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Your Guide to Family Green Cards

For many, receiving a green card is the start of their own American dream. It means establishing long-term residency in the U.S. and is an important stepping stone on the path to citizenship and all the rights that entails.

While there are many ways to earn your green card, relying on family sponsors is one of the most popular ways we see. For that reason, we’ve put together this guide to family green cards to help you and your family pursue your own American dream.

Green Card Basics

A green card grants permanent residency in the U.S. While this does not make you a citizen, a green card grants you the right to permanently live and work in the United States while enjoying the protection of federal, state, and local laws.

A green card also comes with responsibilities, the most basic of which are filing your annual tax returns, supporting the democratic system, and registering with the selective service.

So, how does someone use their relationship with a family member to earn a green card? There are primarily two ways: Immediate family and family preference.

Immediate Family

Immediate family members often have a simpler time earning their residency because the eligibility requirements are relatively simple. Typically, you can apply for an immediate family member green card if:

  • Your parent is a U.S. citizen and you are under the age of 21
  • Your child is a U.S. citizen over the age of 21
  • You are the widow of a U.S. citizen
  • Your spouse is a U.S. citizen.

Spouses are in a unique position because of the K-1 Visa (made popular by the television show “90 Day Fiancee”), which allows immigrants to enter the U.S. for up to 90 days so long as they enter into marriage with a U.S. citizen during that time.

When someone enters the U.S. on a fiance visa, they must take care to ensure they file the appropriate change of status forms at the time of their marriage. At that time, newly-wed immigrants are eligible for immediate green card applications.

Outside of marriage and immediate family relationships, the U.S. offers green card eligibility for other close family members, including adult children.

Family Preference

Immediate family eligibility cuts off for unmarried adult children and does not include children’s spouse and their children. For that reason, there is family preference eligibility. This is a system of four categories that broadens the scope of family visas but are generally more difficult to earn than the immediate family green cards.

The four preference categories are:

First Preference: Unmarried children of U.S. citizens over the age of 21

Second Preference: Spouses and children of lawful permanent residents (note that this is not a requirement of citizenship, only permanent residence)

Third Preference: Married children of U.S. citizens over the age of 21

Fourth Preference: Siblings of U.S. citizens who are over the age of 21.

Notably, if you intend to bring someone into the U.S. through family preference, you may be required to demonstrate financial stability. The government wants to avoid situations where a green card holder immediately receives government benefits, so they require the sponsor (the citizen or the permanent resident the applicant is relying on) to promise they will financially support those who cannot support themselves (such as the elderly and those who are unable to work).

To promise financial support, a sponsor must demonstrate their income is a certain amount above the federal poverty line. Demonstrating this can be difficult as the poverty line is constantly changing and it is directly tied to the number of people in the household. Because there are so many factors to consider when pursuing a green card (even for family) it is wise to contact an experienced immigration attorney to manage your application.

How Portner & Shure, P.A. Can Help

Green card applications come with dozens of forms and other paperwork, many of which are time-sensitive. When you hire an attorney to manage your green card application, you won’t have to worry about filing these forms, because your attorney will be there to guide you through the process and give you or your family member a stronger chance at earning the green card they need to establish permanent residency and start their own American dream.

To schedule a free consultation with an experienced Virginia immigration attorney from Portner & Shure, P.A., don’t hesitate to call (410) 995-1515 or send us an email.