U.S. law and USCIS regulations reserve the majority of green cards for close family relatives of U.S. citizens and green card holders. While only parents, spouses and minor children (under age 21) can qualify as “immediate relatives” of U.S. citizens, which means no wait in line for a green card, many more can qualify based upon their category of application as established by the Department of State in its monthly Visa Bulletin. The wait for certain categories from Mexico and the Philippines can take up to 20 years.
U.S. citizens can also petition USCIS for a fiancé visa which allows the fiancé to enter the U.S. and marry within 90 days of entry in order to file for a green card in the U.S. Alternatively, U.S. citizens can petition for their overseas foreign spouses who, if the petition is approved, are able to apply for U.S. permanent residence at the U.S. consular post in their home country.
A special segment within the family constellation of visas is reserved for adopted children of U.S. citizens or U.S. permanent residents. Adopted children can achieve permanent residence either as orphans, or if the home country is a Hague Convention country, by utilizing the Hague convention procedures. If the child is not from a Hague Country, it is possible to adopt a child overseas, reside with the child for two years, and then apply for permanent residence for the child. Adopted children under age 18, just like biological children, are eligible for U.S. citizenship immediately upon achieving permanent residence if one of the parents is a U.S. citizen and the child lives with that parent.
Beyond the family relationship, the foundation of the family-based petition is the financial support requirement, which is the reason for the unforgiving requirements of the mandatory Affidavit of Support. The U.S. government does not want new permanent residents who will become a drain on the public purse. When in doubt we counsel our clients to make sure they can submit a Joint Sponsor Affidavit of Support.
We frequently post blog entries on family issues at our blogsite – TheVisaGeek.