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Immigration through a family member who is a US citizen or permanent resident is the most common way of gaining US residency. All that is required is the qualifying family relationship. The ease with which a person can immigrate through a family member is in keeping with American notions of the importance of the family.
The first question to address in a family-based immigration case is whether a qualifying family relationship exists. Qualifying relationships are grouped into two main categories – immediate relatives and other close family members. Immediate relatives of US citizens are given special preferential treatment. First and foremost, they are allowed to immigrate in unlimited numbers. The following are immediate relatives:
Other close family members of citizens and permanent residents are also allowed to immigrate, subject to annual numerical limitations. The following are other relatives who are allowed to immigrate, and the annual limits on each category:
Preparing the U.S. CIS application
The elements of the application that must be submitted to the USCIS are the same for each type of family member. The main USCIS form that is used in all family cases is the I-130 Petition for Alien Relative. The petitioning relative must complete this form. The application must include documentation of the qualifying family relationship, and of the petitioner’s status as a citizen or permanent resident. When the application is made for a spouse, it must include copies of Form G-325A – Biographic Information for each spouse, as well as a color photo of each spouse. When the application is filed for an immediate relative not subject to annual numerical limitation and the relative is in the US, an application for adjustment of status may be filed at the same time.
The application is filed in the US with the USCIS National Benefits Center. If the application is in order and shows the qualifying relationship, and if the alien is an immediate relative, they can either adjust status or immediately apply for an immigrant visa at a US consulate. If the alien is not an immediate relative, they must wait until a visa number become available to either adjust status or apply for an immigrant visa. In such cases, the priority date is the date on which the USCIS received the complete application.