Family based petitions have two steps. First, someone applies for you. Depending on who applies, you can either immediately change your status or wait for a visa to become available. The second step is the actual changing of your status, which either happens in the U.S., through adjustment of status, or outside the U.S., via Consular Processing.
Let’s start with whether you will have to wait for a visa.
If your relative is U.S. citizen Parent, Spouse (even same sex), or Child over 21, he or she is considered your immediate relative. The moment the relationship is determined legitimate your can immediately adjust your status. If you are not an immediate relative, limited visas are issued annually according to a preference category:
- 1st unmarried adult sons and daughters of US citizens
- 2A spouses and minor children of LPRs
- 2B unmarried adult sons and daughters of LPRs
- 3rd married adult sons and daughters of US citizens
- 4th brothers and sisters of US citizens
The following people can’t apply for you
- aunts/ uncles
- nieces/ nephews
- boyfriends/ girlfriends (unless they marry)
- domestic partners
Once your relationship is approved you will either be eligible to immediately change your status or will have to wait until a visa is current depending on the above preference category. The Visa Bulletin lists the approximate wait times and you can learn how to read the bulletin here.
Once your relationship is approved and you can then change your status. The question become where can you change your status? If you entered legally you can adjust in the U.S. If you didn’t enter legally, or can’t prove that you entered legally, you will have to return to your home country and adjust through consular processing. Your departure from the U.S. can trigger the 3 year or 10 year bar. That means you may not be able to return to the U.S. for 3 or 10 years unless you are apply and are approved for a waiver of the bar.
As you can see, this isn’t a simple process. There are real consequences if you get it wrong. Before you apply for any immigration application you should consult with an experienced immigration attorney.
If you have any questions about this process you can call 888-695-6169 to speak to our knowledgeable staff.