Before an individual can apply for an immigrant visa or
adjustment of status based upon
family ties, USCIS must first approve the alien relative petition (Form I-130), confirming
that the necessary family relationship exists.
Not all family relationships serve as a basis to apply for Lawful Permanent Residence status (LPR). The two basic categories are 1.) immediate relatives of U.S. citizens and 2.) preference immigrants.
Immediate relatives of U.S. Citizen that have no cap on the number of visas include spouses, parents of U.S. citizens, and children that are under 21 years old.
Upon approval of the I-130 petition, the alien relative who is physically outside U.S. can apply for an immigrant visa through a U.S. consulate abroad, a process known as “consular processing” (CP). Upon approval of the visa, the person may travel to the United States and be inspected to ensure compliance. Once inspected and admitted into the USA, the person is considered to be a permanent resident.
In the case where the alien relative is physically present in the United States, Adjustment of status (AOS), also known as I-485, is an alternative to CP. The “adjustment of status” route allows a person to obtain permanent residency without having to proceed overseas to apply for an immigrant visa.
Generally, the I-130 Petition for alien relative must be approved prior to submitting an application for AOS or CP. However, in the case where the beneficiary is an immediate relative of U.S. citizen petitioner, the I-485 application and the I-130 petition can usually be filled simultaneously.
Preference immigrant categories are assigned a limited number of visas each year. The number of visas available in each category is allocated on a per-country basis. The result of this allocation system is that for some categories in which the demand for immigrant visas outstrips the supply, a waiting line is formed.
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