Family-based green cards
Green card holders and US Citizens can petition for certain family members to obtain permanent residency.
If you are the spouse, unmarried child under 21, or an unmarried son or daughter of any age, of a permanent resident, then that person may petition on your behalf for a green card. There is a visa available to these family members that enable them to stay together while waiting for the processing of their immigrant visas.
A US Citizen may petition for a spouse, parent, child and sibling. Immigration law also allows the alien spouse of a U.S. citizen and minor children to be admitted to the United States as nonimmigrants while they are awaiting the adjudication of their petitions. They are also permitted to obtain employment authorization during this period.
There are “preference categories” that exist for each type of relative. Your preference category will determine how long you will have to wait for an immigrant visa number. The further down the list the longer the wait – generally. The processing times for all the categories are continually updated and can be viewed on the US Citizenship and Immigration Service website.
First preference is given to the unmarried, adult sons and daughters of U.S. citizens. The second preference is for spouses and unmarried minor children of green card holders. The next rung is the unmarried adult sons and daughters of green card holders. Married sons and daughters of any age of U.S. citizens is the next preference category. And lastly, there are the brothers and sisters of adult U.S. citizens. No wait time exists for the spouse or minor children of a US Citizen.
If you marry a US Citizen or green card holder you will have to show that the marriage is genuine and was not entered into for the sole purpose of evading immigration laws. When you are granted a green card through marriage and you have been married for less than 2 years, your green card is conditional. It is up to you to have the conditions removed within the 90-day period before the expiration date on the conditional resident card. If you fail to file to lift the conditions during this time, your resident status will be terminated and you may be subject to removal from the United States.
In this instance a US employer has offered you a job. One of the most important requirements in this category is that the sponsoring employer must obtain a labor certification from the US Department of Labor, which is submitted together with the green card application. In a nutshell, the labor certification must show that the foreign worker will not displace US workers.
Your spouse can accompany you as well, and he/she may apply for an Employment Authorization Document, which will enable him/her to work while the green card application is being processed. Your minor children may also be admitted.
An immigrant category is available to investors/entrepreneurs who are making an investment in a commercial enterprise in the United States, thereby creating ten permanent full time jobs for qualified United States workers. The foreign national must invest $1,000,000, ($500,000 in high unemployment or rural area), in a targeted employment area.
Some immigrant categories provide for a “self-petition”; namely, for those persons with “extraordinary ability” in the sciences, arts, education, business or athletics.
In conclusion of this series, I would like to reiterate that unfortunately there are avalanches of immigration scams out there that intend to lure vulnerable foreign nationals. Only an attorney or an accredited organization can give you legal advice on immigration matters. In short, be guarded as to whom you hire. If you are uncertain, ask to see the person’s credentials, get a referral from a trusted source or look for alternative representation if you feel unsure for any reason.
It is my hope that I have been able to shed some light on some uncertainties you might have had about the immigration avenues available to you. Immigrating to the United States of America is a journey for the brave, but with it (as with everything else in life) comes a life altering and rewarding experience.
Lara Allem-Romanello is a United States and a South African attorney. She currently practices in the United States. She focuses exclusively on immigration law, providing professional services to individuals and corporations, on a global platform. You may contact Ms. Allem-Romanello at 561.386.2006 or [email protected] You may also visit her website at www.lar-law.com and blog at www.larlawblog.com . She is also a member of LinkedIn, and you can follow her on Twitter @LAllemR .