Family Based Visas
Relatives of intending immigrants who plan to base their immigrant visa applications on family relationship must obtain a Form I-130, Immigrant Petition for Alien Relative, from the United States of Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS). The petitioning U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident must submit the Form I-130 to the USCIS Service Center. In some cases, if the U.S. citizen is residing abroad, he or she may file the petition with a consular officer at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate.
U.S. Immigration law requires that anyone who brings a relative to live permanently in the United States must accept legal responsibility for financially supporting that family member. The U.S. family members accept this responsibility and become their relative's sponsor by completing and signing a document called an Affidavit of Support. This legally enforceable responsibility guaranteeing that the immigrant will not become dependent on the U.S. Government for subsistence lasts until the new immigrant either becomes a U.S. citizen or has worked in the United States for 10 years.
The failure to complete the Affidavit of Support form correctly or the failure to include the correct documents with it can lead to significant delays in the visa application process or to the denial of the immigrant visa. Paying careful attention to detail at the beginning can make everything much easier at the time of the immigrant visa interview.
The person in the U.S. who filed the immigrant petition must complete and sign an Affidavit of Support (Form I-864) for each person applying for an Immigrant Visa. The petitioner must complete an Affidavit of Support even if he or she has no income and the visa applicant plans to use an Affidavit of Support from a joint sponsor to qualify for the visa. When the Affidavit of Support (Form I-864) does not show a level of income from the petitioner that meets the legal requirements, a another sponsor from the same household can add his or her support to that of the petitioner. The form used to do this is called the I-864A. If the income of the entire household does not meets the legal requirements, then a joint sponsor living in a separate household can file an Affidavit of Support (Form I-864) on behalf of the intending immigrant.
Don't forget to include the proof of U.S. citizenship or alien resident status for every person who signs an Affidavit of Support.
The Affidavit of Support, Forms I-864 and I-864A, are complex and have proven difficult for some petitioners to complete correctly. The U.S. Department of State has established a new web site to help complete the Affidavit of Support online, but many people decide that they require the services of an attorney who specializes in immigration law, an accountant, or help from a charitable or other community-based organization.
Once USCIS approves the petition, they will send the petitioner a notice of approval, Form I-797 and will forward the approved petition to the National Visa Center. The National Visa Center will advise the petitioner and the beneficiary of the petition (the applicant for a visa) when the approved petition is received from the approving office and will provide further instructions at that time. Those instructions vary depending upon the type of visa.