The U.S. citizen or the Green Card holder is known as the petitioner. Their foreign-born spouse is known as the beneficiary of the petition. The petitioner and the beneficiary must qualify for the benefit sought at the time of filing.

Spouses of U.S. citizens are considered “Immediate Relatives.” This may prove very beneficial for many cases, especially when the beneficiary has worked in the U.S. without authorization or overstayed a non-immigrant visa.

Spouses of Green Card holders, on the other hand, fall under a preference category. They do not get all the same benefits as the spouses of U.S. citizens described above.

Sponsoring Other Relatives

While the most common family-based immigration pathways focus on spouses, children, and parents, the opportunity to sponsor relatives extends beyond this immediate circle. U.S. citizens can sponsor their siblings, adult married or unmarried children, and in some cases, may even be able to sponsor more distant relatives like aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, or even grandparents.  

Each of these extended family relationships falls under specific family preference categories, each with its own eligibility requirements and potential wait times. Understanding these nuances, along with the strict financial sponsorship obligations that come with sponsoring a relative, is crucial. Working with an immigration attorney ensures a smooth process; they can determine if your relative qualifies, guide you through the necessary steps, and help you manage expectations regarding the potential timeline for their immigration.

Limitations and Wait Times

Unlike immediate relative visas, which have no annual limits, family preference visas are subject to strict numerical caps. This means the U.S. government allocates only a restricted number of visas each year for specific categories of family relationships.  The result is often a backlog and significant wait times, which can vary dramatically depending on the preference category and the individual’s country of origin. 

Some wait times can stretch into multiple years, underscoring the importance of planning and timely action. Consulting with an immigration attorney can provide clarity on the estimated wait times for your relative’s situation. They will help you understand the overall process, what factors could potentially influence the timeline, and how to  best prepare for the waiting period.

Immigration Red Flags

The family-based immigration process aims to reunite families, but it also involves a thorough vetting process by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Immigration officers are trained to identify “red flags” that might raise concerns about an applicant’s eligibility or pose security risks. Here are some examples of potential red flags that could complicate your family immigration case:

  • Previous Deportations or Immigration Violations – Any prior involvement with deportation proceedings or past violations of U.S. immigration law can trigger scrutiny.
  • Criminal History – Arrests and convictions, even for seemingly minor offenses, can raise red flags. While not all criminal records automatically disqualify an applicant, they require careful explanation and mitigation strategies.
  • Misrepresentation or Fraud – Providing false information or concealing relevant facts during the application process is a serious offense and can lead to permanent bans on immigration benefits.
  • Suspicious Marriages – USCIS closely examines marriages for legitimacy, especially those perceived as entered solely for immigration purposes. This might involve scrutinizing the couple’s cohabitation history, shared finances, and overall relationship dynamics.
  • Financial Issues – If you’re sponsoring a relative, you’ll be required to demonstrate sufficient financial resources to support them. A lack of income or poor credit history could raise concerns about your ability to fulfill this obligation.

It’s important to understand that these are just some common examples, and the definition of a “red flag” can vary depending on the specific circumstances. The key takeaway is that even seemingly minor issues can create complications during the application process.

How Immigration Lawyers Can Help

The family-based immigration process involves numerous forms, documents, and potential hurdles. A misstep could lead to costly delays or even denials.  Experienced immigration lawyers provide invaluable assistance by:

  • Understanding the nuanced criteria for various visa categories involves determining eligibility, where attorneys meticulously assess individual cases to advise on the most viable options.
  • Preparing comprehensive petitions with strict attention to detail, along with supporting evidence of the familial relationship, is required when filing paperwork and gathering evidence, and lawyers guide clients through this meticulous process.
  • Immigration attorneys can intervene to resolve complications and expedite the process whenever possible, especially when unexpected problems arise.
  • Experienced attorneys counsel clients on how to answer questions and maintain composure, which is crucial in preparing for consular interviews.

The Green Card Process for the Beneficiary

In some cases, a beneficiary that is present in the United States may file for their green card (Form I-485) at the same time the petitioner files the Form I-130 Petition. This is known as “concurrent filing.” The process generally concludes with an interview at the local USCIS office. The petitioner and the beneficiary must appear for this interview with an Immigration Officer who will make the final decision on the case.

If the beneficiary is not in the United States, the beneficiary will go through “Consular Process” to obtain an immigrant visa at the U.S. Embassy/Consulate abroad. This process can only happen after the approval of the petition. In this scenario, the beneficiary will appear for an interview at the U.S. Embassy/Consulate. If all goes well, the beneficiary will receive an immigrant visa on his/her passport. He or she can then travel to the United States to live and work as a lawful permanent resident.

Affidavit of Support

In both scenarios, the petitioner must submit an Affidavit of Support (Form I-864). The Affidavit of Support ensures that the foreign national will not become a public charge. If the petitioner cannot meet the minimum income requirements, then the petitioner can add a Joint Sponsor to the case.

Immigration Red Flags

Immigration officers are trained to identify “red flags” that can complicate the case. Divorces, arrests, convictions, and immigration violations can complicate the case. It is important to speak to a licensed immigration attorney before filing any benefit request with USCIS. USCIS investigates all claims and can deny petitions if there are reasons for denial.

Attorney Ingrid Borges Perez speaks
English, Portuguese, and Spanish

flag flag flag

I believe that every immigrant
is a future American.

I hope we take this journey together and that
I can offer you a successful outcome.

Send Me a Message

Let Me Help You

Send Me Your Case