Family Immigration

Family Immigration – Sponsoring your Relatives:

family-chi-170x235U.S.  Immigration Law defines children, spouses, and parents of United States citizens as your immediate relatives.  There is no limit to the number of immediate relative visas that may be issued in this category in any given year. Immediate relatives may obtain an immigrant visa or adjust their status to that of a lawful permanent resident upon approval of an immigrant visa petition, without having to wait for a visa to become available.

The alien spouse or child of an immediate relative does not automatically acquire permanent residence when the principal applicant obtains such status.
The only exception is for children of a widow or widower of a U.S. citizen.

Family-based Preference Categories

Family-based preference categories apply to family immigrants, other than immediate relatives. It lists four preference categories:

The first preference category consists of unmarried sons or daughters of U.S. citizens.

The second preference family-based category deals with relatives of permanent residents of the United States and is divided into two subgroups each with a separate waiting list for available visas: spouses and minor children of permanent residents, and unmarried sons or daughters (but not their children) of permanent residents.

Under the third preference category falls a married son or daughter of the U.S. citizen.

The fourth preference category permits U.S. citizens over the age of twenty-one to petition their brothers and sisters for permanent residence.

These preference categories are subject to annual visa limits. This also means that there are visa backlogs in some preferences. Available visas are issued to beneficiaries in order of their priority date, which is the date that their petition for permanent residence is filed.

Immigration Based On Marriage

marriage-170x235A United States citizen or lawful permanent resident petitioning to classify a spouse as an immigrant must demonstrate that they and the immigrating spouse (the beneficiary) have a legal marriage.  Generally, if the marriage was valid where performed, it is considered legal unless it violates public policy.  Additionally, the petitioner must establish that the marriage was not entered into for the purpose of evading the immigration laws.  Therefore, it is possible that a marriage may not be recognized for immigration purposes even though it is legal.

Marriage-based immigration has long been controversial due to the fact that the bona fides of a marriage relationship often cannot be objectively measured.  A legal marriage is considered to be valid for immigration purposes if at its inception the couple intended to establish a life together and assume certain duties and obligations.  If the sole intention was to secure the immigrating spouse’s legal residency in the United States, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will consider the marriage to be fraudulent or a “sham”, and not valid for immigration purposes.


Manhattan Immigration Attorneys at Schonfeld & Ushan in New York have years of experience in most types of visa applications. Call (212) 233-1433 or email Schonfeld & Ushan  to schedule a consultation.