Marriage and Family Based Visas/Adjustment of Status

Family unification is one of the biggest and most important goals of the visa categories offered by the U.S. government. U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents (green card holders) are permitted under the law to petition to bring certain family members to the United States to be with them—or, if they’re already here, to adjust their status to a family-based immigrant visa. The process for doing this and eligibility of family members varies according to your own immigration status and the family member’s relationship to you.

As a general rule, sponsoring a relative for immigration to the United States requires you to submit a petition, pay fees to the government, and promise to financially support the relative using a form called an affidavit of support. Your relative will also need to provide extensive documentation, give an interview at a U.S. embassy, and undergo an immigration medical examination. Our attorneys help ensure that you make the best possible case and guide you through what can be a lengthy and frustrating process.

Marriage and Fiance Visas

A fiance (or fiancée) visa is available to a foreign national who intends to marry a U.S. citizen (the minor children of the fiance can also benefit). To get a fiance visa, the citizen partner must file an application to sponsor the foreign partner, pay fees, and agree to support the foreign partner. The foreign partner must undergo a medical examination and provide extensive documentation of their identity. They must also show documentation of their relationship. Once both parties are in the United States, they must marry within 90 days, and then the foreign spouse can apply for a green card.

U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents (green card holders) who are already married can bring their foreign-born spouses to the United States through a similar process. As with fiances, bringing a spouse to the U.S. requires documentation of the relationship and the foreign spouse’s identity, a medical examination, and more. The process is different for lawful permanent residents than it is for citizens, because there are unlimited visas for spouses of citizens, whereas visas for spouses of green card holders are limited and may take considerably longer. Those processes are explained below in more detail.

Visas for Immediate Relatives of U.S. Citizens

The federal government defines “immediate relatives” to mean:

  • a spouse of a U.S. citizen
  • a parent of an adult U.S. citizen who is at least 21
  • an unmarried child under age 21 of a U.S. citizen
  • an orphan to be adopted by a U.S. citizen (either in the United States or overseas)

In order to sponsor someone in one of these categories for an immigrant visa, you must be a citizen, at least 21 years old, and (with limited exceptions) living in the United States. The Ojala-Barbour Law Firm helps clients in this situation fill out the required forms, including advising clients and their relatives on how best to present their information. If you have multiple visa options, we can help you sort out which are best for your purposes.

Visas in the “immediate relative” category are unlimited, which means they won’t need to wait for a visa to become available after their petition and application are approved. However, the process to get the approval does take time.

‘Family Preference’ Visas for Other Relatives

There are also visas available for relatives of U.S. citizens or green card holders who are not considered “immediate relatives.” These are called “family preference” visas.

Relatives who can be sponsored by green card holders include:

  • Spouses
  • Minor children
  • Sons and daughters age 21 and older who are not married

Relatives who can be sponsored for “family preference” visas by U.S. citizens include:

  • Unmarried sons and daughters age 21 and older, and any of their minor children
  • Married sons and daughters, and any of their spouses and children
  • Brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens, and any of their spouses and children

Under the law, there is a limited number of family preference visas allocated to citizens of any one country. This means your relatives may have a long wait ahead if they are coming from a country that sends a lot of people to the United States. The exact length of the wait depends not only on the country, but also on the type of visa they need and the time they applied. The State Department’s Visa Bulletin gives the most recent information on wait time for these visas to become available.

Contact Us to Learn More About Family and Marriage Visas

The Ojala-Barbour Law Firm is delighted to help reunify families and couples in the United States. To tell us about your situation and your next steps, send us a message online or call (651) 214-6284 today.

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