How can you obtain a green card based on family relation to a United States citizens? US citizens and green card holders living in the USA, who have foreign citizen family members (from Israel or from other countries) may apply for a green card on their behalf. This applies to close relatives – meaning, parents, siblings, and minor children under the age of 21. In this article, Adv. Michael Decker, a partner in our law firm specializing in United States immigration law, explains the process and how to apply for a green card on behalf of family members.
Tovah is a 65-year-old Jewish United States citizen, whose son has immigrated to Israel, where he had two children. Amir is an Israeli citizen who came to the United States to pursue his MA studies, where met his partner, Jennifer. The two were married in the United States, started a family, and after some time, Amir received an American citizenship. Amir’s elderly mother remained in Israel by herself. Dana is an Israeli citizen who also moved to the United States, married a citizen, and received an American citizenship. She has a younger brother who also wishes to immigrate to the United States. Can Tovah’s grandchildren, Amir’s mother, and Dana’s brother obtain a green card and live in the United States? The answer is yes!
As is well known, the United States is a immigration country. Citizens and residents from almost every other country in the world reside there, including many Israeli citizens. Concurrently, US immigration laws allow American citizens to grant official United States status to their family members living outside the USA, subject to compliance with certain legal conditions. This can be done by submitting a green card (US permanent residency status) application on their behalf.
Many Israelis have relatives living in the United States, and they don’t always know whether such family relation can form the basis for green card eligibility. It’s important to know that family relation can definitely serve as the basis for applying to obtain permanent status in the United States. Obtaining such status would allow you to immigrate to, and work in, the United States. If you remain in the United States for a longer period of time, with permanent status, you could also obtain an American citizenship and passport. Below we explain the eligibility criteria to obtain a green card based through family members, and the way that this process is conducted.
How do you submit a green card application for family members?
It’s important to know that green card applications through family members are actually sponsorship applications by the family member who is an American citizen. This means that family members undertake to be responsible for the candidates, if they are granted permanent status in the United States. Concurrently, in order to file the application, you need to fill out the relevant application forms, and present documents indicating family relation and the financial stability of the American family members, among other things. This is because, as sponsors, they are obliged to support the candidates as needed.
While the application is processed, if the candidate is staying in the United States, they will generally be able to apply for a temporary work permit in the US after receiving a visa number. It should be clarified that leaving the US while the application is processed might lead the authorities to decline the green card application. However, you can apply to exit the United States in emergencies, for example due to family matters. In these cases, we recommend consulting a lawyer specializing in United States immigration law, to make sure that this doesn’t affect the application.
How long does the process from submitting the application to obtaining a green card take?
This is one significant challenge regarding applications of this type: you can’t always know how long it might take to process them. The immigration offices in the United States have considerable backlogs, processing millions of applications simultaneously. In addition, federal government set quotas of applications that can be approved each year. Concurrently, each year some hundreds of thousands of green card applications are approved based on family relation. As a result, the processing of the application might take quite a few years, until a final approval is received. In special cases, people can submit a expedited processing request, or alternatively, examine the option to file United States status applications based on other circumstances, such as a green card based on working in the United States, an investor visa, etc.
Can a green card obtained through family members be converted to a US citizenship?
Can those eligible for a green card through American family members undergo naturalization? The answer is yes. In general, green card holders living in the United States for a long period of over 5 years, might be eligible to become naturalized citizens. This provision also applies to anyone who obtained a green card through family members. In other words, any person who obtained a green card, through family members who are US citizens, might later become eligible to obtain an American citizenship and an American passport, subject to compliance with the law.
It’s important to clarify that this process of converting a permanent status green card in the United States is not an automatic process, rather it requires the submission of a citizenship application, which is carefully examined by the American immigration authorities. It’s also important to clarify that obtaining a United States citizenship status grants many rights, such as the right to receive a passport, health insurance rights in the United States, and other various benefits, but they do come alongside obligations. As part of the above, United States citizens are subject to strict tax obligations, and are required to report their income to the American tax authorities (the IRS), including income from outside the country. This situation might also raise various legal questions for Israelis holding a dual citizenship. Accordingly, and in light of the complexity and implications of this process, it’s recommended to consult a lawyer specializing in United States immigration law, in order to make an informed decision on whether to enter this process.
Which family members can grant green card eligibility?
Green card eligibility can only be granted through nuclear family members. Meaning, you might be might be eligible to receive a green card if your parents, siblings, or children (under 21 years of age and unmarried) are American citizens. Other family relations, such as grandparents, grandchildren, or aunts and uncles, cannot grant green card eligibility in this track. However, marrying United States citizens might also serve as basis for obtaining a green card. This track has separate conditions, which we have explained in detail in another article concerning green card through marriage.
Green Card through Siblings
If you have a brother or sister living in the United States, they might be able to help you join them.
Can you obtain a green card through siblings?
If your brother or sister is a United States citizen, then the short answer is yes. If they live in the United States, they can submit this application on your behalf. The issue with this type of green card application is that processing times are extremely long. As opposed to green card applications submitted by spouses, green card applications submitted by siblings are subject to long waiting times.
The application must be submitted through Form I-130, intended for immigration through family members. Your brother or sister will be requested to provide biographical information about themselves and about you. This application is submitted to the USCIS authority.
The processing time of green card applications is longest when done through siblings. The application is submitted to the USCIS, and then you must wait for your turn according to the date of application. As of today, one has to wait approximately 15 years for their case to update, meaning for the case to be next in line. The waiting times are updated monthly on the website.
Once it’s your turn, you have to go through the green card process, which takes 1.5-2 years on average. This results in a process of approximately 17 years.
Issues related to the long process
At the end of the process, you’ll have to move to the United States to become a lawful permanent resident. As a green card holder, your life center has to be in the United States. Meaning, you must spend most of your time in the United States, work in the United States – after so many years, you might not want to move there after all. The process would end up being a waste of time and money.
Moreover, the processing times are updated monthly. Meaning, right now processing takes about 15 years until the case is handled. This number might change every month. Eventually, it can take 10 or 20 years. Since at the end of the process you have to move to the United States, this makes planning difficult, since the processing times keep changing.
Alternatives to the green card process
Although many consider green card eligibility as a holy grail, the reality is green card applications submitted by a brother or sister is an elongated process, mostly taking almost two decades to complete.
We can work with you to find an alternative track to obtain your goal and move to the United States. You might be eligible for a work permit or eligible to apply for a green card through your employer. You might be eligible to receive an investor visa (E-2) and start a business in the United States.
Green Card through Marriage
Can you obtain a green card through marriage with American citizens? Marrying an American citizen can certainly serve as basis for green card eligibility, which is a permanent residency status in the United States. This is subject to compliance with certain conditions, including proving the sincerity of the spousal relationship, as well as the spouses’ financial stability. The process for obtaining a green card in this track might take about two years on average.
What do you need to do to obtain a green card through marriage with American citizens?
To be eligible to obtain a green card through marriage with a United States citizen, you’ll need to have a valid marriage certificate. It’s important to clarify that the marriage certificate doesn’t have to have been issued in the United States, and people married to American citizens outside of the United States’ jurisdiction might also be eligible to obtain a green card through marriage. Among the services provided by our law firm, we assist in handling civil marriage abroad (in Cyprus, the Czech Republic and Georgia), as well as proxy marriage, meaning marriage in the presence of only one party, or even without the partners having to be present abroad at all. There is currently even an option to marry in the State of Utah in the United States through the Zoom application (without either of the partners having to stay in the United States).
What are the other conditions for obtaining a green card through marriage?
The very fact of the green card applicant being married to an American citizen would not be sufficient for the application to be accepted. The applicant must also comply with additional conditions, including proving the honestly of the spousal relationship to the US authorities. In addition, they would have to indicate certain affiliation to the United States, as well as the spouses’ financial stability. The need to prove financial stability is intended to ensure that the spouses who are not United States citizens would not create a financial burden on the American public.
How long does it take to process a green card application through marriage, and what else should you know about it?
Even though the US authorities make no commitment for a certain period of time until the application is approved, our experience indicates that examining the application might take approximately two years, until a final decision is made. This is because of the considerable backlog processed by the United States immigration authorities. You might be able to request expedited processing, and working in the United States might also assist in speeding up the process in actuality. Among the services provided by our law firm, we assist green card applicants in expedited processing requests, in cases where this is possible.
It’s important to know in addition that in order to keep holding your green card, you’ll have to permanently stay in the United States. Those living in actuality outside of the United States are required to visit the country at least once per year in order to continue being eligible for their green card. Even then, various issues might form with maintaining the green card. If you’re not staying in the United States on a permanent basis, it’s recommended to freeze or even cancel the green card. Alternatively, it may very well be that those permanently staying in the United States would be able to become naturalized, through the spouse naturalization track. With regards to this issue, we recommend consulting a lawyer specializing in United States immigration law.
Green card through marriage – contact a lawyer specializing in United States immigration law
In this article, we provided an explanation about the process and conditions to obtain a green card through marriage and through family members who are American citizens. If you have any other question, or if you need consultation of assistance, you are welcome to contact us, and a lawyer specializing in United States immigration law will be happy to provide you with comprehensive and professional assistance. Our law firm, located in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, has extensive experience in immigration to the United States, and in assisting our customers with the processes required to regulate their status in the United States. Click here to contact us, or call 03-3724722.