Summer 2003-07 Family immigration categories

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Number 52
Summer 2003

Family immigration categories

Under the Immigration and Nationality Act, family relationships-such as spouses,
children, parents, sons and daughters-convey immigration benefits.

The INA creates two broad categories for family members:

/ immediate relatives category and

/ family-based preference category.

Immediate relative category

The immediate relative category has procedural advantages over the family-based preference category. For example, it profers no numerical limitation on the number of immediate relatives who might emigrate from any country to the United States. Also, immediate relatives who enter the U.S. legally are exempt from certain so-called "bars," such as unauthorized employment.

On the other hand, spouses and children of immediate relative immigrants do not automatically qualify for immigration visas, whereas those of a family-based preference alien would.

The following fall within the "immediate relative" category:

/ spouses, who must be legally married in good faith,

/ parents, if the petitioning son or daughter is over 21 years of age,

/ children, if over 21 years of age and unmarried.

Family-based preference category

The family-based preference category encompasses:

/ unmarried sons and daughters of U.S. citizens-who are subject to waiting periods ranging from 1½ years to over 12 years,

/ spouses and unmarried sons and daughters of permanent residents-subject to waiting periods ranging from 4 to over 9 years,

/ married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens-with waiting period exceeding 4 years,

/ brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens-with waiting periods ranging from 10 to over 20 years.

Affidavit of support

In all cases, an affidavit of support must be completed by the petitioning U.S. citizen or permanent resident, who must enjoy a level of income of not less than 125% of the federal poverty line, as published by the Department of Health and Human Services. n


© 2003 Goldman Antonetti