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Visa options for family immigration applications

Some Illinois residents are working to bring their family members and relatives to join them in the United States. There are two major groups of visa categories for family-based immigrants, including family preference options and immediate relatives. Eligibility for these different visa types can vary, and understanding the choices available can help people to determine the right application to file.

Immediate relative immigrant visas are not subjected to a numerical limitation each year. These are based on each applicant's close family relationship with a U.S. citizen. There are several different types of immediate relative visas, including those for spouses, unmarried children under the age of 21, orphans adopted abroad, orphans adopted in the U.S., and parents of U.S. citizens who are 21 and older. Unlike immediate relative visas, family preference category immigrant visas are for people with other specific family relationships with a U.S. citizen or, in some cases, a permanent resident or green card holder. These are subjected to numerical limitations every fiscal year, so there can be significant delays of several years or more for these applications. Applications for family-based preference visas are handled in the order they were filed.

Visas for spouses and children of international students

International students often come to Illinois on an F-1 visa that allows them to study at a U.S. college or university. However, many students around the world are married and have children. The F-2 visa can enable spouses and unmarried children under 21 to join an F-1 student visa holder. Their visa is linked to the student's, and they can remain in the country so long as the legal, F-1 visa status of the student continues.

An F-2 visa can be issued so that a spouse and children can accompany an international student when they first arrive in the country. They can also apply for the visa in order to follow later. In order to apply for the visa, the student should request an I-20 for a dependent from their school's office for international students. They will need to show proof of the relationship like birth certificates, marriage certificates and other documents. The student will also need to show that they can support their dependents financially. After receiving the I-20, the spouse and children can make an appointment for a visa interview at a U.S. consulate or embassy abroad.

What green card holders should know about form I-751

When a green card holder or US citizen from Illinois or another state marries an individual from another country, the individual from the other country may be interested in seeking a green card. If the couple has been married for less than two years, the green card will only provide conditional permanent resident status, meaning that it is only going to last for two years.

As it gets close to the time for the conditional two-year green card to expire, steps will need to be taken in order for the green card holder to continue to live in the United States legally. The individual will need to file an I-751 form and submit new evidence involving their marriage in order to apply for a 10-year green card.

Options for foreign investors seeking U.S. immigration

Foreign investors interested in immigrating to Illinois may be curious about the best visa or green card route to help them achieve their goals. There are reasons to pursue either an E-2 work visa or an EB-5 green card depending on each person's specific circumstances. In order to be eligible for the E-2 visa, people must be citizens of a national treaty country and must have substantial funds, typically around $150,000. In addition, they must have at least 50% of the business in question, and it cannot be simply a passive investment business. This also means that at least some level of English language knowledge is necessary for eligibility.

These visas can be processed quickly. They require a strong business plan, and the application can be made at a U.S. consulate abroad. After approval, recipients receive a work visa for their business, so further applications would be necessary to seek permanent residence. On the other hand, people can apply for an EB-5 green card from any country. The financial outlay is larger; investors must put $900,000 into a regional project for five years or $1.5 million into their own business. Within two years, they must employ at least 10 employees in the U.S.

Options for getting legal status in the U.S.

Illinois residents who are interested in helping foreign-born family members get legal status in the United States may be interested in learning about some of the options that are available. In most cases, the individual applying has to be in the country legally. However, some exceptions exist, especially when undue hardship is placed on the individual or family members.

If an individual is in the country illegally and would otherwise be eligible to apply for legal status in the United States, the government may allow the individual to leave the United States and then reenter after some time has passed. Individuals who spent more than 180 days in the U.S. illegally may be able to apply for reentry after three years have passed. If a person spent more than 365 days in the country illegally, they will not be able to reenter for 10 years.

Green cards and denial of earlier marriage petitions

A person in Illinois who attempts to obtain a green card after marriage could face a denial if the person was earlier determined to have entered into a fraudulent marriage in an effort to get a green card. This is covered under INA Section 204(c). It says that for anyone who has engaged in marriage fraud, approval of an immigrant visa petition is prohibited.

However, this is not as straightforward as it may seem. There are circumstances in which an immigrant petition could be approved despite this problem. In order to bar a subsequent visa petition, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services is required to independently determine that fraud took place. It can use evidence gathered during the first visa petition, but it cannot rely on those conclusions. New evidence can also be introduced.

Online filing could speed family immigration process

Many immigrants in Chicago and across the country have been concerned about changes to U.S. immigration rules, as many of them seem to make it more difficult to support their family members joining them in the United States. However, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has announced one reform that could make it easier for people to apply for family immigration. When people become U.S. citizens after having their green cards, they often want to help sponsor their loved ones to join them.

In order to start the process, people must file Form I-130, also called a Petition for Alien Relative. This petition must be submitted first along with proof establishing the relationship between the applicant and the person they want to sponsor. Only after this initial form is approved can the relative apply for a green card. USCIS said that it was now making the form available for online filing and digital completion, given that it is one of the most widely used forms in the immigration system. The first step to proceeding with an online family immigration application is creating an online account.

Learn more about the H4 visa

The spouses and children of H1B visa holders who would like to accompany their spouse or parent while working or visiting Illinois or other U.S. states may apply for an H4 visa, which is a dependent visa. Spouses and children under 21 years of age who are interested in the H4 visa need will need to apply at a U.S. consulate in their country of citizenship.

It is possible for the individual applying for the H1B visa and their spouse or children applying for the H4 visa to submit both applications at the same time. If a person is granted the H4 visa, they will have the opportunity to pursue education, open a bank account, seek employment and get a driver's license in the United States. They may also be eligible for getting a tax ID. A dependent holding an H4 visa must first apply for Employment Authorization before getting a job in the US.

Undocumented immigrant children’s rights to attend public schools

All children deserve to learn in an environment where they can grow socially, emotionally and academically. All children deserve a quality education, so that they can grow in confidence, competency and quality of life. All children In the United States, despite immigration status, have the right to an education.

However, many undocumented immigrant families don’t know that their children’s immigration status doesn’t matter for school enrollment. In 1982, the Supreme Court issued Plyler v. Doe, a decision that guarantees undocumented immigrant children the right to free public education from kindergarten through grade 12 and up until the age of 21.

Immigration for spouses and children of U.S. citizens

Some Illinois residents may be concerned about how they can bring their close family members to join them in the United States. In the family-based immigration process, there are several types of family relations that take priority, especially spouses, fiancé(e)s, and adopted children. When a U.S. citizen wants to bring their spouse to live as a permanent resident, he or she must file a visa petition for the spouse. In some cases, the spouse is already living in the U.S. When the petition is approved, the spouse can then petition to adjust status to that of a green card holder.

If the spouse is living abroad, he or she can go to the closest consulate to finalize the processing of the immigrant visa. If the U.S. citizen and the spouse were married for less than two years, the permanent residency granted will be considered conditional. The spouses must show their marriage is real and not conducted solely for immigration purposes. They must file a petition to remove the conditional status before the two-year period is over.

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