Opponents of expanded immigration to the United States often decry “chain migration.” Chain migration is a denigrating reference to the fact that the easiest way to enter the United States legally is by seeking a family visa. Understanding family visas provides an important look at the so-called evils of chain migration.
Who is eligible for a family visa?
The United States issues visas to family members of persons who are already in the country lawfully. Only two groups of persons are eligible for a family visa: spouses of person who are already U.S. citizens, unmarried children of U.S. citizens under 21, orphans adopted in another country, orphans who will be adopted by U.S. citizens, and parents of U.S. citizens who are at least 21 years old. Over the past several decades, immigrants have sponsored approximately 3.5 relatives each, including spouses and children.
The requirements for a family visa
The formal requirements for obtaining a family visa are relatively straightforward: The sponsoring relative must be over the age of 18 and residing in the Us. This person must file a petition for family members with the Citizenship and Immigration Services. This petition must demonstrate the legitimacy of the familial relationship and that the person seeking a visa meets the minimum income requirements. The sponsoring relative must submit an affidavit stating that he or she will be financially responsible for each applicant.
The prospective immigrant is then subjected to an extensive background and security check. The USCIS also examines all green card applications to determine whether the applicant is likely to become a public charge needing public assistance. If the USCIS approves the petition, the petition is sent to the National Visa Center (NVC) for further processing. The applicant must complete serval forms, submit appropriate documents, and pay the processing fee. An embassy or consulate officer then interviews the applicant, and the applicant must submit to a medical examination and undergo specified vaccinations.
Waiting for a decision
The wait for a family-based green card may take years or even decades, depending upon an applicant’s relationship with the sponsor. Immediate relatives (spouses and minor children) usually receive their green cards soon after satisfying all criteria, but the wait time for other relatives, such as parents, or siblings, may vary from years to decades. Family members from countries with high demand for green cards, such as China, India, Mexico, and the Philippines, may wait decades for a green card.
Anyone considering applying for a family-based visa may wish to consult an experienced immigration attorney for advice on the process.