Family Based Immigration

According to the U.S. Council on Human Relations, the United States granted a little more than one million green cards –that is, legal permanent residence (LPR) cards –in 2015. Nearly two-thirds of those one million were awarded based on family reunification.

The importance of one’s family to the human existence cannot be understated. Thus, family reunification immigration is one of the most popular ways to a obtain entry into the United States. 

The process for an immigrant green card holder sponsoring a family member is different from a U.S. citizen sponsoring a family member. The status of the sponsor will often affect the priority and speed with which an applicant may be awarded legal permanent residence status. While a family member is waiting for a green card, they are generally awarded a family-based visa so that they may be permitting to enter the U.S. temporarily.

It can take up to six months to obtain a green card. This process can take even longer and be even more arduous when it is done incorrectly. Given that, it is imperative that individuals who want to be lawfully and duly admitted to the U.S. obtain an experienced immigration attorney.

Attorney for Family-Based Green Cards in The Woodlands, TX

As a first generation U.S. American, Luis F. Hess understands the importance of maintaining a healthy family –especially through change. He empathizes with families who are attempting to navigate a new culture and maintain their close family ties.

Attorney Luis F. Hess believes that helping those families achieve their goals is an invaluable experience. If you or someone you know is a U.S. citizen or green card holder and is interested in attempting to sponsor a family member for LPR status, contact Luis F. Hess, PLLC. 

The Firm serves clients with the utmost dedication throughout The Woodlands-Houston metropolitan area, in cities like Shenandoah, Magnolia, Conroe, and Spring in Harris County, TX.

Call Luis F. Hess, PLLC at (281) 205-8540 for more information about how an experienced immigration attorney can help you become eligible for family-based immigration.


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Overview of Family-Based Immigration


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How to Apply for a Green Card

Legal permanent residents have many of the same rights and responsibilities as regular citizens. A green card holder has the same freedom to travel to and from, and within, the United States as ordinary citizens and they may also serve in the military. 

The most significant differences between U.S. citizens and permanent residents are: permanent residents do not have the right to vote, and an individual’s permanent residence status may be taken away if he or she commits a particular crime.

A U.S. citizen or an LPR may apply for certain family members to immigrate to the U.S. The type of familial relationship that the sponsor has to the potential immigrant will determine whether and when a person will be allowed to obtain a green card.

To apply for a green card for a family member, the sponsor must file an “Alien Relative” lawful permanent resident petition with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service Office (USCIS). The sponsor must be able to show the following conditions to prove that he or she is eligible to be a sponsor: 

  • The sponsor must provide proof of his or her status as a U.S. citizen or permanent resident;
  • The sponsor must provide evidence of a qualifying relationship to the potential immigrant by using a birth certificate, marriage license, divorce decree, or other official documents;
  • The sponsor must also submit proof of any legal name change for his or her self, or for the beneficiary.

Once the USCIS approves the petition, then the applicant must file a green card application with the USCIS or the U.S. Department of State. Lastly, the applicant must attend a biometrics appointment and an interview. 


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U.S Citizens vs. Legal Permanent Residents (LPR)

An individual’s status as a U.S. citizen or a legal permanent resident when he or she is attempting to sponsor a family member to immigrate to the United States affects which preference category that a beneficiary is placed in. 

The status of a sponsor also determines which forms the applicant must complete to apply for permanent residence correctly.

For example, if a person were first a lawful permanent resident who petitioned for his or her spouse to receive a green card, then the preference category at that time would be the Second Preference (2A). After the petitioner becomes a U.S. citizen, however, the beneficiary’s preference category, under this example, will change to that of “Immediate Relative.”

 The USCIS defines an "Immediate Relative" as (1) a spouse of a U.S. citizen; (2) an unmarried child, under the age of 21, of a U.S. citizen; and (3) a parent of a U.S. citizen who is at least 21 years old.


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Preference Categories for Family Immigration

Preference categories are for individuals who want to immigrate to the U.S. with a family sponsor, but who are not considered “immediate family members” of a U.S. citizen. The “preference” refers to the method by which the U.S. will distribute green cards each year.

Only a certain number of green cards are granted each year, and the waiting period for each category will depend on the number of visas in that category. 

The preference categories are as follows: 

  • First-preference (F1): Unmarried, adult sons, and daughters of U.S. citizens
  • Second-preference (2A): spouses and unmarried children (under 21) of permanent residents;
  • Second-preference (2B): unmarried children of permanent residents (21 or older);
  • Third Preference (F3): married sons and daughters (any age) of U.S. citizens
  • Fourth Preference (F4): brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens (over 21). 

As green cards become available in an individual’s preference category, then the distribution is based on the time an application was filed.


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Other Status Categories to Consider

The more complex an individual’s situation is, easier it is to make mistakes when filing for legal permanent residency. An applicant’s forms, waiting times, or preference categories may change based on a number of factors; like whether an applicant is in the U.S. on a different visa or is domiciled in a foreign country.

There are a number of other visa or green card statuses to consider.

  • Lawful permanent residency for a widow of a U.S. citizen.
  • Adjustment of status.
  • Fiancé(e) of a U.S. citizen.
  • Abused parent, spouse, or child.

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Find a Lawyer for Family-Based Immigration in Montgomery County, TX

Family reunification is important. Having an experienced attorney who, not only understands immigration law and policy but who also has personal experience with family immigration is invaluable.

The immigration process is not easy, and there is no simple fix, but with an experienced attorney like Luis F. Hess assisting you, overcoming the difficulty of immigration can be more comfortable.

Luis F. Hess accepts cases in Shenandoah, Magnolia, Conroe, and other areas throughout Montgomery County. He also represents clients attempting to immigrate for employment-based purposes.

Call Luis F. Hess, PLLC at (281) 205-8540 for more information about the requirements for family-based green cards.


This article was last updated on Monday, January 22, 2018.

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