Are you and your family members split between the U.S. and another country and hoping to reunite in the United States? Through a process called family reunification, you can apply for family members in other countries to come to the United States if at least one family member is in the U.S. as a citizen, Green Card holder, or refugee. Read on to learn more about the family reunification process!

Basics of Family Reunification 

Family reunification refers to a segment of immigration law that allows for individuals with family members residing in the U.S. as citizens, Green Card holders, or refugees to bypass part of the standard immigration process by virtue of their relatives. Under this program, “immediate family members” are eligible to petition to enter the United States. “Immediate family members” are defined in U.S. immigration law as the child, parent, or spouse of the person in the United States petitioning for reunification. A “child” must be unmarried and under 21 years of age. It is important to note that siblings, cousins, grandparents, grandchildren, and other family members are not eligible for reunification.  

Family Reunification Visa

If you are a U.S. citizen or Green Card holder, you can sponsor an immediate family member living overseas to obtain a visa and enter the U.S. To do so, you will need to submit a family petition. Specific rules apply to your petition depending on what your citizenship status is and your family member’s immigration background.

U.S. Citizens

If you have U.S. citizenship, you have multiple options available to bring your relative to the United States. These options include filing a family petition to get a visa that leads to a Green Card upon arrival in the U.S. and applying for a fiancé(e) visa that leads to the possibility of applying for a Green Card once certain conditions are met.

U.S. citizens can petition for their parents, spouses, children, and siblings. When their petitions get approved, the family member will apply for and receive a visa to enter the U.S. Unmarried children under the age of 21 are immediate relatives and do not need to wait to apply for a visa; in contrast, married children over the age of 21 will need to wait until their priority date becomes current and a visa becomes available. Sibling petitions also have a long wait before a visa becomes available. Additionally, U.S. citizens must demonstrate their financial ability to support the family member they are petitioning for in order for the visa application to be approved. Once the visa is issued, the family member can travel to the U.S. and after entry, receive a Green Card. 

If you are a U.S. citizen hoping to marry a foreign national and petition for them, you can apply for a fiancé(e) visa that will allow your prospective spouse and their children to enter the United States for 90 days. This category of visas is called the K-1 visa, which applies to the fiancé(e), and the K-2 visa, which applies to children of the fiancé(e).  You must demonstrate that you have met in-person at least once within the two years leading up to the visa unless you have a valid cultural or religious or extreme hardship exemption. After they enter the U.S., you must get legally married within the 90-day period and have legal proof of marriage. Once legally married, you can petition for your spouse to obtain a Green Card. 

Lawful Permanent Residents

If you are a Green Card holder, there are limits that apply to family reunification that do not apply to citizens. You are not allowed to sponsor your parents or siblings for a Green Card. Additionally, visas are not given out in an unlimited quantity like they are for family members of U.S. citizens. You will be subject to the family preference categories. Read more about family preference categories.

Refugees

If you were granted asylum or refugee status in the United States within the last two years, you are eligible to apply for asylum or refugee status for your spouse and/or any children of yours, granted that the children were unmarried and under 21 years of age at the time when you became an asylee or refugee. In order to take advantage of this process, you have to be the principal refugee or asylum seeker when you applied; you cannot have obtained asylum or refugee status as a beneficiary. Additionally, you and your spouse must have been married and your child must have been conceived at the time of when you were granted refugee or asylum status for them to be eligible. 

A qualified immigration attorney will ensure that your application is correctly filled out and submitted, provide insight about laws and statutes you may not be aware of, communicate with USCIS and NVC on your behalf, and make the whole process easier to navigate. If you would like to learn more about the family reunification process, please contact us for an assessment or consultation. We will help you reunite with your loved ones in the United States.

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