If you are a lawful permanent resident (LPR or green card holder) or U.S. citizen 21 years of age or older with relatives abroad, one of your 2014 New Year’s resolutions may be to sponsor them for a green card.  Trow & Rahal can help you navigate through the application process!

Here is some basic but important information that you should know before you start:

1. If the family member you wish to sponsor is in the U.S., he/she must have been lawfully inspected by U.S. Customs and admitted into the U.S. in a valid status.

2. Family-based immigration petitions are broken down into four preference categories:
o    Family First (F1): unmarried sons and daughters 21 years of age or older of U.S. citizens

o    Family Second (F2): spouses and children of LPRs (F2A), and unmarried sons and daughters 21 years of age or older of LPRs (F2B)

o    Family Third (F3): married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens

o    Family Fourth (F4): brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens

3. Each preference category is subject to the availability of immigrant visa (green card) numbers.  If there are no numbers available in the preference category then the applicant must wait until his/her priority date becomes current to file a green card application.  The term priority date refers to the date that the family-based application was properly received by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Spouses or minor children of U.S. citizens do not fall into any of these categories and therefore are not subject to this limitation.

4. The Visa Bulletin is published monthly by the U.S. Department of State (DOS) and provides the status of priority dates for each preference category.

5. The priority dates published in the Visa Bulletin do not move forward with real time: they may be current, remain unchanged from the prior month, jump forward by days, weeks, months or even years, or retrogress.   Therefore, it is difficult to predict how long the wait will be before a green card application falling in one of the preference categories will be adjudicated and the green card issued.

6. Generally the process consists of two steps:  Step 1 involves completing forms and providing proof of the family relationship. Upon properly filing with USCIS, a receipt notice will be issued indicating your priority date. Step 2 provides forms and information about the applicant.  If the published priority date in the Visa Bulletin is current for your preference category, both steps can be filed together.  If the published priority date is not current, only Step 1 can be filed by the sponsor.

While many people you know have successfully sponsored family members, it is vital to understand that no two cases are exactly the same.  Also USCIS can change its procedures and issue requests for evidence and possibly denials of green card applications in which the sponsor did not: determine if the priority date is current to be able to file an application, carefully follow all instructions, complete all necessary forms, and/or provide enough information to result in an approval.

Trow & Rahal regularly and successfully prepares petitions and applications involved in this process.  Hiring us to do the work for you, we will be with you every step of the way to help bring your family together.

Posted by: Cynthia Hemphill, Shareholder