II. Family Petitions for Preference Relatives
Under the preference relatives category, lawful permanent residents can sponsor their spouses, parents, and unmarried children.
U.S. citizens can additionally sponsor children 21 years old and up, married children, and siblings.
Preference relatives are subject to an overall annual visa cap as well as caps placed on individual countries of origin. This means that beneficiaries petitioning from certain countries, such as India, China, Mexico, and the Philippines, may experience longer waits than those applying from countries with lower immigration volumes.
USCIS only allocates 226,000 preference relative visas each year and distributes them across the following preference categories:
- Category 1. Unmarried adult children (over the age of 21) of U.S. citizens.
- Category 2A. Spouses and unmarried children under the age of 21 of Lawful Permanent residents.
- Category 2B. Unmarried adult children (over the age of 21) of lawful permanent residents.
- Category 3. Married children of U.S. citizens.
- Category 4. Siblings of U.S. citizens.
Note that lawful permanent residents cannot sponsor their siblings or married children of any age. Grandparents, grandchildren, uncles, aunts, cousins, or in-laws cannot be sponsored by U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents.
Once USCIS receives and reviews a family petition, a preference relative will receive a priority date. They will not be able to proceed with an adjustment of status or consular processing until their priority date becomes “current.” This means that preference relatives must wait until a visa becomes available under their preference category.
Depending on a beneficiary’s country of origin, applicants may face waits of multiple years or more before their priority date becomes current, normally refered to as visa bulletin. Applicants from Mexico and the Philippines currently face waiting times over 10 years in some subcategories.
Our CFIA family and immigration attorneys will always be transparent and forthright about waiting times associated with preference relative petitions. We understand how to read the Visa Bulletin and can assess what sort of wait you may need to anticipate before initiating the process.
After a visa becomes available, preference relatives will either request an adjustment of status if they are currently in the United States or go through the consular processing appointment if they are abroad. Consular processing includes application of affidavit of support, visa application and an in-person interview with a USCIS official.
Removing Conditions on a Marriage Lawful Permanent Resident Card
If you obtained your lawful permanent resident through marriage, you may receive a “conditional” lawful permanent resident card that expires after 2 years. Before 2 years expire, if your marriage was less than 2 years old when your lawful permanent resident card was issued, you will automatically receive a conditional lawful permanent resident card. You will need to apply to “remove conditions” in order to protect your status and procure a 10-year lawful permanent resident card. In the meantime, you will have all the rights and benefits of a conditional permanent resident.
USCIS remains concerned about the prospect of marriage fraud. To secure a lawful permanent resident card in the first place, you will need to have demonstrated that your marriage is genuine. The agency will again inspect the legitimacy of your marriage when it comes time to remove conditions on your residence.
As a general rule, you must jointly petition with your spouse to remove the conditions on your residence within the 90-days before your lawful permanent resident card expires. Should your spouse be unavailable as a result of divorce, death, or domestic violence, you may be able to file and to remove conditions with a waiver.
In many cases, USCIS will require that you participate in another in-person interview that assesses the veracity of your marriage. You will be expected to provide new evidence that establishes the evolution of your relationship. Once USCIS is satisfied, they will approve your request to remove the conditions, and you will be issued a lawful permanent resident card that is valid for 10 years. You will not have to prove the legitimacy of your marriage again.
Pursuing Citizenship After Getting Your Lawful Permanent Resident Card
Receiving a lawful permanent resident card through family-based immigration process represents a tremendous milestone that will mean reuniting with your loved ones. Becoming a lawful permanent resident entitles you to several powerful benefits as well as certain important responsibilities.
With a lawful permanent resident card, you can:
- Live and work anywhere in the United States
- Sponsor certain preference relatives for lawful permanent resident card
- Easily travel in and out of the country
- Become eligible for U.S. citizenship after 3 to 5 years, depending on how you obtained your lawful permanent resident card.
Keep in mind that lawful permanent residents can get deported under certain circumstances. You must follow all local, state, and federal laws and not be convicted of a deportable offense. lawful permanent resident card also do expire and must be renewed before hand.
If you are interested in becoming a permanent U.S. citizen after receiving your lawful permanent resident card, you must first wait several years as part of a mandatory waiting period. If you received your lawful permanent resident card through marriage and continue to be married to the same spouse, you need to only wait 3 years. If you obtained a lawful permanent resident card through any other relative, you will have to wait at least 5 years. During this time, you will need to comply with continuous and physical presence rules, which set limits on how often and for how long you can travel abroad.
Our immigration lawyers at Central Florida Immigration Attorneys can help you understand your responsibilities as a lawful permanent resident and protect your ability to pursue U.S. citizenship. One of our lead attorney’s as a former immigration services officer adjudicator give us unique insight into every aspect of the U.S. immigration system. We understand what is at stake with every immigration case and will do everything possible to guide you move through the process as efficiently as possible.