In order to become a permanent resident through a family member, you need to meet the requirements for two steps – and complete two sets of documents for the government’s review before attending the green card interview with an immigration officer.
First, you must file a family-based immigrant petition, known as the I-130 petition, proving your relationship to a qualified U.S. citizen or permanent resident relative.
Second, you must file an application for permanent residency. At this stage, the road divides into two directions.
If you are living in the United States, you might be qualified to file an I-485 application for adjustment of status, and your interview will take place at a local USCIS office.
If you are living outside the U.S., or if you do not meet the requirements to adjust status, then you must seek legal residency through consular processing, and your interview will occur in your home country.
The applications and filing fees for adjustment of status and consular processing differ. As a result, you must file similar, though slightly different, sets of documents for the two different applications.
The chart above shows you how the two-step permanent residence process works.
Note that once your I-130 family visa petition is approved, you will be given a priority date.
The priority date is what determines when you can file documents for the second step. For some immigrants, the wait is non-existent. For others, the wait will take a long time.
Will Immigration Reform Change How The Green Card Process Works?
The family-based immigration system may be changed in the near future.
Under some recent proposals, the green card process for family members will be transformed into a skills-based system.
Points will be awarded based on criteria like education level, employment history and training, English fluency, age, country of birth, and the U.S. need for certain types of workers. It is likely the two-step permanent residence process would cease to exist.
In my view, the shift to a merits system will have a major impact not only on how many immigrants earn permanent residency per year, but also which immigrants survive the government screening review under the adjustment of status process.
For information about our immigration attorney services for permanent residence seekers, see this page: How To Become A Permanent Resident And Win Your Green Card
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