Family-based petitions may eventually lead to Lawful Permanent Resident status (green card). Individuals already present in the U.S. or abroad can obtain such status through the appropriate process. Because the spouse (including same-sex spouses), parent, and the unmarried children under 21 years of age of a U.S. citizen are considered “immediate relatives”, there are visas immediately available to those family members and they can adjust status. Note that visas are also immediately available for the spouse of a Cuban national who is applying for permanent residence under the Cuban Adjustment Act. Unmarried sons or daughters of U.S. citizens (21 or over), married sons or daughters of U.S. citizens, the spouse or unmarried sons or daughters of lawful permanent residents, as well as, the siblings of U.S. citizens can also be petitioned. However, before the foreign national can adjust his or her status, the "priority date" needs to be met and that can take months or years, depending on the category and the country of origin.
Petition for Alien Relative (Form I-130)
A petition for Alien Relative is usually the first step for an adjustment of status. For this type of petition it must be proven, to the satisfaction of USCIS, that the relationship between the petitioner and the beneficiary is a bona fide (real) relationship. A petition for Alien Relative is not an adjustment of status application, though in most cases it does precede that application.
Child Status Protection Act (CSPA)
CSPA is a special protection for children who were petitioned before they turned 21 years old. Under this provision of the law, individuals who meet certain criteria will obtain derivative benefits through their parents’ applications regardless of their age at the time when the visa becomes available. This law applies to family-based and employment-based applications for adjustment of status (lawful permanent residence), asylum applicants, and diversity visa lottery cases. A careful analysis and calculation must be done in order to determine whether the child can still obtain derivative benefits even after turning 21 years old.
Adjustment of Status Application (Permanent Residence or Green Card)
Most individuals who are petitioned and/or sponsored by a family member in the United States may become permanent residents through that relationship. Permanent residence will allow an individual to obtain authorization to live and work in the U.S. permanently.
Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence
Individuals who at the time of their adjustment of status through marriage to a U.S. citizen have been married for less than 2 years are granted a "conditional residence." A form, with the corresponding evidence and filing fees must be timely filed before the 2-year period of conditional residence expires. If the applicant fails to timely file such form, he or she must explain the reasons for the late filing. If the applicant has divorced before the 2-year period expires, he must provide evidence of the divorce and could be subject to a more scrutinized process. All applicants could be asked to appear for an interview to remove the conditions on the residence. Just because you obtained conditional residence it does not mean the conditions on your residence will be automatically lifted. This is particularly true if you divorced before the 2 year period elapsed or if there were issues during your adjustment of status interview.