Family Reunification: Understanding the Legal Processes and Challenges in Immigration Sponsorship

Coming to the United States and becoming a U.S. citizen is a dream for many people, and once they arrive, they often want their family members to join them. U.S. immigration policy makes family reunification possible through sponsorship, but the process is complex and often challenging.

People who want to sponsor family members will quickly learn that there are multiple categories into which family members may fall. While immediate relatives are treated as a high priority, more distant relatives will be subject to annual quotas determined by their country of origin and other factors.

The first step in the process is to fill out a petition, usually a Form I-130, and submit it to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). This form details your relationship. Upon receipt of a completed form, USCIS will assign it a priority date for when your relative can apply for an immigrant visa or adjust their status to permanent residency if they are already in the country.  The priority date and the annual visa quota are the two most important aspects of preference.

Eventually, your relative will be scheduled for a visa interview at a U.S. embassy or consulate, or if they’re already in the U.S. they may be able to adjust their status more simply, depending on the specifics of their situation. Some will be required to attend an interview with USCIS to verify the relationship and assess their eligibility for permanent residency, and others may require waivers based on criminal history or other legal issues.

One way or another, sponsors are required to show that they can financially support any family member for whom they have applied and that they can do so at 125% of federal poverty guidelines. This information is submitted on Form I-864, the Affidavit of Support.

Additionally, any individual being sponsored for family reunification will need to undergo a medical exam to ensure that they meet federal health requirements for immigration, as well as background checks to ensure that they don’t represent a security concern.

It’s important to keep in mind that immigration processing times have been extremely long in the last few years, with significant delays reported in administrative processing and security checks.

Expect to wait. Still, your wait time may be improved by working with an experienced immigration attorney who understands the complexities and requirements of the process. For information on how our lawyers can help, contact us today to set up a time to meet.