Obtaining permanent resident status permits you to file for your spouse, and your unmarried sons and daughters. Obtaining citizenship status permits you to file for your spouse, your parents, your sons and daughters whether married or unmarried, and even your sisters and brothers. If you are a citizen, with few exceptions, your petition will go considerably faster than if you are petitioning as a permanent resident. So for example the spouse of a U.S. citizen can gain approval and come to the United States as a permanent resident in less than one year, while the spouse of a permanent resident might take three years before the case could be completed.
Parents, spouses and unmarried children under 21 of U.S. citizens qualify as “immediate relatives”. This is a very important category because if you qualify as an immediate relative you would be permitted to adjust your status to permanent residence in the United States, even if you had been out of legal status and/or had worked without authorization, and because there is no visa waiting list for immediate relatives, they are immediately eligible for entry once their I-130 petition is approved. On the other hand unlike other relatives who are petitioned for, immediate relatives are on their own and cannot bring dependent relatives with them based upon their petition approval alone. So for example, if you are a U.S. citizen petitioning for your spouse who has children, it is vital that you file separate petitions for the children at the same time, assuming that you wish the children to come with your spouse.
Parents, spouses and unmarried children under 21 of U.S. citizens qualify as “immediate relatives”.
The relative petitioning process always begins with an I-130 petition and once the petition is approved, the case is then transferred to the National Visa Center in order to prepare the case for Consular Processing. While petitioning for a relative is generally a good thing to do at the earliest possible time, there is at least one reason for caution. By filing the petition you strongly suggest to the U.S. government that the person being petitioned for intends to settle in the United States. Once that becomes part of their record it would be hard and in some cases impossible for the individual to travel to the United States on a temporary basis, since the assumption will be made that they have a permanent intent to reside in the U.S.
So in each case it is important to consider alternative ways that the individual might come to the United States, and ultimately whether petitioning makes sense as the best strategy available before commencing the petitioning process. Hiring experienced legal counsel is a good way to insure that all the options have been considered before a choice is made.