Immigration Through A Family Relative
You are here: Home \ Relative
John Messing US Immigration Lawyer

Current laws and regulations permit a U.S. citzenship or permanent resident to sponsor certain qualifying foreign relatives for permanent residency. Once permanent residency is legimately obtained and maintained, eventual citizenship for the foreign family member through naturalization is also possible, but not all family members can qualify for permanent residency. Recent changes in rules about illegal immigration can result in adverse determinations, even when a U.S. citizen fiancé or spouse is the sponsor. Dealing with United States Citzenship and Immigration Services, the National Visa Center and U.S. consulates abroad can be frustrating. The rules for obtaining and successfully maintaining permanent residency, and transitioning from permanent residency into citzenship are complicated, sometimes unforgiving, and normally should be attempted only with competent legal advice. Otherwise, costly and sometimes irreversible errors may occur, with far reaching implications for the family members that can include deportation

US Citizen Sponsors of Family Members

A fiancé of a U.S. citizen must obtain a visa to enter the United States from a U.S. Consulate abroad, after obtaining preliminary written approval from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service located within the U.S. Qualifying children of the fiancé can also obtain derivative visas to enter the United States as part of this process.

After the fiancé successfully enters the U.S., the couple must marry within a specified time and the foreign spouse must adjust status to that of a permanent resident by filing appropriate documents with the USCIS (formerly INS) within a time set by law, or all immigration benefits may be lost and the foreign fiancé or spouse will have to leave the United States. Special rules also apply to permanent residency for the children of the new spouse who entered on derivative fiance visas. Messing Law Offices has extensive experience with all aspects of the fiancé immigration process, including for dependent children.

Spousal visas

If the foreign spouse lives outside the U.S., either permanent residency or a special variant of a fiancé visa ("K-3 visa") can be requested from a U.S. Consulate in an appropriate country. If the spouse is inside the U.S., then he or she may be able to adjust status to that of a permanent resident within the United States. In certain cases, even if currently within the U.S. the spouse may be best advised to travel abroad to obtain permanent residency from a U.S. consulate in an appropriate foreign country; but in cases where the spouse has overstayed a visa in the past, leaving the U.S. to obtain permanent residency from a consulate abroad can lead to a three or ten year bar against re-entry, which can be devastating. Carefully considered strategic considerations should dictate which type of immigration benefit to request and where. Messing Law Offices has extensive expertise to guide the applicants through this complicated process and obtain the most favorable benefits possible.

Couples who have been married less than two years before an application for permanent residency is filed must also fulfill special rules on conditional permanent residency. Before the end of the two year conditional permanent residency period, an application to remove the conditions must be made on a form I-751 which is available for free with instructions from the USCIS website. A pending divorce or existing legal separation can result in a denial of the application to remove the conditions, in which case the permanent residency will be lost. A number of exceptions can save the permanent residency of a foreign conditional permanent resident even if the marriage is unsucessful, but experienced legal advice should definitely be sought in such a situation.

Messing Law Offices has considerable experience in preparing successful petitions to remove conditions on permanent residency and to help salvage the permanent residency of conditional permanents whose marriages have run into difficulties during the two year period of conditional permanent residency.

Fiancé and spousal visas present many special problems that are the subject of frequently asked questions about fiancé and marriage visas posed to Attorney John Messing

Messing Law Offices (520) 512-5432 provides quality professional guidance, advice, and comprehensive strategy at reasonable rates to enable a fully informed decision.

Immediate relatives of US citizens (visa immediately available)
  • Spouse of US citizen
  • Unmarried child under 21 years old;
  • Parent, if the citizen is at least 21 years old (whether child is married or not).
Other classes of relatives of US citizens (visa subject to preference categories)
  • Unmarried son or daughter over 21;
  • Married son or daughter (any age); or
  • Brother or sister, if the citizen is at least 21 years old.
Permanent Resident Sponsors of Family Members

Lawful Permanent Residents can also apply for a limited class of qualifying family members, but in addition to the rules applicable to immediate relatives of U.S. citizens, the foreign family member must wait until a visa is available in the appropriate category of visa preferences, before any immigration benefit can be obtained, which can take months and sometimes years to obtain. If naturalization of the permanent resident occurs during the pendency of the application for the qualifying family member, then visa availability is immediate, and the waiting time is eliminated.

Qualifying categories for relatives of Permanent Resident include:

  • Husband or wife;
  • Unmarried son or daughter (any age)
Affidavit of Support Requirement
As part of the application process for a relative, the sponsoring family member has to agree to be financially responsible for the relative he or she is sponsoring and prove that he or she has sufficient assets and/or income to make this undertaking, through a document called an affidavit of support. If the foreign relative goes on certain specified types of public assistance, then the sponsoring relative agrees to reimburse the Government for any expenditures it makes. In certain cases, even if the U.S. citizen or permanent resident family member lacks sufficient income or assets to qualify for this undertaking, another person can become a joint sponsor and assume all or part of the obligation. The rules applicable to affidavits of support are complicated. Learn more about affidavits of support or try our Affidavit of Support Calculator™.

Call Messing Law Offices (520) 512-5432 if you need help with a family or fiance visa problem or other concern.