How to Start the Immigration Process
One of the most common questions we get from people looking to help a loved one immigrate to the United States is: “Where do I start?” We know this process can be confusing at times, so we’ve broken it down into more manageable steps. Read on below to learn how to begin the immigration process if you are petitioning for a relative.
1. Determine if your relative is eligible to be sponsored (IR, priority dates).
The first question is whether you have a qualifying relationship with the person you want to sponsor. You can always sponsor an “immediate relative” (IR), which is a child under age 21, a spouse, or a parent if you are at least 21. If a relative does not qualify as an “immediate relative” you still may be able to sponsor them if they are a child over 21 or a brother or sister, but there could be a wait time depending on the relationship and the country of origin. Some kinds of relative, like cousins, aunts/uncles, or nephews/nieces can never be sponsored.
2. Determine what, if any, waivers are needed based on statutory bars.
Even if a relative has a qualifying relationship, they may be barred from admission to the country for various reasons. One common bar is the 3/10 bar. This rule says that anyone with 6 months or more of unlawful presence in the country is barred from re-entry for 3 years. Anyone with a year or more of unlawful presence is barred for 10 years. Another bar is the “permanent bar”, which says that anyone who has been deported in the past and again enters or seeks to enter the country without permission is permanently barred from re-entry. Other bars are based on criminal conduct, previous immigration violations or fraud, or health-related grounds.
3. File I-130 to establish your relationship, including good faith marriage.
Once you have determined that you have a qualifying relationship with your relative and that your relative is not barred from admission or eligible for a waiver for any bars, you have to file an I-130, which is the form to establish your relationship with your relative. The proof depends on the relationship you are trying to establish. Some relationships, such as parent-child, can be established through a birth certificate.
Any time you are trying to sponsor a spouse, you not only need to prove that you are married. You also need to show that the married was entered in good faith, and not for the purpose of gaining immigration benefits. You have to show that you live with your spouse, that you share finances, and that you are otherwise a legitimate married couple.
4. Pursue Adjustment of Status or Consular Processing.
Once the I-130 is approved, your relative can apply for permanent resident status. The process depends on whether your relative is in the United States or abroad. If in the U.S., he files for adjustment of status through an I-485 with USCIS. This application requires several things, such as a medical examination and affidavit of support from the petitioning relative. If you relative is abroad, the approved I-130 will be sent to the consulate in his home country. The applicant will submit his supporting evidence and fees to the consulate, which will interview him and make a decision on his application.
The above are several initial steps your family will need to take to get started. Certain pieces of these instructions may change depending on your individual circumstances. To receive assistance with this critical process, call the San Antonio Law Office of Salmon-Haas. We are extremely familiar with the laws and procedures of immigration and can help ensure that your loved one has the greatest chance possible to join you in the U.S.