One of the most common ways that those who are not U.S. citizens obtain lawful permanent residency is through a family-based visa. These visas are granted specifically to those with a relative who has already established residency in the United States.
Immediate family members, such as parents, spouses, and children, are most likely to be granted permanent resident status under an immediate relative immigrant visa, of which there is no cap for entry into the United States. However, more distant relatives are also eligible for family preference immigrant visas, though with fewer benefits afforded and only a particular number of applicants may be admitted each year.
There are five different categories for immediate relative immigrant visas, including:
- IR-1: For spouses of U.S. citizens
- IR-2: For unmarried children under the age of 21
- IR-3: For orphans who have been adopted outside of the country by a U.S. citizen
- IR-4: For orphans who will be adopted within the U.S. by a U.S. citizen
- IR-5: For parents of a citizen who are aged 21 or older
Those who are not immediate relatives are eligible to obtain one of the following visas, though the wait is likely to be lengthy due to the limitations for the number of visas that may be issued yearly:
- F-1: Family first preference visas, which are issued to unmarried daughters or sons (and any minor children) of citizens
- F-2: Family second preference visas, which are issued to spouses and children (minors and those aged 21 and older who are unmarried) of legal permanent residents
- F-3: Family third preference visas, which are issued to married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens, including their spouses and any minor children
- F-4: Family fourth preference visas, which are issued to siblings of U.S. citizens who are aged 21 or older, including their spouses and any minor children
Similar to the aforementioned paths to residency are K-1 visas, which are issued to a fiancé(e) of a U.S. citizen. This visa only grants admittance to the U.S. for 90 days, during which time the couple must marry or the non-citizen will no longer maintain his/her temporary resident status. After legally marrying, the non-citizen can apply for an adjustment of status via a Petition for Alien Fiancé(e).
In order to secure a family-based visa, one should work closely with an experienced Miami immigration attorney. Given the current backlog of F1-4 visas, the knowledge and guidance a lawyer can provide throughout the process is invaluable.