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The Challenges In Family-Based Immigration

Family-based immigration is a cornerstone of the United States immigration system, allowing U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents (LPRs) to bring certain family members to the country. However, applicants often face complex legal hurdles, long waiting periods and limits on the number of visas available each year. While the U.S. government issues over 480,000 family-based visas annually, the demand often exceeds the supply, which leads to backlogs.

At Rotella & Hernandez Immigration and Family Law, our attorneys handle all types of immigration law matters and have helped unite countless families here in Florida by guiding them through the family-based visa application process. As a former undocumented immigrant and a first-generation American, our lawyers have experienced these issues with their own families and understand both the challenges that our clients face and the joy they feel when they successfully complete the process.

Who Qualifies For Family-Based Petitions?

Not all family relationships qualify for immigration visas. U.S. citizens can petition for spouses, children, parents and siblings, while LPRs can sponsor spouses and unmarried children. The family-based visas are divided into immediate relative visas and family preference visas. The former type has no cap, whereas the latter is subject to annual numerical limits.

Generally speaking, United States citizens and visa holders who arrived within the past two years may petition for relatives and/or future relatives, such as a fiancé(e) or a prospective adopted child, to immigrate to the United States.

The Application Process Step By Step

The process of applying for a family-based visa involves several steps. These are as follows:

  1. Filing the petition: The U.S. citizen or LPR must file Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). This form establishes the relationship between the petitioner and the beneficiary.
  2. Visa availability: Once the petition is approved, beneficiaries must wait for a visa to become available. Immediate relatives of U.S. citizens have visas immediately available to them, while family preference categories might face waiting periods due to annual caps.
  3. Application for visa or adjustment of status: When a visa is available, the beneficiary can apply for an immigrant visa through consular processing abroad or adjust their status to a permanent resident if they are in the U.S. in status or without status depending on the manner of entry of the beneficiary into the U.S.
  4. Attend the interview: The beneficiary will attend an interview at a U.S. embassy or consulate or with USCIS when they’re adjusting their status within the United States. Providing accurate information and all required documentation is crucial.
  5. Visa issuance or status adjustment: If the visa application or adjustment of status is approved, then the beneficiary will receive a visa to enter the U.S. or will have their status adjusted to LPR.

Our team walks families through each step of this process.

What Rights Are Granted To Family-Based Visa Holders?

Family-based visa holders in the United States, including Florida, are generally granted the right to live, work and study in the U.S. They can also travel in and out of the country, apply for a driver’s license and seek permanent resident status. Specific rights can vary based on the visa type, such as an immediate relative visa or a family preference visa.

What Are The Family Preference Categories For Visas?

The U.S. immigration system has four family preference categories:

  • F-1: Unmarried sons and daughters of U.S. citizens
  • F-2: Spouses and children as well as unmarried sons and daughters of permanent residents
  • F-3: Married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens
  • F-4: Brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens

The above preference categories are in order of priority. Family relations not on this list do not have standing to pursue a family-based visa.

Our Lawyers Help Bring Families Together

It’s essential to stay informed, be patient and let our attorneys guide you through the process. They understand what’s at stake and work hands-on with families each step of the way, having helped many reunite here in Miami.

Call 305-596-3618 or use our contact page to schedule a meeting to discuss the best approach to bringing your family together in the U.S.