Family Unification & Green Cards

Family Unification & Green Cards


Our firm is committed to keeping families together and reuniting those separated by oceans, borders and bureaucracies.  Below we discuss several immigration options that may be available to you and your loved ones.

Spouses, Children, Parents & Siblings (Immigrant Visas & Green Cards)

One of the most common ways for people to obtain permanent residency (“Green Cards”) in the United States is through a family member who is a US citizen or permanent resident.

The initial process begins with the filing of an alien relative petition on form I-130.  The US citizen or permanent resident is called the “Petitioner;” the foreign-born relative is called the “Beneficiary.”

Only certain family members may petition for their foreign-born relatives.  The following chart shows all the possible combinations for alien relative petitions:















After the I-130 petition is approved, the next step is for the beneficiary to apply for permanent residency directly, if they are in the United States, or an immigrant visa at a US embassy or consulate, if they are outside the United States.  Either way, the beneficiary will have a Green Card at the end of the process.

How long the beneficiary must wait to apply for permanent residence or an immigrant visa depends on the Petitioner-Beneficiary category.  Petitions by a US citizen for a spouse, child (under 21) or parent – known as “immediate relatives” – are the most favorable category.  Once these petitions are approved, the beneficiaries are immediately eligible to apply for permanent residence or an immigrant visa.

In some cases, if the beneficiary of an Immediate Relative petition is in the United States, he or she may file for a Green Card at the same time that the Petitioner files the I-130.  Among immigration practitioners, this filing is commonly known as a “One-Step”.

Petitions by US citizens for adult sublings (over 21) are the least favorable category, and typically take the longest time to process.  Additionally, if the beneficiary is from certain countries, such as China, India or the Philippines, the waiting times could be even longer.

DID YOU KNOW?    Some changes, either to the Petitioner or the Beneficiary, can drastically affect processing times or the Beneficiary’s eligibility for an immigrant visa or Green Card.  For example, if the Beneficiary gets married or if Petitioner dies after the I-130 is filed, the Beneficiary may become ineligible for an immigrant visa or Green Card.  In such cases, it is best to consult with a knowledgeable immigration attorney.

Fiance(e)s (K-1 Visas)

The US immigration system also allows for a US citizen to petition for a fiancé or fiancée.  Like the immigrant visa process, the fiancé(e) process begins with a petition on form I-129F.  In general, the couple must prove that the Petitioner is a US citizen and that they have met in person within the past two years.  Under certain circumstances, such as when the couple’s traditions prohibit face-to-face meeting before marriage, the government may waive the in-person meeting requirement.

After the I-129F petition is approved, the next step is for the Beneficiary to apply for a K-1 visa at the appropriate US embassy or consulate.  If the visa is approved, the Beneficiary then enters the United States in K-1 visa status.  He or she will then have 90 days to legally marry the Petitioner.  Once the couple is married, the Beneficiary is eligible to file for a Green Card.

DID YOU KNOW?  Some US embassies or consulates are notoriously difficult when it comes to issuing K-1 visas.  In some circumstances, it may be easier, faster and cheaper for a couple to marry legally and obtain an immigrant visa than to apply for a K-1 visa for the Beneficiary.  To help determine which route is best for your situation, consult a knowledgeable immigration attorney.

K-3/K-4 Visas for Spouses & Children of US Citizens

A useful tool for some families, the K-3/K-4 visa allows for spouses or children of US citizens to come to the United States to complete the immigration process, rather than waiting overseas for an immigrant visa.

The process begins when the Petitioner files an immigrant petition on form I-130.  Then, he or she files another petition, on the I-129F form.  When the I-129F form is approved, notice is sent to the appropriate US embassy or consulate, even if the I-130 petition is not yet approved.  The beneficiary then applies for a K-3/K-4 visa.  Once the visa is issued, the Beneficiary enters the United States and waits for the      I-130 petition to be approved.  Once it is approved, he or she is then eligible to apply for a Green Card.

DID YOU KNOW?  Although slightly more complicated, in some circumstances it may be advisable to bring your spouse or child to the United States through the K-3/K-4 visa route.  For example, processing for the K-3/K-4 visa may be faster than waiting for an immigrant visa to become available at the designated US embassy or consulate.  Other factors, such as the Petitioner or Beneficiary’s health, finances or residence, may also make the K-3/K-4 route the best option.  To help determine which route is best for your situation, consult a knowledgeable immigration attorney.

V Visas for Spouses & Children of Lawful Permanent Residents

Similar to the K, the V visa is available for spouses and unmarried children under 21 of Lawful Permanent Residents.  To qualify for this visa, the Beneficiary must show that the I-130 petition was filed on or before December 21, 2000, and meet other requirements.  The purpose of this visa is to reunite families that have been separated during the immigration process.


For more information about visas, Green Cards and immigration options for you and your family, visit these pages: