As a legal citizen of the United States, you can assist your family members in getting a visa. You can sponsor your family members, relatives and help them become lawful residents of the country. In order to obtain a Visa, you will have to prove that you have the requisite income and assets to support your family members. 

To begin the Visa application process, you will have to file Form I-130 to sponsor your family members. The Form I-130 is officially titled the Petition for Alien Relatives. It establishes that a valid family relationship exists between a U.S. citizen or permanent resident and a relative seeking a green card. This form is often referred to simply as an I-130 petition. The concerned authorities will determine and evaluate the relationship you share with the family member. They will investigate whether a relationship exists between you and your family members and whether other qualifications have been met. 

There have been instances where people bring in fake marriage licenses and other forged documentation as evidence in support of their case. Immigration authorities can deny a fraudulent application and entry into the country. Therefore, before beginning the process, you should consider consulting with a reputable family immigration lawyerwho can help you ensure that the application is filled out correctly, is supported by relevant documentation, and can represent you at any hearings or interviews with immigration officials.

How long does it take for an I-130 approval?

The time it takes to get approved for a visa depends on your relationship with the family member. 

There are two types of family-based immigrant visas:

  • Immediate Relative – these visas are based on a close family relationship with a U.S. citizen, such as a spouse, child or parent. The number of immigrants in these categories is not limited each fiscal year.
  • Family Preference – these visas are for specific, more distant, family relationships with a U.S. citizen and some specified relationships with a Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR). The number of immigrants in these categories is limited each fiscal year.

Most Form I-130 petitions for immediate relatives are approved within a 5 to 9 month time frame, but they can take longer in some cases. Family preference visas often take longer. The processing time takes longer because of the limitations set by the government. There is a numerical limit on the visas issued each year. For limited categories, the availability of immigrant visa numbers depends on the date your petition was filed. This is called your priority date.

It is important to understand that even if U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) officials approve an immigrant visa petition, the applicant may not receive an immigrant visa number immediately. For many people, it can take several years before the priority date is current.

Does filing a petition for a family member commit me to anything? 

Under the law, a family member can immigrate to the U.S. only when they have been sponsored by a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident. You will have to agree to be a financial sponsor by filing an application on their behalf. This means that you will be responsible for their economic support if the Visa is approved. If you do not meet the financial requirements, someone else would have to make the commitment to sponsor them. 

How do I apply for a Visa for my family members? 

There are two ways to begin the Visa application process and assist your family members with immigrating to the United States. The process will depend on whether your relative is already living in the U.S. or currently living in another country. 

  • When your relatives live in another country 

If your relatives or family members live in a foreign country, you can begin the process by filing the Form I-130 petition. You can file Form I-130 with USCIS. Ensure that the information you provide is correct and there are no errors in your application. 

Ensure that the application is properly signed and that you submit any fees on time. Your application may be denied or delayed if you fail to meet specific deadlines. You will also have to submit evidence that establishes your relationship with the family member, such as a marriage license or birth certificate.

The application may be denied if there are any discrepancies in your statements and the immigration officials’ findings. If you are filing a petition for multiple family members, you must provide documents relevant to each relationship. An immigration attorney can help you obtain supporting documentation. 

  • When your relatives are already living in the U.S. 

If your relatives are already living in the United States and entered legally, then they may be able to file an I-485 application to adjust their status to lawful permanent resident at the same time as you file the I-130 relative petition. Petitions filed at the same time with permanent residence applications (I-485) must be filed at a location that is different from where you would file an I-130 petition by itself. A knowledgeable immigration lawyer can help you determine where to file the form.

After the petition is filed, the USCIS will mail you a receipt confirming that they have received your application. If your petition is complete and meets the requirements, it may be approved by the USCIS. If it is incomplete or does not fulfill the criteria, they may request an interview or reject your application outright, which will further delay the process. 

This is one reason why it helps to gather all necessary documents before commencing the process. Gathering all documents up front will ensure that your application is not denied for lack of documentation.

You can obtain additional information from a state National Visa Center (NVC). You can even monitor the progress of an application on USCIS’s official website. Contact a Seattle Immigration Lawyer to assist you throughout the whole process. They can assist you with understanding the requirements, completing required forms, obtaining necessary documentation, and represent you in front of USCIS officials.

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