Spouse Green Card and Family Green Card
Family green card applications to the United States are roughly divided into five categories, starting with immediate relatives such as spouses of United States citizens, children (unmarried 21 and under of United States citizens), and parents of United States citizens. Applications in this immediate relative category are processed the fastest and generally within one year.
Other categories includes:
First preference: Unmarried, adult sons and daughters of U.S. citizens (adult means 21 or older.)
Second Preference (2A): Spouses of green card holders, unmarried children of permanent residents Second Preference (2B): Unmarried adult sons and daughters of permanent residents
Third Preference: Married sons and daughters (any age) of U.S. citizens
Fourth Preference: Brothers and sisters of adult U.S. citizens.
Although each of these other categories are possible to facilitate sponsorship for green cards to the United States, the processing time is longer in each successive category and can take several years in some instances.
This I-130 is the first step when filing a family-based green card application. This petition must be filed into the USCIS by a U.S. citizen or green card holder and must be accompanied by the required documentation to show eligibility and a qualifying family relationship.
Once the USCIS receives your petition, you will be notified via a receipt by mail. If the petition is approved, the sponsored foreign national will then need to wait until a green card is available for their category to schedule an appointment with the United States Consulate in their country.
There is an exception to this for applicants who are immediate relatives of U.S. citizens. As mentioned previously, they do not need to wait for a visa number as there is always an immigrant visa available for them the moment the I-130 filed on their behalf is approved.
The sponsoring family member can also expedite the process by filing both the I-130 and the I-485 adjustment of status application at the same time, as long as the beneficiary is in the United States. Applicants who do this usually get their green cards within a year. Immediate relatives outside the U.S. will need to wait for the approval of their I-130 before they can apply for a green card at the United States Consulate in their country.
Eligibility Criteria for Sponsoring a Family-Based Green Card
Before you can sponsor a family-based green card, you must meet the following requirements:
- You must be a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident and provide relevant documentation such as birth or naturalization certificate or green card.
- You must demonstrate that you have the financial ability to support your sponsored family member and all other dependent members of your household. This requires showing proof of an annual income of at least 125% above the poverty guideline. If you are unable to meet this criteria you can have a co- sponsor or show assets of the Petitioner or Beneficiary in lieu of income.
- You must prove that you have a qualifying family relationship with the foreign national green card beneficiary. A qualifying relationship means being a spouse, child (biological or adopted), or sibling. For a spouse this goes beyond a marriage certificate and includes showing proof that the relationship is genuine and bonafide. This can include pictures, affidavits, communication and joint accounts.
- You must maintain your residence in the U.S. at the time of the visa interview.