Family members forced to wait years for family-sponsored green cards

A recent series by NBC News examined immigration to America and the impact on those who are awaiting green cards to grant them lawful permanent residency in the U.S. Those who are seeking to obtain a green card through a family member often face significant wait times and complex interview procedures, but contacting an experienced immigration attorney can help improve the process.

Obtaining a green card through a family member in the U.S.

In the 1960s, the focus of U.S. immigration policy shifted to the unification of families instead of prioritizing applicants based on their national origin. Accordingly, it became possible to obtain a green card through a family member who is a U.S. citizen or who has a green card.

Immediate family members of U.S. citizens generally have a short waiting period for a green card because there are an unlimited number of visas for these relatives. Immediate family members include a spouse, an unmarried child under age 21 or a parent, if the U.S. citizen is over age 21. It usually takes longer for a brother, sister, or married or adult child to obtain a green card through a U.S. citizen, though.

If the person sponsoring the visa for a family member has a green card (is a lawful permanent resident but is not a U.S. citizen) the wait times can increase significantly. A limited number of green cards are available per country in this category, so people from countries with a lot of people seeking to immigrate often have long lines and waiting periods for a green card.

Family members of lawful permanent residents can face long wait times

NBC related the story of one man born in Mexico whose father sought a green card for him. The man's father had a green card at the time, so even though the child was under age 21, he has faced an incredibly long waiting period.

The child, Sergio Garcia, now age 36, was approved to begin the naturalization process in 1995 when he was 17 years old. Since there are so many applicants from Mexico, however, he has been forced to wait for a green card to become available before the limit is met each year. NBC reports that immigration authorities first told Garcia it would take three to five years before he could begin the process of obtaining a green card, which itself would take five years to complete. Nineteen years later, however, Sergio Garcia is still waiting.

Understanding U.S. immigration laws and procedures can be difficult, but having the assistance of a knowledgeable immigration lawyer can help immensely. If you have questions about green cards or immigration to the U.S., contact an immigration attorney for more information.