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Florida Immigration Law: Understanding Preference Categories

Immigration to the United States has mostly been family-based since the first colonies were established here in the 17th century. In 1965 the enactment of the Immigration and Nationality Act formally recognized family ties as a principal immigration route. Today, over 50 years later, an estimated 65% of legal immigration consists of family members of individuals who came here for work, education, or to build a better life. In this article, we will discuss the preference categories recognized by the United States government and what you can do come to the States legally. Who Can Petition? Florida immigration law currently allows the following people to sponsor their current and future relatives (e.g., fiancées and adoptive children) to join them in the U.S.:

  • Born and naturalized U.S. citizens

  • Legal permanent residents (green card holders)

  • Refugees or asylees admitted within the past two years

The type of visa you apply for depends on your legal status and your relationship to the person in question. In general, U.S. Citizens aged 21 or older can fill out the proper forms and seek an immediate relative immigrant visa for the following family members:

  • Spouses (IR-1 visa)

  • Unmarried children under 21 (IR-2 visa)

  • Children adopted abroad (IR-3 visa)

  • Children to be adopted in the U.S. (IR-4 visa)

  • Parents (IR-5 visa)

Family Preference Immigrant Visas Family preference immigrant visas enable the relatives of lawful permanent residents, refugees, and asylees (as well as more distant relatives of American citizens) to come to the United States. Unlike the Spousal visas described above (for the IR-1 visas), there is only a limited number of visas for the lawful permanent residents, refugees, and asylees made available each year. This means means that extended family members may have to wait before they can join you here. There are a limited amount of family preference immigration visas, so the government places people on a wait list and issues visas chronologically based on the date of the petition. Depending on applicant volume, the wait time can take years. The following relatives are eligible for family preference immigration visas:

  • Family First (F1): Unmarried adult children of U.S. citizens and their minor children.

  • Family Second (F2): Spouses and both minor and unmarried children of legal permanent residents.

  • Family Third (F3): Married children of U.S. citizens and their spouses and minor children.

  • Family Fourth (F4): Siblings of U.S. citizens and their spouses and minor children

What if Your Status Changes? U.S. citizens generally have priority over lawful permanent residents when applying for a family-based visa. If you are a green card holder and become a citizen after petitioning for a close family member, you can submit proof of naturalization, change the type of visa being applied for, and reduce the time your relative has to wait. Frequently Asked Question: Can other relatives, such as aunts, uncle, cousins qualify? No. Family-based immigration visas are not available for aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, grandchildren, and in-laws. However, this does not mean all is lost. Applying for a parent means that once they receive their status, they can apply for their immediate relatives. Immigration can be a complicated issue, involving a lot of paperwork, in-person interviews, and compliance with legal requirements. The experienced Florida immigration attorneys at Jarbath Pena Law Group can make the process easier. We will help you fill out and submit the petition(s) needed to obtain a family-based immigrant visa for your loved one, so they can come here as soon as possible and share your new, exciting life. For more information please contact us.

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