Visa Petitions for Family Members: The In’s and Out’s

If you want to bring family members from another country to Spokane, you’ll need to file visa petitions for them.

Before doing so, though, you must decide what kind of visa works best in their case: immigrant visas, for those coming to the U.S. to stay, or non-immigrant visas, for tourists or those coming for a limited visit.

The choice depends more on budget and time allowance than on the nature and length of the foreign visitor’s trip. A good lawyer can help with this choice. If a non-immigrant visa costs less and takes less time to procure, it may be the wisest selection for the time being. Visitors planning to remain in the U.S. can always apply, once here, for an immigrant visa. Getting here, after all, is half the battle.

Then, the waiting begins. Many immigrant visas take years to procure, because the United States only issues a limited number of them every year. To find out how many visas the U.S. government will provide this year, check the Department of State’s monthly Visa Bulletin, which shows the number of immigrant visas issued by type of family member as well as by country of origin, as well as how long a waiting period each can expect.

For the purpose of processing visa petitions for family members, the U.S. government has established a hierarchy.

The way it works

Family members who are immediate relatives of U.S. citizens—parents of adult children, spouses, unmarried minor children (under 21), and widows/widowers—get first preference in the U.S. system.

Second preference goes to fiancés of citizen petitioners, who may receive a visa in as little as three to six months.

Spouses and unmarried minor children (under 21) of legal permanent residents and citizens get third preference; the waiting period for spouses and children of residents will be considerably longer than that for U.S. citizens’ spouses and children. Adult children of both, or those married, face an even longer wait.

Fourth in line are siblings of citizens, who can face a very long wait: the federal government does not consider siblings to be “immediate relatives.”

Adding to the complexity of this formula is the government’s wish to regulate the numbers of immigrants coming in from any particular nation. Those wishing for U.S. immigrant visas for family members from China, Mexico, India and the Philippines will face longer waiting periods than those from other countries whose residents apply less frequently.

One glance at the latest Visa Bulletin and its confusing language and charts may make the process of petitioning for family visas seem daunting — but don’t be discouraged. In Spokane, we at Quiroga Law Office practices immigration law, and can help your family members join you here. Call us today at (509) 927-3840.

Visa Petitions for Family Members: The In’s and Out’s | Copyrighted Material of the Quiroga Law Office, PLLC