You can obtain the right to live and work in the United States without time limitations, as a result of sponsorship by an immediate relative who is either a U.S. citizen or a permanent resident. This immediate relative is permitted to sponsor a spouse, children, parents, brothers and sisters (in the latter two situations, the immediate relative must be a U. S. citizen).
An American citizen may sponsor a spouse for a Green Card without regard to family preference; a spouse, being an immediate relative, is not subject to numerical limitations of any kind. Under these conditions, a Green Card is usually issued to the immigrant spouse in six to twelve months. Similarly, an adult U.S. citizen may sponsor his or her parents
But the spouse of a permanent resident, that is, a Green Card holder, must wait about 2- 3 years for a Green Card. In the latter case, the spouse is classified under the “Second Preference” category, which is subject to annual numerical limitations.
Because of the Marriage Fraud Amendments enacted under the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act, it is now harder to obtain a Green Card, even for the spouse of a citizen or Green Card holder. The reason for these amendments was to halt the practice of marrying solely for Green Card purposes. Now, if a marriage is less than two years old when the citizen and immigrant spouse attend the Immigration and Naturalization Service interview, the immigrant spouse receives a “conditional” Green Card, which is valid for two years. During that time, both parties go to the office of the Immigration and Naturalization Service for a final interview, where they must prove that the marriage is genuine, not entered into for the purpose of acquiring a Green Card. If the interviewing officer is satisfied that this is the case, the immigrant spouse receives a permanent Green Card and the right to permanent residence.
There are now four preference categories that allow for those with close enough family ties to immigrate to the U.S.
- In the First Preference category, (F1) Unmarried Sons and Daughters of U.S. Citizens: 23,400 plus any numbers not required for fourth preference.
- In the Second Preference category, Spouses and Children, and Unmarried Sons and Daughters of Permanent Residents: 114,200, plus the number (if any) by which the worldwide family preference level exceeds 226,000, plus any unused first preference numbers:
A. (F2A) Spouses and Children of Permanent Residents: 77% of the overall second preference limitation, of which 75% are exempt from the per-country limit;
B. (F2B) Unmarried Sons and Daughters (21 years of age or older) of Permanent Residents: 23% of the
overall second preference limitation.
- In the Third Preference category, (F3) Married Sons and Daughters of U.S. Citizens: 23,400, plus any numbers not required by first and second preferences.
- In the Fourth Preference category, (F4) Brothers and Sisters of Adult U.S. Citizens: 65,000, plus any numbers not required by first three preferences.
In summary, family relationships of varying kinds, as between aliens (non U.S. nationals) and U.S. citizens or permanent residents, are the most important bases on which the overwhelming majority of immigration visas are sought and granted every year.
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