Atlanta immigration lawyer

Attorney Zeb Ogueri


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Immigration to the United States through Family Visas


The United States ranks as one of the top countries where people want to immigrate to. In fact, in 2013, the United States had an average of 45.8 million immigrants, which accounts for about 14% of the population according to the UN.

In terms of immigration, it comes as no surprise that immigration through Family Visas is one of the most sought after ways to immigrate to the US. But as with many other legal matters, the processing of family visas is something that is not to be taken lightly as it has several steps that require being meticulous to details to be able to gain approval. Here are some facts about the family-based immigrant visas, which are very useful to know:

1. Family-based visas are generally categorized into two according to the United States Immigration Law:

a. Immediate Relative Immigrant Visa (for the next of kin or close family relations of a U.S. Citizen)

  • Parent
  • Husband or Wife (Spouse)
  • Unmarried offspring under 21 years of age
  • Adopted orphan

b. Family Preference Immigrant Visa (for the more distant relatives and has a limited number of accepted applicants every year)

  • Married children of U.S. citizens, their partners or spouses, and minor children
  • Siblings of U.S. citizens, their partners or spouses, and minor children
  • Unmarried adult-children of U.S. citizen and their minor children
  • Unmarried sons and daughters, their spouses, as well as their minor children

2. The first step to processing a family-based immigrant visa is the petition. The U.S. citizen sponsoring a relative should fill out and submit the Form I-130 or the Alien Relative Form to the Department of Homeland Security Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

3. To sponsor a relative, the U.S. citizen or a Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) must have the following qualifications:

  • At least 21 years old
  • Must be living in or at least have a US primary residence
  • LPRs who come to be U.S. citizens can advance their petitions by transmitting the pertinent documents (such as naturalization certificate and their U.S. passport’s bio data page) to the National Visa Center.

It is important to note that in-laws, grandparents, uncles, aunts, and cousins cannot petition for a family-based immigration.

4. After the filing of the petition, it is the USCIS that approves and sends the documents to the National Visa Center and then a case number is given. It is then up to the NVC to:

  • Give the instructions to the visa applicant and the petitioner regarding the documents and files to be submitted and the fees to be paid.
  • Set the schedule for the visa interview of the visa applicant after the initial processing of application.

5. The processing of family-based immigrant visa comes with certain costs. It requires some fees for the following:

  • Filing of Petition for Alien Relative (Form I-130)
  • Visa application processing (Form DS-260)
  • Needed vaccinations
  • Medical tests or examinations

It is essential to note that the fees for the above mentioned are to be paid in spite of the age of the applicant. In addition to these fees, obtaining the documents from the local government of the visa applicant may require additional charges. The costs of services such as translation of documents in English, photocopying, and certifying varies on a case-to-case basis. It is also necessary to factor in transportation costs for the visa interview.

In addition, it is significant to remember that the visa application fees are non-refundable should the application be denied. Those who wish to reapply need to pay the fees again.

6. Family-based immigration visa has the following general requirements:

  • U.S. petitioner or sponsor’s affidavit of support (Form I-864A, Form I-864,  Form I-864W, or Form I-864 EZ)
  • Form DS-260 or the Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration Application
  • Valid and usable passports (effective for at least 60 days following the immigrant visa’s expiration date)
  • A couple of photographs 2×2 in size, which follows the photograph conditions
  • Civil documents and forms for the candidates in original as well as certified true copies and translations if needed (e.g. birth certificate, marriage certification or termination, police clearances, military records, court and/or prison records)
  • Completed and accomplished medical examination documents duly signed by authorized medical personnel

The specifics on photographs and other civil documents may be located at the United States Bureau of Consular Affairs’ official website.

7. The medical examination must be conducted by the panel of physicians authorized by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services and NVC. This is visa applicants need to wait for the visa interview schedule to be set and the guidelines to be sent by the NVC. Any violations of the NVC guidelines will cause the medical examination to be deemed invalid. The medical examination consists of the following:

  • Physical exam (includes, but is not limited to: ears, eyes, throat, nose, lymph nodes, extremities, lungs, skin, heart, abdomen, as well as external genitalia)
  • Chest x-ray
  • Blood works
  • Applicant’s medical history

It is also important to remember that the medical examination results are only valid for a year except if there are specific medical conditions noted by the physician, in this case it may only be valid for the duration of three months.

8. The Visa Interview is scheduled by the NVC and conducted by a consular officer. The visa applicant will be sent the schedule date and guidelines via electronic or snail mail to be able to prepare for the interview. The Visa Interview allows the consular officer to gauge the eligibility of the visa applicant to have an approved family-based immigration visa, following the immigration law of the United States.
Some important reminders regarding the Visa Interview:

  • Study the  pamphlet called “Rights and Protections” and all other materials well prior to a visa interview
  • Complete medical examinations and vaccinations before the interview
  • Be prepared to do a digital fingerprint during the interview
  • Ensure all civil documents required are on-hand in both original and certified true copy formats.
  • Companions are not allowed during individual visa interviews

Some more handy tips regarding the visa interview:

  • Go through the questions as well as answers on each and every document that you as well as your sponsor have presented.
  • Keep your immigration history, travel history, and financial figures fresh in your mind as they often come up during the interview.
  • For fiancé visas, it is better to be prepared with more proof of the relationship and engagement. Bring photos, call and chat logs, and other pertinent evidence that could help your case.
  • Never overlook to bring the letter of interview appointment sent by the NVC.
  • Carry a good pen to sign the photographs that you need to submit.
  • As a rule of thumb, wear what you would during an important job interview.
  • Come in your most natural look, meaning you should look like the person in the photo that you will submit. Avoid wearing colored contact lenses or make-up that is too thick.
  • Showing over enthusiasm and excessive eagerness concerning the United States may not help and may even backfire.
  • Be at the site at least 10 to 15 minutes prior to your schedule to give yourself enough time to breathe and gather your thoughts.
  • The visa interview is the best time to be honest since you will need to swear as well as sign a document, which is legally binding.
  • During emergency cases (such as getting very ill, getting into an accident, or any life and death emergencies) that cause you to miss your visa interview appointment, get in touch with the United States Consulate or Embassy immediately to inquire about the rescheduling process. However, do not expect to have a visa schedule given to you right away since the scheduling is based on the case numbers and mandate from the NVC.
  • Should your case be a family visa interview, get in touch with the U.S. Consulate or Embassy to arrange the schedule of your children accordingly.

9. The processing and approval of the family-based immigrant visa applicant greatly depends on the number of openings per category and the completeness of the documents submitted. As such, there is no certain number of days, weeks, or months of waiting time. The safest is to think that processing visa may take months.

10. Should the consular officer discover irregularities in the documents or application during the interview, the applicant will be made to sign a waiver for the other requirements to be submitted. The applicant and the sponsor will be notified by email and registered mail if the family-based immigration visa has been approved or denied.

11. Several factors can cause the application to deemed ineligible either temporarily or permanently. Some of which include activities like:

  • Submitting fraudulent documents
  • Being involved in drug related cases
  • Dubious records of criminal activities
  • Overstaying another visa

12. Although a visa has been granted, it does not automatically mean that the visa holder can enter the United States. All the visa means is that a foreign national can go to a United States port of entrance, but it doesn’t guarantee entry per se. Entry can only be granted after passing immigration examiners and border security. All admission rules are in accordance with the Department of Homeland Security U.S. Customs and Border Protection or CBP.

13. The United States deserves the right to revoke any visas granted should the visa holder fail to abide by the laws of the land. 

Immigration to the United States through Family Visa may appear simpler to other people. However, if this option is not applicable to you, you may read on other means on how to immigrate to the United States.

Probable Deportation Defenses for Undocumented Aliens

Being an undocumented citizen would mean that you do not have any US immigration status. Because of this, you will be in removal proceedings and there are only very few existing legal defenses.

  • You can claim that you are wrongfully charged and therefore you are not removable.

This is one of the first things that you can claim or argue about. You can show them that the government of the United States has wrongfully placed you in removal proceedings when in reality, you are not deportable or removable. However, you have to realize that if you are truly undocumented, you are undoubtedly removable. This only applies when the DHS has claimed or charged that you are removable using no evidence or using the wrong reasons.

  • Removal Relief Request

More often than not, it would be the immigration judge who will tell anyone charged for removal the different types of removal relief that they can qualify for. But, you can also inquire about this from your attorney since he may know better because of the fact that he has spent more time with you. He will know what will suit your case best.

However, if no attorney is representing you, you can directly inquire from the immigration judge what possibly relief type you are qualified to have. Doing this will also encourage the judge to review your case carefully.

The different types of removal relief may include, but are not limited to:

  • Status Adjustment

This is under the INA Section 245 or the 245 (I). This is a method that will change your status from being non-immigrant to being an immigrant so you can get a legal status in the country. In order to qualify for this, you will have to meet the condition of entering the country legally as well as several other requirements.

  • Status Adjustment through Registry

This is under the INA Section 249. This is another method to change your status by obtaining a green card as long as you entered the country before the 1st of January in 1972 as well as meet other specified requirements such as resided in the country since the date specified, good moral character, and admissibility.

Asylum is a type of protection for individuals who have future persecution fear or those who have fled because of persecution in their own home country. This permits legal status in the United States, a possible green card, as well as a work permit.

There are other types of removal relief and in order to find the best one for you, you have to always inquire from your attorney or the immigration judge handling your case.