Whether your family member is in the US or still located abroad, Christine Troy is dedicated to re-uniting families and keeping them together. I have handled hundreds of green card for family members cases around the globe, using both the adjustment of status and consular processing methods.
My cases have included complex issues such as criminal arrests and/or convictions, unlawful presence in the United States, affidavit of support requirements, language issues and three or ten year bars. For all cases, I work very hard with my clients to ensure they can fully document the realities and legitimacies of their relationship and to minimize delay and stress while increasing the chance of approval up front.
Is there more than one way to apply for the green card?
Yes. There are actually two available options to obtain a green card for family members via the US citizen relationship: adjustment of status in the United States or immigrant processing through a US consulate abroad.
My Family Member Is In The United States. How Do We Apply For A Green Card?
When the family member is already in the United States, he or she may be able to file for a green card in country. However with rare exception, the person MUST always be in lawful status through some non-immigrant visa category (student, worker, etc.) The green card process, when filed and executed in the United States, is called Adjustment of Status. It is critical that a person seeks advice from a competent immigration attorney up front to determine green card eligibility and ability to remain in the US. Procedures are as follows:
- The immigrant petition (I-130) is filed with DHS. This petition does not give the applicant permission to be or work in the United States. It only gets the applicant in line to apply for a green card.
- When the priority date is "current", the person then files the green card application with DHS.
- DHS schedules an interview at the applicant's local DHS office or may approve without interview. A "normal" interview can last anywhere from ten minutes to an hour.
- Normally within one month, the green card is then issued.
My Family Member Is In A Foreign Country. How Do We Apply For A Green Card?
When the family member is outside of the United States, obtaining a green card is called Consular Processing. It is a three step process that involves two federal agencies and a consular interview. For this reason, it is a fairly complex process with changing rules, regulations and preferences. Working with a competent immigration attorney can ensure that processing is handled as expeditiously and clearly as possible.
- The sponsoring spouse files the immigrant petition (I-130) with DHS and requests consular processing. This process currently takes about 5-6 months but processing times can alter at any time.
- DHS forwards the petition to the National Visa Center for security checks and other processing. The case will sit "on ice" until the applicant is eligible to file the second step of the process. The family then files new legal forms, pays new fees and submits numerous original documents. Essentially, the NVC acts as the secretary for all US consulates around the world. This agency is fairly disorganized and processing times are inconsistent. I review and organize documents carefully in an attempt to streamline processing through the NVC.
- The NVC forwards the petition to the U.S. Consulate in the family member's home country. Processing times vary by consulate. The interview normally happens within 1-4 months after file transfer but can be shorter or longer, depending upon the US consulate. As long as all legal requirements are met, the applicant then obtains an immigrant visa and is processed for a green card upon entering the United States.
How long will it take until my family member gets his or her green card?
It depends. The wait time can be anywhere from one to twenty years, depending upon the family category and country of origin. The sponsored family member is placed into one of five applicant categories, which determines when that person can move on to the second step (i.e. filing for the green card.) The U.S. Government allows a certain number of people per category to obtain a green card each year. Each month, the U.S. Government issues a visa bulletin (which is posted in my quick links section) that outlines processing times by category, so a person can easily track when he or she is eligible to apply for a green card.
The date the sponsoring family member files the immigrant petition with DHS is called the "priority date". When a sponsored family member's priority date is "current" and shows up in the visa bulletin chart, that person is allowed to apply for the green card, either at the U.S. Consulate if abroad, or with the DHS if in the United States.
Family members eligible for sponsorship are broken into the following categories:
- First Preference: Unmarried sons and daughters of U.S. Citizens (21 years or older)
- Second Preference A: Spouses or children of aliens lawfully admitted for permanent residence
- Second Preference B: Unmarried sons or daughters of aliens lawfully admitted for permanent residence
- Third Preference: Married sons or daughters of U.S. Citizens
- Fourth Preference: Brothers or sisters of U.S. Citizens, if U.S. Citizen is at least 21 years old
Why would we hire an attorney to handle our case?
In my professional opinion, all green card applicants should hire a competent immigration attorney to handle the green card process. (And I do not say this for every visa category.) Your immigration attorney will analyze the applicant's eligibility for the benefit, fully vet the case for any issues or potential problems, and determine where the green card application may be filed.
There are many important factors, including intention upon entry, processing times, criminal arrests/convictions, unlawful presence and entering on the wrong visa that determine if the applicant is eligible and if so, which process is the best for your case. Failure to analyze your case fully up front can result in visa denial or removal of the foreign applicant from the United States. For this reason, I highly recommend that the family has a full consultation with a competent immigration attorney before embarking on this application process.
I have handled numerous family sponsorship cases both in the US and around the globe, using both the adjustment of status and consular processing methods. I work carefully with clients to ensure that the case is processed as quickly as possible, all questions are answered and all issues addressed in a clear, concise manner. I also provide a full list of required documents for each step, to ensure that all documentary requirements are met. Via these efforts, many of my clients, particularly in consular processing cases, are able to save months of valuable time and to be reunited with their family members much sooner than anticipated.
Persons who are unlawfully present in the U.S. should always consult a competent immigration attorney before having a relative petition filed for them.