Many families are separated internationally, whether by deportation, on legal grounds, or by choice. When a family is separated, usually the first issue on the family members’ minds is to be reunited with the rest of their family.

The United States immigration laws provide specific ways for a foreign family member to become a U.S. permanent resident through a family relation. Permanent resident status provides a family member with the privilege of living and working in the United States permanently. Family-based immigration requires the participation of at least two family members, a petitioner and a beneficiary. The petitioner must be a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident that wants to sponsor a foreign family member for a green card. The beneficiary is the foreign family member who wants to obtain a green card.

When one family member files an immigration petition, this person is called a sponsor. There are many laws regarding the sponsor, and there are many laws for the beneficiary once they are admitted to the United States. Not every lawful permanent resident can become a sponsor; there are qualifications such as age and relationship that must be met before they can become a sponsor.


All family-based immigrants fall into one of two major categories: 1) immediate relative or 2) family preference. Some of the common immediate relative visas include: spouses of U.S. citizens, unmarried children under 21 years of age, orphans adopted abroad, orphans to be adopted in the United States, as well as the parents of U.S. citizens. U.S. Citizens can sponsor spouses and minor children as well as the parents of adult U.S. citizens in the Immediate Relative preference category. Visas for immediate relative petitions are always current, which means that a qualifying relative can apply for and receive their green card very quickly.

All other qualified relationships are considered family preference categories and are based solely on the specific relatives of lawful permanent residents (LPR) and U.S. citizens. These are limited per year and are divided into preference categories which determine how long the relative must wait for the visa to become available.  Each month, the Visa Bulletin is updated with the dates that visas for each preference category becomes available.

The family-based immigration process generally begins with the U.S. citizen or permanent resident sponsor filing a petition with the USCIS.  The petitioner must be a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident that wants to sponsor a foreign family member for a green card. The beneficiary is the foreign family member that wants to obtain a green card. The petition will then be forwarded to the National Visa Center (NVC). The NVC will then assign a case number and will begin to go through processing. The applicant will also be required to pay all the appropriate fees, and submit all supporting documents, such as the Affidavit of Support and civil documents.


Navigating the channels of the immigration system is confusing and often intimidating. The application process is both complicated and time-consuming. One of the most common reasons why applicants are unsuccessful when seeking immigration to the USA is because of improper filing of their application(s). If you intend to bring a family member into the United States, we recommend that you get in touch with our firm for a free consultation to discuss your options, any potential problems, and pitfalls.

Conveniently located in San Francisco downtown, our firm is committed to providing excellent, ethical, and timely immigration solutions with a cost-effective approach.  We make sure that our clients understand the case strategy, cost and time constraints, and compliance requirements. But most importantly, we take our time to really listen to our clients’ needs and goals and work diligently to meet those goals for every single client.


The information from this site is not, and is not intended to be, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation. The use of this site or this form for communication with the firm does not establish an attorney-client relationship. Confidential or time-sensitive information should not be sent through this form.