Immigration Insights: Family Visas – Who Can Apply?

The family visa, also known as the form I-130 visa, is a deeply misunderstood form of legal immigration. Often derogatorily referred to as “chain migration,” the true method of application and immigration through this method is far more complex. 

The first misconception that often comes with the discussion of a family visa is who the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is willing to acknowledge as “family.” Under USCIS regulations, family visas can only be granted to either the spouse, child, or parent of a U.S. citizen. A permanent resident may petition for a spouse or unmarried child. 

For people petitioning for family visas, preference is given to certain groups of family members applying. The USCIS has split the family preferences into four categories:

  • First preference: unmarried children 21 or older of U.S. citizens
  • Second preference: spouses and children under 21 of permanent residents
  • Third preference: married children of U.S. citizens
  • Fourth preference: Siblings of U.S. citizens

There is also a subsection of second preference that covers children of permanent residents over 21. Additionally, the fiance of a U.S. citizen can also apply for a special fiance visa that exists separately from normal family visas. It should also be noted that as of July 1, 2013, same-sex spouses do qualify for the family visa process.

Even if the U.S. citizen or permanent resident has a family member who fulfills the criteria laid out by the USCIS, their troubles may not be over. Complications arising during the filing process or rejections by the USCIS can delay the arrival of a family member indefinitely. For this reason, it is important to have an authority on immigration law, such as an immigration attorney, review the application or consult on the process in order to flag any issues before they are presented to an official reviewer. 

If you or a loved one are struggling with the immigration process, contact an immigration attorney to help clarify the process and ensure the best possible outcome for your spouse, child, or sibling. 

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