Family-Based Immigration

San Francisco Spouse Visa Immigration Attorney

Family-based immigration refers to when a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident (i.e. green card holder) uses their status to help their family member immigrate to the United States. While this type of immigration is common, it isn’t always easy, and it may take many months or years to complete.

At Harrison Law Office, P.C., our family-based immigration lawyer in San Francisco has many years of experience helping family members reunite in the United States. Attorney Harrison works tirelessly to help minimize or eliminate the time that family members need to spend apart. Furthermore, our firm offers services in multiple languages for our non-English speaking clients. In short, we want you to feel welcome and taken care of as we fight for your future.

Understanding the Family-Based Visa Process

While some types of immigration allow a person to apply for a green card by themselves, family-based immigration requires a U.S. citizen or permanent resident to file an immigrant petition on their foreign-citizen family member’s behalf. This is the very first step of the immigration process.

A U.S. citizen may file a petition for their:

  • Spouse;
  • Fiancé(e);
  • Child;
  • Parent (if the U.S. citizen is 21 or older); or
  • Sibling (if the U.S. citizen is 21 or older).

The immediate relatives of U.S. citizens have the highest level of priority and, as such, don’t need to wait for a visa to become available before applying for a green card. Immediate relatives include the U.S. citizen’s spouse, their unmarried children under 21, and, if the U.S. citizen is 21 or older, their parents.

A permanent resident has fewer options than U.S. citizens. They can only file a petition for their:

  • Spouse; or
  • Unmarried son or daughter.

Once the immigrant petition has been approved, the applicant will need to wait until a green card becomes available in their category before submitting the final application (unless the applicant is the immediate relative of a U.S. citizen).

If the foreign-citizen family member is currently living abroad, they will need to apply for a green card through consular processing at a U.S. Consulate or Embassy. If, on the other hand, they are already living in the United States, they may be able to adjust their status to permanent residence without leaving the country.

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The Benefits of Permanent Residence

Once a person obtains a family-based green card, they are considered a lawful permanent resident and can enjoy many benefits.

These benefits include:

  • Full protection under U.S. law in any state
  • The ability to live and work anywhere in the U.S.
  • Access to most forms of public assistance
  • The opportunity to apply for a Social Security number and driver’s license
  • The ability to travel abroad (with certain restrictions)
  • The ability to apply for citizenship through naturalization after a certain number of years

While a green card is considered permanent, you can only continue to enjoy the above benefits if you adhere to immigration regulations and keep your green card valid.

To protect your status, you will need to:

  • Replace your green card every ten years;
  • Avoid breaking the law;
  • Avoid relying on public assistance for the first five years of your permanent residence (see the new public charge rule for details); and
  • Travel abroad for no longer than one year at a time (preferably no longer than six months, just to be safe) unless you obtain a reentry permit before leaving.

If you would like more information about obtaining a green card for yourself or a family member, staying safe from deportation, and accomplishing other immigration-related goals, let Harrison Law Office, P.C. answer all your questions. Since 2014, we have handled hundreds of cases, and we look forward to using this experience to help you and your loved ones.

Call (415) 212-6817 or contact us online to schedule your initial consultation today. We offer same-day appointments and multilingual services.

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