Family-Based Green Card – A Step by Step Explanation

Family-based green card

Are you trying to understand each step in the family-based immigration process? As a New York Immigration Lawyer, below I provide a step by step outline of the family-based immigration USA process:

Step 1: The United States Citizen Relative Files I-130 Petition 

First, the US citizen relative must file an I-130 Petition for Alien Relative and this immigrant visa petition has to be approved by USCIS. This petition is filed by the US citizen relative who is the sponsor. The petition should include proof of the US citizen sponsor’s relationship to the foreign national applicant, and additional documents proving that all requirements are met. The US Citizen relative sponsor must file this petition in the United States with United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). 

Step 2: Awaiting Petition Approval

1. I-797C Receipt Notice

After the filed I-130 petition is received by USCIS, the agency will mail you a receipt notice on Form I-797C, titled ‘Notice of Action.’ On the I-797C, there’s a receipt number that will assist you to track the progress of your case online on USCIS’s cases status online website.

2. Request for Evidence or Notice of Intent to Deny

USCIS may need additional information to complete adjudication of your I-130 petition. In such a case, USCIS may issue a letter titled Request for Evidence (RFE) or Notice of Intent to Deny (NOID). Review the letter in detail and follow the directions in the letter to provide USCIS with the requested information. It is important that you respond to the letter. Otherwise, your I-130 petition may be denied.

If you do not understand the evidence USCIS is requesting, I recommend you contact an experienced family-based immigration lawyer. As part of our immigration lawyer New York services, we regularly represent petitioners and beneficiaries in the family-based immigration USA process. If you are searching for an “immigration lawyer near me” because you wish to apply for a family-based green card, please contact our New York immigration law firm office.  

3. How Long Does The Family-Based Green Card Process Take?

USCIS generally adjudicates I-130 petitions within 6 months to a year.

Please note that beneficiaries who are not immediate relatives (spouses, unmarried children under the age of 21, and parents) of the US petitioner must wait after their I-130 petition is approved for their immigrant visa number to become current. This wait can range from 7 years to 13 years depending on the family-based visa category. To learn more about family-based visa categories visit our family-based immigration page.

Step 3: Adjustment of Status or Acquire Immigrant Visa Number from Department of State

The next steps depends on whether the beneficiary is located in the United State or outside of the United States.

If the beneficiary is in the United States, she may apply for adjustment of status to lawful permanent resident by filing Form I-485 including all necessary supporting documents with USCIS. After approval, the beneficiary will be mailed a green card to her US address.   

If the beneficiary is outside of the United States, the beneficiary must acquire an immigrant visa number from the US Department of State and attend a visa interview at the nearest US consular post. After the I-130 petition has been approved, the foreign relative beneficiary may file an application and request an appointment for an immigrant visa interview at a US consulate or embassy. The appointment should generally be made with the nearest US consulate in the beneficiary’s home country. After approval, the beneficiary will be issued an immigrant visa to travel to the US.  Once in the United States, the beneficiary will issued a green card. Please note that immigrant visas can only be valid for six months from the date of issuance.

If you are searching for “immigration lawyer near me” because you are applying for adjustment of status or for your consular interview, contact our New York family-based immigration lawyer. As part of our immigration attorney New York services, we regularly represent petitioners and beneficiaries in the family-based green card process.
The immigrant visa number application process is different for immediate relatives – including a spouse, a parent or an unmarried child under the age of 21 – versus non-immediate relatives. 

For Immediate Family Members (Spouse, Parent, or Unmarried Child under the age of 21):

Immediate relatives do not have to wait for a visa number because there are no quotas and limitations on the issuance of immediate relative immigrant visas. Once the I-130 petition is approved, an immediate relative may be granted a visa number immediately. 

Once your I-130 petition is approved, schedule an appointment for an immigrant visa interview with the closest US consulate or embassy in your home country. Make sure you complete all requirements prior to your interview, including undergoing a medical exam and all necessary vaccinations.

For Non-Immediate Relatives:

If you are the beneficiary of an approved I-130 petition but are not an immediate relative of a US citizen, you must first obtain a visa number from the Department of State and wait for your visa number to become current. This process can take several years (see below).

Once your immigrant visa number is current, you must schedule an appointment for an immigrant visa interview at the nearest US consulate or embassy. Make sure you complete all requirements prior to your interview, including undergoing a medical exam and all necessary vaccinations.

Why is there a waiting period for some family-based immigration categories?

The United States issues a limited amount of immigrant visas to foreign relatives that are not in the immediate relative category. Specifically, all non-immediate relative family members are divided into 4 visa preference categories:

  1. F-1 First Preference: Unmarried sons and daughters of US citizens who are over the age of 21. The current waiting period for this family-based immigration USA category is 7 years.
  2. F-3 Third Preference: Married sons and daughters of US citizens who are over the age of 21. The current waiting period for this family-based immigration USA category is 12 years.
  3. F-4 Fourth Preference: Brothers and sisters of US citizens. The current waiting for this family-based immigration USA category is 13 years.
  4. F-2A Second Preference: Spouses and unmarried children under the age of 21 of lawful permanent residents. The current waiting for this family-based immigration USA category is 2 years.
  5. F-2B Second Preference: Unmarried sons and daughters over the age of 21 of lawful permanent residents. The current waiting for this family-based immigration USA category is 6 years.

Additionally, the government has placed yearly per country quotas on immigrant visas. Foreign nationals from certain countries with high amounts of family-based immigrant visa applicants, namely China, India, Mexico, and the Philippines, may have to endure waiting periods longer than the ones listed above.

Please note the above waiting periods are based on the latest State Department Visa Bulletin at the time of writing this article.

How do I know when my immigrant visa number is available?

You may check the status of your immigrant visa number in the Department of State’s Visa Bulletin published every month. You may also visit the News & Insights section of our website where we republish the latest visa bulletin each month.

How Do I Obtain an Immigrant Visa Number?

You do not directly apply for an immigrant visa number. Once your I-130 petition is approved, USCIS will transfer your case to the Department of State’s National Visa Center where the petition will remain until your immigrant visa number becomes current. The Department of State’s National Visa Center will inform you once you immigrant visa number is current. 

There is usually no reason to contact the National Visa Center directly, unless your address has changed, or your personal situation has changed and it could influence your eligibility for an immigrant visa. If so, you may contact the National Visa Center by mail at: The National Visa Center, 32 Rochester Avenue, Portsmouth, New Hampshire 03801-2909.

As part of our immigration lawyer New York services, we regularly process family-based immigration cases through the National Visa Center. If you are searching for an “immigration attorney near me” to help with consular processing your family-based green card petition, please contact our NYC immigration law firm office.  

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Do you seek representation in your family-based green card case? Are you interested in learning more about our family-based immigration USA services? Are you searching for an “immigration lawyer near me”? As an experienced New York immigration law firm, Pandev Law has the knowledge and experience to guide you through your family-based immigration case.

To learn more about our immigration attorney New York services or to schedule a consultation with our New York immigration attorney, please complete our contact form, email admin@pandevlaw.com, or call us at (212) 220-6652.

During your consultation, our NYC immigration lawyer will provide an honest assessment of your case, and a recommendation about your next steps.

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