Navigating US Family Immigration – Tips and Tricks for Success

There’s nothing better than reuniting with your loved ones and building a happy life together. If you or a loved one is living in the United States, family-based immigration is an opportunity to do just that. According to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS), about 659,443 people applied for Family Green Cards in 2019.

Applying for family green cards is a significant path to permanent residency in the country. However, U.S. immigration is an intricate system that can be hard to navigate if you have no clue what to do or the requirements. But even though the process is challenging, the reward for successfully getting your family green cards will be worth it. Hence, many people are still opting to try their luck and give it a try.

Suppose you or your family is planning to start the process of immigrating. In that case, it is essential to understand the various aspects of family-based immigration. These include which category your application falls into and the need to pass the citizenship interviews. In this article, we’ll help you understand the process involved in family immigration. We’ll also give you tips on how to get those family green cards successfully.

Understanding Family-based Immigration

The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) is a U.S. law that limits the number of foreign nationals who can receive family-based immigrant visas every year. The U.S. Department of State allocates these visas, while the USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services) determines eligibility.

So, what exactly are permanent residency and green cards? Permanent residency gives family members the privilege of permanently staying and working in the United States. Meanwhile, a person with a green card receives permanent resident status. Green card holders and citizens can apply for family-based green cards for other family members living outside the U.S.

Family members eligible for family-based green cards include parents, children, spouses, and siblings. Widows and widowers who were married to a citizen at the time of the citizen’s death can also apply for a green card. However, they have to prove that the marriage was authentic. Unfortunately, extended family members like cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents are not qualified for this immigration application.

Family-based Immigration Categories

When applying for a green card, you must also understand the different categories. Family-based immigration visas are categorized as either immediate relatives or family preference. Each group has different eligibility criteria, wait times, and quotas.

The immediate relative category is for the closest family members of a U.S. citizen, and there is no visa quota under this category. You can apply in this category if you are the spouse, children (under 21 years old), or parents of a U.S. citizen.

The family preference category is for distant relatives and is subject to quotas; therefore, you should expect some waiting time. This category has four subclasses:

  • F1: Unmarried children of U.S. citizens and their minor children
  • F2: Spouses, minor children, and unmarried adult children over 21 who are green card holders
  • F3: Married children of U.S. citizens, their spouses, and their minor children
  • F4: Siblings of U.S. citizens (if the citizen is at least 21 years old), their spouses, and their minor children.

The Green Card Application Process

So, how do you start obtaining a green card? Generally, a family-based immigration process begins with the petitioner (the U.S. citizen or anyone who’s a lawful permanent U.S. resident) requesting to allow the foreign relative to immigrate to the United States. If you are the petitioner, you must file Form I-130 or Petition for Alien Relative at the USCIS office. This form establishes the existence of a qualifying family relationship.


The sponsorship and petition process has a few crucial steps. First, sponsorship eligibility should be determined. As a sponsor, you must be a U.S. citizen, at least 18 years old, and have a qualifying relationship with a foreign relative. Next, you need to gather the necessary supporting documents. You will need documents such as birth certificates, adoption papers (if required), or marriage certificates. The next step is to submit the I-130 petition with the supporting documents and applicable fees.

The USCIS will review and approve the I-130 petition. Once approved, a visa number will be given, and the foreign family member may apply for a green card. You and your family can choose from two options when applying for a green card: adjustment of status or consular processing.

If you choose consular processing, you must apply through the U.S. embassy. You can also go to the consulate if the applicant lives outside the United States. This process is the most common path to getting a green card. However, there are cases when the immigrant already lives in the country on a non-immigrant visa. For this, you can apply for adjustment of status to permanent resident.

Prepare for the Family Immigration Interview

Now that the petition has been approved, the next thing to consider is acing that family-based immigration interview. This interview is a crucial step in the process, and it’s when you need to prove that you are eligible and sincere when applying for a green card.

It is crucial to be ready for this interview and navigate it confidently. How you carry yourself during the interview and answer the questions will impact the application outcome. Here are some tips to help you:

  • Do your research. You can start by understanding the interview process for your residency application. Look up the questions commonly asked during these interviews and the supporting documents you need to take with you. Ensure you learn more about the interview location and the steps to take on the interview day.
  • Organize your documents. Make sure that all your documents are up-to-date, accurate, and well-organized. If you can, create a checklist of the required documents to ensure you haven’t forgotten anything. Also, be sure to keep copies and originals with you.
  • Answer honestly and transparently. Honesty is vital in any immigration interview. Do not provide false information or misrepresent any details; they can discover the truth, jeopardizing your chance of approval.

Be Informed

With family-based immigration, you can reunite with your loved ones and start living a good life together in the United States. However, navigating the entire process requires an in-depth knowledge and understanding of various factors such as eligibility, requirements, visa quotas, and waiting periods. Familiarizing yourself with these things will help you successfully embark on this life-changing journey.