Michael J. Fox is quoted as saying, “Family is not an important thing, it’s everything.”
One of the hardest parts of life for many immigrants is being away from family members that are not just living in another city or state, but in another country. The United States government recognizes that families are important, and in their efforts to unite families the government allows for legal immigration of certain family members of U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents (LPRs). If you are a U.S. citizen or LPR (green card holder) in the United States with family members in other countries, it is important to understand what your rights are to bring family members to live here in the United States. This article is to provide immigration information about a few of the most important family categories. The highest priority category for immigration is immediate relatives of US citizens, which include spouses, parents and minor children of US citizens. For these individuals, while they may need to wait for the U.S. government to process the petitions filed by their US citizen relatives here, there is no additional waiting period for their petition to become current before applying for permanent residency. The next category is unmarried adult children of US citizens. For these individuals, there is currently a line going back to April of 2011 for current priority dates. This means that if a US citizen filed a petition for their adult child back in March of 2011, and that petition was approved, this adult child can now apply for a green card. Seven years is a long time! If a US citizen has a minor child in another country, it is important to consider that the child may have to wait a long time to become a LPR if a petition is not filed until the child is an adult or is reaching adult age (currently 21 years old or older under immigration law.) The next category includes two groups of people. Spouses and minor children of LPRs, and unmarried adult children of LPRs. Spouses and minor children of LPRs are waiting about two years in line before they can enter legally, and adult children are waiting about the same amount of time as adult children of US citizens, or seven years. In this case, it can make a big difference for a green-card holder to become a US citizen, because it will mean a faster path to residency for any spouse or minor children. It is important to note that in some family-immigration categories, people from certain countries have to wait longer than people from other countries. Also, there are several exceptions not discussed in this article, and other ways to enter legally into the United States. The U.S. government posts updates to the priority dates each month on their website. It is important to speak with an experienced immigration attorney if you have any questions about what is or is not possible in your specific situation.