Family Immigration Law

Foreign citizens who want to live permanently in the United States may be eligible for a family based immigrant visa.

However, to be eligible to apply for an immigrant visa, you must be sponsored by an immediate relative who is at least 21 years old and who is either a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident.

The U.S. government requires you to have a citizen or LPR sponsor, and that person must petition the government on your behalf; you can’t petition the government for family based immigration on your own.

Family immigration can be complicated, and for that reason, many people choose to work with a Houston immigration attorney.

Your attorney can answer all your questions from start to finish, and he or she will be able to fill out and file the necessary petitions on your behalf. Additionally, your family immigration lawyer can help you find and compile supporting documentation, prepare for immigration interviews, and argue on your behalf if you receive a negative immigration decision.

For your family based green card or visa, call Our Houston Immigration Lawyers that care for you and your family.

What Are Family Based Immigrant Visas?

The U.S. government offers two types of family based immigrant visas: those for immediate relatives and family preference visas. 

Each type of visa has its own requirements. For example, U.S. citizens can file petitions for spouses, sons or daughters, parents, and brothers or sisters. 

Lawful permanent residents can only file petitions for spouses and unmarried sons or daughters.


Immediate Relatives

U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents can file immediate relative petitions. Only some people qualify as immediate relatives, though. If you’re a U.S. citizen, you can file for a visa or green card for your:


Spouse or fiancé


Unmarried children (including adoptees) under the age of 21


Parents, provided that you (the U.S. citizen) are 21 or older


Siblings, provided that you (the U.S. citizen) are 21 or older

When your immediate relatives are not in the United States, you’ll need to file a visa application for them. 

After the visa is approved and your relatives are in the U.S., you can file for an adjustment of status.

Visas are always available to immediate relatives, regardless of how many other people have been admitted to the U.S. in the same status. 

That’s not the case with family preference visas, which are available to lawful permanent residents; people who want to come to the U.S. on a family preference visa must wait until a visa is available for them.

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 The government only allows a certain number of people to enter the country on family preference visas every year.

Family Preference Visas

Family preference visas are limited in quantity. The U.S. government only allows a specific number of people to use them each year. These visas are typically available for more distant family relationships to U.S. citizens and to specific familial relationships with lawful permanent residents.

There are four categories for family preference visas:

What Relatives Are Not Allowed in Family Based Immigration?

Whether you’re a U.S. citizen or a lawful permanent resident, you cannot sponsor:

What Happens After You Petition for a Relative?

After you petition for a relative, what happens next depends on where your relative lives.

If he or she lives in the United States, your relative can apply to adjust his or her status and become a green card holder when a visa becomes available. If your relative is outside the U.S., the petition you file will go to the National Visa Center, or NVC.

The NVC will review and forward your petition to the right U.S. consulate when a visa becomes available, and they will tell your relative how to proceed.

Remember, if you’re a U.S. citizen petitioner, your immediate family does not have to wait for a visa to become available.

If you or your family members has been put into deportation processing, you should find experienced counsel to help

Getting Lawful Permanent Residency Through Marriage

People who are married to U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents may qualify for permanent residency in the United States. 

However, you’ll have to prove that you’re married and establish that your marriage is bona fide

That means you’re in a genuine marital relationship and you didn’t marry simply to gain an immigration benefit.

In order to gain lawful permanent residency through marriage, the U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident must petition on the spouse’s behalf. 

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The first step is to file Form I-130 (Petition for an Alien Relative) and supporting documentation, such as proof of the marriage (like a marriage license and certificate), proof that the marriage is not fraudulent (like bills in both parties’ names) and proof that any prior marriages have been legally terminated. For most people, the best way to handle this is to work with a Texas family immigration attorney.

Your attorney can fill out and file all your paperwork for you, and he or she can submit the appropriate supporting documentation, as well.

What About the I-485?

If the petitioner is a U.S. citizen, there is no need to wait to file a Form I-485. Your attorney can file the form at the same time he or she files Form I-130. However, if the petitioner is a green card holder, your attorney will wait until the Form I-130 is approved before filing the Form I-485. This can make the wait for approval longer.

Green Card Marriage Interviews

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The final step in the marriage-based green card process is an interview. The beneficiary (the foreign spouse) must attend an interview with an immigration official. 

The interviewer’s main goal is to ensure that the marriage is genuine and that the parties didn’t simply get married to convey an immigration benefit.

Questions during the interview may focus on your relationship history, such as where you met, who proposed, where you went on your honeymoon, or why you decided to live where you do. 

Your interviewer can also ask you questions about your current relationship, such as who sleeps on which side of the bed, what kinds of future plans you have with each other, and even what your spouse’s favorite condiment is. The interviewer’s main job is to ensure that you’re in an actual marriage and that you aren’t only married “on paper” so that one of you can get an immigration benefit.

How Long Does it Take to Get a Green Card Through Marriage?

If you and your spouse have been married for fewer than two years, you’ll receive a conditional green card. That green card is only valid for two years, and before that time has elapsed, you must petition the government to remove the conditions and get a permanent green card. If you have been married for more than two years, you’ll receive an IR1 green card, which is valid for 10 years.

Do You Need a Lawyer for Family Based Immigration?

U.S. immigration law is continuously evolving, which means things can change quickly. For most people, the best way to bring foreign family members to the United States is to work with a family immigration attorney. Your attorney can answer all your questions, help you determine which petitions to file, and fill out and file all your paperwork for you. Additionally, your attorney can keep track of your case for you and provide you with updates, as well as present your case to an appeals court if an immigration judge issues an unfavorable decision.

If you’re considering bringing your family members to the United States, we may be able to help you. Call us today to tell us about your situation and we’ll help you get started on the path to the best possible outcome.

Call (512) 371-9000 Or Click Below For A Free Consultation Today!​​