What is Family Reunification?
The United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights states, “The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.” Family reunification-focused immigration policies uphold this right by providing a pathway for family members living in different countries to reunite as a unit in one place while balancing the nation’s right to control the flow of individuals across their borders. Typically, these family-based immigration policies only apply to certain close family members, such as spouses, children, parents, and siblings.
If you are looking to bring your family members to live with you in the US, understanding US family immigration policy is essential. You may be able to petition to get your loved ones’ immigration visas so you can be reunited. However, the immigration process has many rules to follow and can quickly become complicated. Having an experienced family immigration lawyer on your side can simplify the process and help you reunite your family in the shortest time possible.
Why Is Family Reunification Vital in Immigration?
Family togetherness is important to the well-being of children and adults alike. A strong family life is a critical support system as individuals adjust to a new country. Without strategies for reunification, families may be split for many years, causing stress and a reduction in mental health for all involved. The benefits of bringing families together apply not only to the families themselves but also to the countries and communities in which they are settling.
Key advantages to family reunification include the following:
- Saves lives: When families do not have a clear legal method for reuniting, they may seek irregular and unsafe ways to rejoin their loved ones. Smuggling and illegal immigration pipelines can put individuals at risk financially and physically. Children are particularly vulnerable to harm in these situations and can face dangers such as kidnapping and trafficking. Strong reunification policies support safe and legal migration.
- Allows for easier integration by protecting the family unit: Having loved ones nearby as a support system will enable individuals to be more resilient and overcome the challenges of adjusting to life in a new country.
- Sets immigrants up to be productive and successful: Economically, united migrant or refugee families tend to be more stable. When the family group is together and strong, the individuals can focus on working and building their savings to better their family’s circumstances.
How Do US Family Reunification Visas Work?
The immigration policies of the US allow people residing in the country to petition for visas for certain immediate family members. The qualifications for these visas will depend on the citizenship status and immigration background of the petitioner.
Lawful Permanent Residents
Green card holders may only petition for immigrant visas for their spouses and unmarried children. These visas are known as “family preference” visas. There are limits on the number of family preference visas granted each year, which can impact how long it takes to bring your family members to the US.
US citizens have the right to petition for visas for their spouse, fiancé(e), parents, children, and/or siblings. There are no limits on the number of visas for spouses and unmarried children under the age of 21 of US citizens, which means these petitions are often approved relatively quickly, resulting in faster family reunification. In contrast, siblings and married children must wait for a visa to become available, which can take a significant amount of time. However, it is still shorter than the standard visa process.
If you are a US citizen planning to marry someone from another country, you may apply for a K-1 visa, which allows them to come to the US for 90 days. The children of your fiancé(e) are also eligible to immigrate with them under a K-2 visa. You must get legally married within the 90-day period. After marriage, you are eligible to petition for a green card for your new spouse and children.
Refugees and Asylum Seekers
If you were admitted to the US as a principal refugee or asylee within the last two years, you may be able to seek derivative refugee or asylee status for your spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21. However, the family relationship with your spouse or child must have existed prior to your legal entrance to the US.
What are Common Challenges to Family Reunification?
It is undeniable that family reunification is a crucial part of protecting the fundamental right of every individual to have a family life. Unfortunately, navigating the US immigration system can be incredibly challenging for individuals wishing to bring their loved ones to live with them. Some of the most frequently encountered difficulties include:
- Lack of resources or information in the individual’s native language.
- Challenges in paying application fees or demonstrating the required financial ability to support family members once they are in the US.
- Limited definitions of “immediate family” may exclude loved ones who are socially important in certain cultures.
- Short application deadlines in some cases.
- Difficulty providing necessary documents or information, including proof of a valid relationship, such as a marriage or birth certificate.
How Can an Experienced Immigration Lawyer Help You Reunite Your Family?
No one wants to be separated from those they love for any longer than necessary. Our compassionate and knowledgeable immigration lawyers at Weldon Law Group, PLLC, can help you through the process of reuniting your family in the US. We can answer your questions, ensure your forms are filled out correctly, and help you overcome any challenges you are facing in the family immigration process. Contact our Jacksonville office today to schedule a free, confidential strategy session: 904-204-3420.