US Citizenship & Naturalization
PARENTS & CHILDREN | Important ConsiderationsApplying for one’s parents and/or children to receive a Green Card can be a very effective way to unite families that have been separated. However, only US Citizens can petition for their parents to receive a Green Card, which means that Green Card holders must first naturalize and become US Citizens before they can petition for their parents. Once a US Citizen properly petitions for a parent, such parent can potentially receive an immigrant visa or Green Card within as little as 6-12 months. In regards to children, even though both US Citizens and Legal Permanent Residents can petition for their children to receive Green Cards, only certain children may be eligible for approval. That is, children are placed into different categories and the rules that apply to them change depending on the assigned category. For example, a Green Card holder is not eligible to petition for a child who is already married, but a US Citizen can complete such a petition. Furthermore, waiting periods differ significantly depending on the circumstances and categorization of each case. Some applicants will likely wait 8 years or more to receive their Green Cards (such as children over 21 years old), while others may need to only wait 6-12 months from the time the petition is submitted. Due to the lengthy waiting periods it is critical to understand how to qualify for each family-based preference category so that one can minimize the wait period while properly planning for the future. Please contact us if you are interested in a free phone consultation.
MARRIAGE & ENGAGEMENT | Green Cards for CouplesUpon receiving a legal marriage certificate, both US Citizens and Green Card holders are generally eligible to petition for their spouse’s Green Card. Once the initial petition is submitted, waiting periods typically vary from 9 months to 2 years depending on the specific circumstances of each case. In regards to engagement, a visa pathway exists known as a K-1 which provides for this option. However, it is very important to note that K-1 visas are only available to fiancés of US Citizens, which means they are not available to fiancés of Legal Permanent Residents (Green Card holders). Additionally, after being approved for a K-1 visa and arriving in the US, the engaged couple must get married within 90 days (and then submit a Green Card application for the spouse), as K-1 status is only valid for a maximum of 90 days once inside the United States (K-1 extensions are not possible).
BROTHERS & SISTERS | Green Cards for SiblingsPetitions for siblings represent the fourth and final preference category in the US family immigration system, which means that the waiting period is very lengthy. To be more specific, at the current moment a petition for a sibling requires a waiting period of approximately 11-12 years. Additionally, only US Citizens may apply for their siblings to receive Green Cards (Green Card holders are not eligible to petition for their siblings). This type of petition obviously does not provide immediate solutions due to the significant waiting period, but it can be a useful petition when used in tandem with a strategy to obtain a non-immigrant status during the waiting period.
Often times the ultimate goal of immigration is to obtain citizenship. While this process usually takes some time, the US Government offers very clear pathways to citizenship for certain individuals, the benefits of which can be well worth the wait.
For those that qualify, obtaining US Citizenship (often referred to as Naturalization) is the highest level of immigration status, as it endows individuals with the same rights as those afforded to native US Citizens. As Green Card holders, many Permanent Residents are unaware how easy it is to lose their Green Card status.
For example, if a Permanent Resident travels outside the United States for a significant period of time, or simply moves to a different country without obtaining a reentry permit, then the US Government is likely to initiate removal procedures upon that person’s next entrance to the United States, which is likely to leave that person without a Green Card and without a way to return to the US.
Conversely, once US Citizenship has been granted, it is extremely difficult for the government to take it away. For example, one can move to another country and spend as much time as desired outside of the US without endangering his or her US Citizenship. Additionally, becoming a US Citizen creates additional pathways and options for family-based Green Card petitions, which means that more family members can come to the US in a shorter amount of time. Holders of US passports can also receive travel privileges that citizens of many other countries do not, such as entry to a country without the requirement of a visa. And in a world that is becoming more and more guarded, such freedom to travel can be extremely valuable.
Overall, there are many factors to consider when deciding to naturalize and apply for US Citizenship, including tax implications. Such a decision should be taken carefully so that you have the proper information in order to select the option that is best for you and your family.
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