Family is one of the most fundamental building blocks of any society. No one wants to go anywhere if they are not allowed to bring their family with them. In the United States, our immigration system has long recognized this reality.
Families can be unified in a number of different ways. Certain non-immigrant visas, for example, allow a visa holder to bring a spouse and children to the United States as immediate relatives. Some dependent family members are allowed work authorization and others are not.
For those seeking to make the United States their permanent home, or for those with U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident family members, there are also several different paths to obtain lawful permanent residency in the United States through the petition of a family member.
With few exceptions, U.S. citizens have the right to petition their spouse, parents, sons or daughters and siblings. Lawful permanent residents are able to petition their spouse and unmarried children.
Immediate relatives, including the spouse, parents, or minor children of U.S. citizens are immediately eligible for an immigrant visa when petitioned. Sons or daughters of U.S. citizens over the age of 21, whether married or unmarried, siblings of U.S. citizens, as well as spouses, minor children and adult unmarried children of lawful permanent residents, fall into various preference categories and often are required to wait many years until a visa becomes available.
Immediate relatives physically present in the United States after having been admitted to the with inspection, such as those who entered with a visa, border crossing card, or parole, may be eligible to adjust their status in the United States to that of a lawful permanent resident without having to worry about the anxiety and costs associated with returning to their home countries to complete the process. This process, known as adjustment of status, may also be available to immediate relatives of U.S. military personnel and those who filed certain petitions or applications prior to April 30, 2001.
Those who do not qualify for adjustment of status, or who are outside of the United States, are obligated to pass through consular processing, requiring them to participate in a step-by-step process that ends with a visit to the U.S. consulate in their country of origin. For those already in the United States, or who otherwise have inadmissibility issues, may be required to file waivers before their residency is approved. Luckily, many qualify for provisional waivers, allowing them to receive approval of a waiver before having to depart the United States.
Regardless of the required process, many families qualify for unification in the United States. While such is not the case in every matter, the door is open for many. Every case is different and it is important to have the unique circumstances of every family and immigrant evaluated prior to beginning the process in order to ensure the best process is recommended and followed.