The Immigration and Nationality Act is a U.S. law that manages the number of family-based immigrant visas issued each year. In Pennsylvania, there are protocols for how a citizen can help a foreign national get permanent residence in the United States.
Beneficiaries and petitioners
Family-based immigration involves at least two members of the same family: the petitioner and the beneficiary. Petitioners have to be natural citizens or have lawful permanent residency. Beneficiaries are individuals looking to come into the country. Derivative beneficiaries are also involved when the beneficiary has a spouse or child who qualifies.
Immediate family and relative preference
The family-based immigration process recognizes two major classifications. The categories are “family preference” and “immediate relative.”
The government issues immigrant visas each year for immediate relatives of U.S. citizens. These relatives include parents, spouses, and unmarried children under the age of 21. Visa issuance in this category is unlimited.
Any other qualified relationships fall under family preference. In this case, the government limits immigrant visas. The cap is the reason for the long wait and backlog.
Green card process
The green card process begins with the petitioner putting in a request for the U.S. government to let a family member legally come into the country. You have to file Form I-130 Petition for Alien Relative with the USCIS. The petition sets up the family relationship and eligibility.
Demand for family preference immigrant visas always exceeds the number of available visas. A position is determined with a priority date, which is the date the I-130 is properly filed and accepted.
A monthly visa bulletin lets you see your status in the queue. Depending on the category, you may wait months or years. A single mistake can get your petition rejected, delayed or denied, so it’s important to be thorough when completing an application.