Residence for a close relative in the US

One of the easiest ways to obtain a Green Card (legal permanent residence) is through a close relative who is a US citizen. If you are already in the US and entered with some type of visa, the process can be relatively easy. If you are not in the US or if you entered the US illegally, there are other ways to obtain permanent residence.

Inti Martinez Aleman
June 12, 2018

The petitioner is the father, mother, spouse, or child of a US citizen. The beneficiary is you, who already is in the US and entered legally, but who wants to become a resident. Here is where a petitioner “petitions” his/her relative through a process called One-Step Adjustment.

This is one of the easiest processes that exists, since it involves two applications submitted simultaneously and that can be decided in as fast as six months. However, this process may have many delays and complications if petitioner and beneficiary do not submit everything in order or if they clearly do not meet the requirements. In the legal world, evidence is what really matters. You need to provide everything they ask for—and even more. Here are some considerations for your process. This is not an exhaustive list.

Only a close relative of a US citizen may be a beneficiary of the legal permanent residence in this situation. Please don’t try to arrange something with distant relatives like a great uncle, second cousins, a brother-in-law, and the like.

Application #1: Form I-130
            This application is the petition itself. The petitioner asks the government to allow you as the beneficiary immigrate or remain in the country. With this application, you must accompany documentation proving that your relative is a US citizen and proving your relationship with this relative. Depending on the case, this may include birth certificates, marriage certificates, affidavits from witnesses, tax return filings, proof of home ownership or lease, photos, etc. You must provide translations for documents that are not in English.

The point is to prove that your relative is a citizen and that you have a legitimate relationship with him or her. The cost of this application is $420 paid by check or money order to the Department of Homeland Security.

Application #2: Form I-485
         This is the other application that you must submit to the government for its approval. It’s absurd to have two applications, but bureaucracy is bureaucracy (or burrocracy, like I call it). The purpose of form I-485 is to ask the government to modify or adjust your immigration status. For example, if you entered with a tourist, business, or student visa, form I-485 would change your status to legal permanent resident. Depending on the case, you must accompany evidence of your petitioner relative’s income (form I-864), medical exams, birth certificate, copy of your visa and passport, photos, criminal background checks or police reports, and that you entered the US legally.


The cost of this application is $985 plus additional $85 for biometrics (“fingerprints”) paid by check or money order to the Department of Homeland Security.



Along with both forms you must accompany other forms that I omit describing; you may read more about them in the sites provided below. Then comes a waiting period before your interview, if applicable. This interview may be short or long, depending on the immigration officer and the strength of your case’s evidence.

Obtaining the status of legal permanent resident of the United States of America is a privilege. You must use it and never abuse it. It is not a blank check to getting in trouble with the law. You may be imprisoned and even deported if you abuse your resident status.

In immigration matters, not all cases are treated the same way. You might be confused because Sally told you the process was one way, then Jenny said it was this other way, and then Billy said it was yet some other way. You must talk to an attorney so he or she explains to you what fits your particular situation. If a small detail changes, the case changes completely. You will become even more confused if you don’t consult an attorney (being a “licenciado” or “notario” in the US is not enough).

Green Card for an Immediate Relative of a U.S. Citizen

Adjustment of Status

About The Author

I represent Latinos in civil, business, and employment litigation matters, ranging from contract disputes or employment issues to small business litigation or landlord-tenant matters. In May 2016, I obtained my second law degree (JD) from Mitchell Hamline School of Law in St. Paul, Minnesota. ...

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