completed Form DS-261. There is also a $325 application fee.
If the USCIS approves your Form DS-261, you can apply for an immigrant visa by submitting Form DS-260, Immigrant Visa Application. You will submit your visa application form with the appropriate supporting materials. You’ll likely need to go to the embassy for a visa interview.
If you’re already in the United States on another type of visa, you can apply for a visa switch instead. To do this, you must fill and submit Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status.
Family Green Cards Supporting Documents
You must submit the necessary documents to apply for a Green Card based on family ties. Depending on your category – Family Preference or Immediate Relative – and circumstances, the USCIS will demand the following documents:
- Valid international passport. The passport must be valid for at least six months after you enter the US.
- Two passport photographs, according to US visa requirements.
- Birth certificate for children of US citizens or permanent residents.
- Certificate of marriage or another recognized document for spouses and partners of US citizens or permanent residents.
- Proof of divorce from any previous marriages.
- Medical examination report if required.
Note that most of the documents you’ll provide will be unique to your circumstance. Hence, the USCIS will demand more documents than in the above list. Documents written in a language other than English will require translation.
US Family Green Card Application Fee
The amount you will have to pay to obtain a Green Card based on family ties will vary based on the type of visa you are applying for and the country you apply. However, the following fees are mandatory for all applicants:
- Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, has a $535 filing fee.
- Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Change Status, has a $1,140 application fee.
- The Immigration visa application (Form DS-261), which you must submit to become a permanent resident of the United States, has a $325 filing fee.
- USCIS immigrant fee: $220.
If your documents are not in English, you may need to pay translation fees if the embassy is doing the translation. In addition, you may need to pay for biometrics.
Family Green Cards Processing Time
When applying for a Green Card based on a family relationship, the processing period can vary widely depending on the visa category. Getting a Green Card is much faster for people in the immediate relative category than the preference category. That’s because visas under the Immediate Relative Route are perpetually open and have no quota.
Many people applying for family preference visas have to wait for years. Here is the annual visa cap for various visas under the preference category:
- 24,000 for F1 visas.
- 114,200 for F2 visas, which includes 79,940 F2A visas and 34,260 F2B Visas.
- 23,400 for F3 visas.
- 65,000 for F4 visas.
After the annual quota is complete, no more applications will be accepted, and candidates will have to wait until the following year to reapply.
When You Enter the US
You’ll usually receive your Family Green Card as soon as you enter the US. The USCIS will mail it to the address included in your application. You should alert the agency within 30 days if there’s any error on your Green Card.
In rare cases, you may get a Green Card with conditions. In other words, you don’t become a US permanent resident but a US conditional permanent resident. You should apply to remove the conditions after residing in the US for two years if you were of good conduct.
The conditional permanent residence status is not renewable. The USCIS will grant you a permanent residence card if you are of good conduct. Otherwise, you may need to leave the country.
With your US family green card, you can travel in and out of the country without restrictions. You only need to present your green card at the port of entry every time you return to the country.
However, you shouldn’t plan a trip that’ll keep you outside the US for more than a year. If you must, you must first apply for a reentry permit on Form I-131.
You can apply for a reissue if you misplace your green card in the US. However, if you misplace it outside the US, you’ll need to apply for carrier documentation.
Family Green Card Denial, What Can You Do?
What you do if the USCIS or a U.S. consulate rejects your application depends on the nature of the application. It’ll also depend on where you apply – within or outside the US.
Generally, if you’ve had trouble getting your green card, you may want to consult an immigration attorney. This is especially crucial if the USCIS denies your application for reasons other than a paperwork mistake or lack of supporting documents. Furthermore, removal proceedings and motions to reopen or reconsider are relatively complex and require a lawyer.
If USCIS rejects the initial petition by the US citizen or permanent resident, the best course of action is to file a new petition. Although an appeals process is available, it’ll only delay time and cost you. Hence, you’ll save time and money if you start over.
If the USCIS denies your US Family Green Card application, they will send you a mail explaining why. Most green card denials are due to an incomplete application. Hence, the consulate or embassy you apply to may demand more documents before they give a final verdict.
Therefore, the denial is not final; you will have a year to submit evidence that could lead to a reversal of the decision. If you haven’t provided the visa officer with the requested evidence within a year, your application will be closed, and you’ll have to start again. The decision to deny or close is final and irreversible.
Getting a US Family green card is the best way to become a US permanent resident if you have a family member who is a permanent resident or citizen.
You can use the information in the post as a guide to apply for and subsequently obtain your green card. If you have any questions, please let us know in the comments section.