December 23rd, 2009 by Eric J. Ramos
Follow-to-join: What It Is and Who Qualifies
If you were married or had a child before you became a permanent resident and your spouse or child did not accompany you to the United States when you initially entered as a permanent resident, your spouse or child may be eligible to follow-to-join.
The follow-to-join benefit allows your spouse and children to obtain status as permanent residents even though they did not obtain this status when you did. This benefit is available to spouses and children of permanent residents who obtained permanent residency through a family-based preference petition, an employment-based petition, or the diversity visa lottery. If you obtained permanent residence based on an immediate relative petition, your spouse and children are not eligible to follow-to-join.
Spouses and children who are following-to-join are not required to file a separate Immigrant Petition. They will be granted permanent residency in the same preference category as their permanent resident relative. If you are a permanent resident, your spouse or child may qualify to follow-to-join:
- If the family relationship existed prior to the time you became a permanent resident;
- If your spouse or child was outside of the US when you entered the US as a permanent resident; and
- If your spouse or child enters the US at least four months after your entry as a permanent resident.
Children must be unmarried and under 21 years of age in order to qualify for the follow-to-join benefit. They must be your children by either birth, marriage, or adoption before you became a permanent resident. Children born after you became a permanent resident will not qualify to follow-to-join.
To take advantage of the follow-to-join benefit, you will need to file Form I-824, Application for Action on an Approved Application or Petition, with the USCIS Service Center that adjudicated your application for permanent residence. You will need to file this with proof of your status and your spouse’s or child’s eligibility to follow-to-join. Your application will be forwarded to the appropriate US consulate so that your spouse and child(ren) can apply for their immigrant visas. Your spouse and child(ren) will need to appear at the consulate for an interview at which time a consular officer will determine if they are admissible to the United States. If their applications are approved, they will be given immigrant visas, allowing them to enter the US and join you as permanent residents.