Before your spouse, parent, or child can become a U.S. citizen, or even be “legal” in the United States, they must apply for permanent residency, better known as a green card. If they are outside the United States, they need an immediate relative visa, which is a type of immigrant visa. If they are inside the United States after a legal entry, they can apply for adjustment of status. If they entered the United States but did not make a legal entry, they may qualify for an I-601A Waiver.

To learn more about getting a green card for your spouse, child, or parent, involve our team at Gorton Law LLC. We are highly experienced in immigration law and all types of family-based immigration matters. Our Boston green card lawyers can offer guidance that applies to your unique situation and goals, and we can guide you through the process of applying for permanent residency for yourself or your family.

What Is a Green Card?

If you wish to become a permanent United States citizen, you must legally obtain a green card. A green card, which is often referred to as a permanent alien registration card, grants an individual specific benefits, such as the ability to work and reside in the United States.

What a Green Card Can Do

When you initially receive your green card, it gives you a resident status on a conditional basis for 2 years. After 2 years, you are then eligible to obtain a green card that expires every 10 years. Green cards can be renewed for as long as necessary if you do not commit any crimes or violate your immigration status and remain in overall good standing with the government.

As a green card holder, your rights include:

  • The ability to live permanently in the United States as long as you remain in good standing
  • The ability to work in the United States
  • The ability to be prosecuted by all local, state, and federal laws of the United States

Once you obtain your green card, you must ensure you renew it correctly every 10 years in order to legally reside in the United States.

Who Is an Immediate Relative?

The immigration law of the United States special priority to the spouses, parents, and children (unmarried and under the age of 21) of U.S. citizens. These relatives are called “immediate relatives.” This is to make sure that the immigration law benefits families and minimizes the time, cost, and hardship of having American families separated by borders.

Who Can Apply for Adjustment of Status?

Immediate relatives who are inside the United States after a legal entry (for example, a visitor’s visa) can apply for adjustment of status. While the application is pending, your immediate relative will be able to remain in the United States and obtain work authorization and a Social Security number while they wait.

Because of the immediate relative relationship to a U.S. citizen, your immediate relative may be able to receive an exception to some of the harshest provisions of the immigration law, called 204(c), that would prevent them from becoming receiving a green card if they were not an immediate relative.

As part of the adjustment of status application, the family will be interviewed by a USCIS officer. The USCIS officer works at a Field Office and will make the final decision on the case. The officer will review the evidence with the application to make sure the relationship is bona fide (for example, that the marriage was entered in good faith). The USCIS officer will also determine if the relative is legally allowed to receive a green card.

Defensive Adjustment of Status

Sometimes, a person is in Immigration Court and isn’t eligible to adjust status with USCIS. Instead, the person will have their case reviewed by an Immigration Judge, and the government will have a prosecutor from ICE in the court to argue against the issuance of the green card.

In this situation, the person is asserting adjustment of status as a defense to deportation. It would be nearly impossible for a family to navigate the complexity of the court without a qualified Malden, MA immigration attorney. A qualified attorney should also be consulted to determine if the Immigration Court or USCIS has jurisdiction over the application.

Immediate Relative Visa

If the immediate relative is outside the United States, they will need to apply for an immediate relative visa instead of adjustment of status. First, the U.S. citizen must file a visa petition with USCIS. If USCIS approves the petition, they will forward the approval to the National Visa Center to get ready for consular processing. The applicant will have to go to an interview at the U.S. Consulate. There, they will be interviewed by a Department of State official, who will make the decision on approving the visa.

If the visa is approved, the U.S. Consulate will install the Immediate Relative Visa into the passport and return it to the applicant. When the applicant arrives at the border crossing, they must be inspected by Customs and Border Protection, but will be residents immediately upon entry.

What if My Spouse Entered the Country Illegally?

If your spouse entered the U.S. illegally (without a visa), you should consult with an experienced attorney to discuss the I-601A Waiver. This waiver is a requirement for a complicated process of having your spouse leave the United States temporarily to obtain an immediate relative visa and re-enter the country as a resident.

What If My Child Is over the Age of 21?

If a child is no longer under the age of 21, they may have “aged out” of being an immediate relative, and the green card application process will be slightly different. You should consult with an immigration attorney at Gorton Law LLC to have your situation reviewed and to learn about the best way to obtain immigration benefits for your adult child.

Help Your Spouse, Parent, or Child Get a Green Card

If you want to help your family member get a green card, let’s talk! Becoming a permanent resident of the United States may sound simple, but the process is anything but. To ensure your loved one has the best opportunity of being granted a green card, involve the skilled attorneys at our Malden, MA firm. Our team can assist in filling out forms, sending said paperwork to the correct agencies, and helping you or your family member renew their green card, when necessary.