Experienced Atlanta Family and Immigration Law
Keeping your family together is always a priority. Many people who immigrate to the U.S. need help uniting their families legally and permanently. G. Briceno and Associates has worked with clients in different states around the country to determine the best path toward bringing their families together. Our attorneys have the experience and knowledge needed to handle even the most difficult cases. Our approach is to listen, understand our client’s unique circumstances, and then craft the right approach for a long-term residency solution.
Understanding The Process
Our attorneys have the experience and knowledge needed to handle these difficult cases. First of all, it is important to understand what family-based immigration is and how it works. It requires at least two family members; one is known as a petitioner and one is known as a beneficiary. The petitioner has to be either a U.S. citizen or a lawful permanent resident. The beneficiary is a foreign family member who wants to work and reside in the United States.
There are two categories: immediate relative or family preference. If you are a spouse, parent or child of a U.S. citizen, you are considered an immediate relative. All other relationships are considered as family preference. There is no limit to the amount of immediate relative visas given out each year. On the other hand, the visas given to those considered to be family preference are numbered. Regardless, we can help you through this process from beginning to end.
What Our Clients Say
Family-based immigration (sometimes referred to as a family-based petition) is a process through which individuals can be granted certain immigration statuses based on the U.S. residency status of a family member. Through family-based immigration, those seeking to come to the U.S. can receive a green card through either an adjustment of status or consular processing. An adjustment of status means that an unlawful or non-permanent resident currently living in the U.S. has their status officially changed to permanent resident. Consular processing refers to individuals who are coming to the U.S. from another country through a U.S embassy or consulate.
United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is the federal agency primarily responsible for overseeing and administering immigration affairs. However, immigration proceedings can also involve other U.S. departments including the Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and the Department of State.
At least two family members must be involved in the process of family-based immigration. These two family members are referred to as the petitioner or the beneficiary depending on their role in the process. The petitioner has to be either a U.S. citizen or a lawful permanent resident. The beneficiary is a foreign family member or relation to the petitioner who wants to work and reside in the United States.
The entire family-based immigration process begins once the petitioner has filed necessary paperwork (called an I-130) with USCIS that establishes clearly admissible family relationships with the intended beneficiaries. If the petition has been correctly completed, USCIS will provide a notice of receipt and start the review process.
Improperly filing the initial forms can cause UCIS to significantly delay their response, request additional evidence or even reject the petition altogether. Because it is critically important to get this paperwork completed correctly the first time, we highly advise consultation with a qualified immigration attorney.
There are a huge number of factors affecting the amount of time for a petition to be reviewed and accepted. Some of these factors can be controlled, like paperwork and your response time to requests for information, while factors like political climate and shifting federal regulations cannot. The single greatest impacts to the total duration are the type of beneficiary (immediate family or family preference) and whether the beneficiary is currently living in the U.S.
While immediate family petitions can be accepted within 9 months, family preference petitions that rely on a limited number of visas can take up to 20 years in some cases. Your attorney will help you understand the anticipated timeline and keep you apprised of important milestones throughout the process.
There are two categories of relatives that qualify for family-based immigration under U.S. law: immediate relatives or individuals designated as “family preference.” USCIS defines immediate relatives as:
- Spouses of a United States citizen
- Children (unmarried and under 21 years of age) of a United States citizen
- Parents of a United States citizen if the United States citizen is at least 21 years of age
Other relationships with family and relatives are covered under “family sponsored preferences,” and the relationships that are officially recognized by USCIS include:
- Unmarried sons and daughters (over 21 years of age) of a United States citizen
- Spouses, children, and unmarried sons and daughters (over 21 years of age) of permanent residents
- Married sons and daughters of a United States citizen
- Siblings of a United States citizen that is at least 21 years old
The regulations for family-based immigration may allow for other individuals to be considered immediate family, but these cases fall outside the bounds of commonly used definitions. If you are uncertain whether one of your relatives or loved ones qualifies under either of these categories, an Atlanta family and immigration attorney can help you understand exactly who is eligible (whether for yourself or someone else) to benefit from family-based immigration.
Yes, in certain cases a single petitioner can be used to allow for multiple beneficiaries. The primary beneficiary can list children or a spouse as a derivative beneficiary. According to USCIS, children and spouses are the only individuals that qualify to accompany the primary beneficiary. If children who are listed as derivative beneficiaries turn 21 while an application is still pending, separate petitions have to be filed. Partnering with an experienced attorney is the best way to anticipate problems that might otherwise cause significant delays.
All individuals seeking immigration to the U.S. are subject to thorough investigation by an immigration officer who will investigate areas like employment history, criminal background, prior addresses, etc. To be considered as part of a family-based petition, beneficiaries must not meet ineligibility criteria as set forth by USCIS. Determining whether beneficiaries are in violation of this criteria requires individuals to undergo a number of evaluations that include health examinations, vaccine records, fingerprintings.
There is no limit to the amount of visas given to immediate family members each year. On the other hand, there is a limited number of visas (usually between 600,000 - 700,000) available to those seeking immigration under the status of “family preference.” An Atlanta family and immigration lawyer can help you understand how these numbers are determined and what they mean in your specific scenario.
As with all immigration processes, there are multiple issues that can derail a request for family-based immigration. These issues are often related to the personal health or misconduct of a beneficiary, or a change in the residency status of a petitioner (rare). Complications that can arise during family-based immigration include:
- If the beneficiary is convicted of a crime
- If it is suspected that a beneficiary is seeking entry to the U.S. for the principle purpose of engaging in criminal activities
- If a beneficiary is known or discovered to have a communicable disease
- With certain exceptions, if the beneficiary is not vaccinated against vaccine-preventable diseases
- If the beneficiary is determined to have a physical or mental disorder that poses a threat to the safety and welfare of themselves or others
- If a petitioner dies while the application process is still pending
The issues listed above realistically represent only a small portion of the regulations that could potentially make a beneficiary inadmissible. Navigating these issues can be painstaking; especially if they are untrue or inaccurately represented. Gathering and presenting documentation to resolve these issues can be a lengthy, time-consuming and difficult process. An immigration attorney will help you understand and respond to issues and ensure your responses are reviewed by federal agencies in a timely manner.