How to file for permanent residence based on family petition

Among the several varying paths to permanent residence, one of the most common ways to apply for a green card is through a family petition. This involves a family member of the foreign-born individual filing a petition with United States Citizenship and Immigration Services for an adjustment of status for the beneficiary.

Who can file a family petition?
To be able to apply for an adjustment of status for a beneficiary, you need to have American citizenship and be an immediate relative. That means the beneficiary must fall into one of the following categories:

  • Spouse
  • Child who is unmarried and under the age of 21
  • Parent of a U.S. citizen who is at least 21 years old
  • Sibling of a U.S. citizen who is at least 21 years old

Additional types of relatives may also qualify on a case-by-case basis. There are also other eligibility requirements that must be met by the applicant filing the petition:

  • Be physically present in the U.S.
  • Have been admitted or paroled in the country
  • Were inspected by a U.S. immigration officer

In some cases, you may have to wait to file the petition until a visa becomes available.

What forms must be filed?
To petition on behalf of an immediate family member, you must file form Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, on behalf of the beneficiary. This is a simple document that establishes your relationship with the beneficiary, and it costs $420 to file.

Additionally, the foreign individual applying for a green card must file Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status. This documentation requires biographical information and must include:

  • Form I-864, Affidavit of Support
  • Copy of birth certificate with English translation
  • Copy of passport with U.S. admission stamp
  • Two passport-quality photos
  • Form I-693, Medical Examination of Aliens Seeking Adjustment of Status
  • Police and court records if applicant has ever been arrested or convicted

Applicants will also be required to submit fingerprints and go through an interview process. The filing fee for form I-485 can range from $635 for people under age 14 up to $1,070 to people ages 14 to 78, though the fee may be waived altogether in some cases.

What are my chances of petition approval?
USCIS determines the status of applications on a case-by-case basis; however, it does give preference to the unmarried children of U.S. citizens. Spouses and children of permanent residents take second rank, followed by married children of American citizens and siblings of those with U.S. citizenship.