U.S. citizens and permanent residents can file petitions for visas for certain family members. The amount of time it takes to receive a family immigration visa in Houston depends on the petitioner and the type of family member. This will also determine which applications to submit.
1. What are family visas?
There are two types of family visas; Immediate Relative Immigrant visa and Family Preference Immigrant visa. Immediate relative immigrant visas are not limited each fiscal year. These types include:
- IR-1 Spouse of a U.S. citizen
- IR-2 An unmarried child under the age of 21 of a U.S. citizen
- IR-3 An orphan adopted abroad by a U.S. citizen
- IR-4 An orphan adopted in U.S. by a U.S. citizen
- IR-5 A parent of a U.S. citizen at least 21 years of age
Family preference immigrant visas are specific, more distant type of relationships with a U.S. citizen and some certain relationships with a Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR). These visas are limited to a certain number per year. These types include:
- Family first preference (F1): unmarried sons and daughters of U.S. citizens and their minor children (23,400 per year)
- Family second preference (F2): spouses, minor children, and sons and daughters of age 21 and over of LPRs. Seventy-seven percent of the visas go to spouses and minor children, the rest go to sons and daughters over 21 years of age. (114,200)
- Family third preference (F3): married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens and their spouses and minor children (23,400)
- Family fourth preference (F4): brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens, and their spouses and minor children, provided the U.S. citizens are at least 21 years of age (65,000)
Once the family preference immigrant visas have all been assigned, there will be a waitlist. These petitions will be selected in chronological order based on file date. Your file date is your priority date. Your petition may not be approved before your priority date. In some cases, it may be years before a petition is approved.
2. Filing a Petition
The first step towards receiving a family immigration visa is filing a petition with the office of USCIS. A U.S. citizen must be 21 years of age or older to petition for parents or siblings. A U.S. citizen must be at least 18 years or older to sign an Affidavit of Support and must have a residence in the U.S. which you plan to live for the foreseeable future. If your status changes from LPR to U.S. citizen after you file for a petition for a visa, this will change the type of visa your family member receives. Your spouse or children will now be considered immediate family and there will be no limit on visas. Adopted children may qualify for U.S. citizenship as well. Adult children may also upgrade from F2 to F1, although they may forgo the upgrade since the waitlist for F2 is usually shorter.
3. Application, Fees and Documents
Once the USCIS approves the petition for visa, the National Visa Center (NVC) will assign a case number. The NVC will require an Address and Agent form (Form DS-261). You will also be required to submit appropriate fees (filing and processing fees, medical exam fees, etc), immigrant visa documents, application forms, civil documents (birth certificate, marriage certificate), etc. If your petition is approved, your spouse and minor unmarried children may also apply for immigration visas. They too must also pay the necessary fees, and submit all documents, etc.
Once all your fees and paperwork are received, an interview is scheduled. The NVC will send all paperwork to the U.S. Embassy or the Consulate where the interview will take place. The consular agent will determine if the petitioner is eligible to receive an immigrant visa. All medical examinations and vaccinations should be performed before the interview takes place.
5. Coming to America
Once you receive your immigrant visa, the consular office will give you a passport and official sealed documents to only be opened by a U.S. immigration officer once you enter the United States. You must enter the U.S. before the expiration date on your visa. The primary applicant must enter the U.S. before or at the same time as family members. You must also pay the immigration fee to the USCIS before entering the U.S.
Applying for a family immigration visa in Houston can be an overwhelming and arduous task. It is very common for an immigration attorney to assist in the process. Filing the wrong paperwork or completing steps out of order can delay or halt your application process. If you need further information about Houston family immigration law, please call the offices of Davis & Associates where our family-based immigration lawyers can assist you with all your needs.