Family-Based Immigration: The Fast Track Green Card


“Fast-Track” green card through family immigration: If you have a relative residing in the United States, you may be eligible to permanently immigrate to the U.S., obtain a green card (i.e., lawful permanent resident status) and eventually apply for citizenship.

Certain relatives are able to obtain a family-based green card immediately while others must wait for an immigrant visa number to become available to them. Whether or not you have to wait to apply for a green card depends on your relationship to your U.S. citizen relative or a lawful permanent resident.

The process for applying for a family member to immigrate to the U.S. basically involves two-steps. First, the relative in the U.S applies for what is called an immigrant visa petition (I-130). The immigrant visa petition proves to the government that the relative is a qualifying U.S. citizen or a lawful permanent resident and it establishes the family relationship with the foreign national. As will be discussed below, the “fast-track” family categories include immigrant visa petitions filed for your foreign-born mother or father, children, and/or spouse.

Next, the alien applies to adjust status to lawful permanent resident by filing Form I-485. This two-step process can be accomplished in a one-time concurrent I-130/I-485 filing for certain “immediate relatives” thus expediting the process.

Immediate Relatives (IR): “Fast-Track” Green Cards

The fastest way to obtain a family-based green card is to be considered an “immediate relative” of a U.S. citizen. If you are a child, spouse or parent of a U.S. citizen, you are considered an “immediate relative.” Your U.S. citizen relative may immediately petition the U.S. government for your green card by filing both the immigrant petition and the application to adjust status concurrently. If applying for a child, the child must be under the age of 21 and unmarried at the time of filing the petition. If applying for a parent, the U.S. citizen must be a son or daughter over the age of 21.

Immediate relatives are not subject to numerical limitations placed on other family members in the preference categories. Immediate relatives are instantly eligible to receive a green card. The immigrant petition and adjustment of status petition are filed concurrently if the immediate relative is already in the U.S. in valid nonimmigrant status. If you are abroad, the U.S. citizen files the immigrant petition in the U.S. and the consulate having jurisdiction over your foreign residence will be notified to finalize the petition. Once the foreign relative obtains the immigrant visa at the consulate, they enter the U.S. as a lawful permanent resident (i.e., green card holder).

K1/K3 Visa Avenue to Green Card

If you are a fiancé of a U.S. citizen and you wish to enter the U.S. to conclude the marriage, you can enter on a K-1 visa and adjust status to lawful permanent resident. The U.S. citizen fiancé first files a petition with the United States Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) showing that there is a bona fide intention to marry (within 90 days of fiancé’s entry), there are no legal impediments to marry, and that you have met in person within two years of filing the petition.

Once the petition is approved, the fiancé must obtain the K-1 visa at the consulate having jurisdiction over the foreign residence. The fiancé then enters the U.S. on the K-1 visa and the marriage must occur within 90 days of entrance. After the marriage, the K-1 visa holder may apply to adjust status to become a green card holder. Note that minor children may accompany the K-1 visa holder as K-2 dependents.

If you are already married to the United States citizen but are residing abroad, you can enter the U.S. on a K-3 visa. Your United States citizen spouse must have filed an immigrant visa petition (I-130) with the USCIS on your behalf. Once the I-130 has been received, the U.S. citizen spouse files an I-129F petition with USCIS which will be forwarded to the U.S. consulate abroad. There are certain documentary requirements that must be met for the consulate to issue the visa. Once the process at the consulate is complete, the spouse receives the K-3 visa and may enter the U.S. to conclude the green card application. Again, minor children may accompany the spouse to the U.S. on a K-4 visa as a derivative beneficiary.

Preference Categories

As discussed above, there are other relatives that may immigrate to the U.S. based on a relationship to a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident, but they must wait for an immigrant visa number to become available. Each preference category has its own relative classification and approximate waiting time to file for adjustment of status to lawful permanent resident:

  • First Preference: unmarried adult children of U.S. citizens (over the age of 21) – 6 yrs.
  • Second Preference: spouses or child (unmarried under 21), and unmarried child of lawful permanent residents: (A.) Spouses and children (under 21) – 4 yrs. and (B.) Unmarried Sons and Daughters (any age) – 8 yrs.
  • Third Preference: married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens – 9 yrs.
  • Fourth Preference: brothers and sisters of adult U.S. citizens – 10 yrs.

The preference categories create problems when a child “ages out” before his/her immigrant petition or adjustment of status petition is approved. The term “age out” refers to the scenario when a “child” turns 21 during the pendency of the application and is no longer eligible for the benefits sought. Immigration law defines a child as an unmarried person under the age of 21. The Child Status Protection Act (“CSPA”) preserves the “child” status of certain alien children who may have aged-out due to the long delays associated with the preference categories.

How do I File a Family-Based Visa Petition?

If you have questions about an immigration visa or green card matter, and/or you need help in an immigration process, please contact our immigration attorneys or call The Law Firm of Shihab & Associates Co., LPA at the nearest office close to you to consult with an attorney. Our law firm handles all matters concerning family immigration. Please contact us and experience how our law firm can assist you in your immigration matters. The Law Firm of Shihab & Associates, Co., LPA has competent, responsive and innovative lawyers who can make your immigration experience pleasant and seamless.

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