In California, there are two types of family-based immigrant visas:
- Immediate Relative – visas based on a close family relationship with a U.S. citizen, such as a spouse, child, or parent
- Family Preference – visas for specific, more distant family relationships with a U.S. citizen and some specified relationships with a Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR)
An adult who is at least 21 years of age and is either a U.S. citizen or U.S. Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) may sponsor a family member for an immigrant visa petition under one of the above categories. Note that U.S. citizens may file a petition for their spouse, child, parent, or sibling, but U.S. LPRs may only file for their spouse or unmarried children.
There are specific visa categories available to certain individuals based on their relationships, such as marriage visas and fiancé visas. Spousal visas allow foreigners married to U.S citizens or LPRs to live in the U.S. as legal permanent residents. Fiancé/fiancée visas, also called K-1 visas, will provide couples 90 days to get married after the foreigner comes to the U.S. After the legal wedding, the foreign fiancé(e) may adjust their status to a legal permanent resident.
Note that under the federal Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), individuals may be eligible to become LPRs if they have experienced battery or extreme cruelty committed by a:
- U.S. citizen spouse or former spouse;
- U.S. citizen parent;
- U.S. citizen son or daughter;
- lawful permanent resident spouse or former spouse; or
- lawful permanent resident parent.
A person may self-petition under VAWA without their abusive family member’s knowledge or consent. Learn more about the different types of family visas on our Family Visas page.
Asylum in California
In other circumstances, individuals may seek asylum as a more immediate option if they are in danger in their home country. More specifically, foreigners may seek asylum to remain in the U.S. if they face persecution in their home country for their:
- membership in a particular social group, and/or
- political opinion.
Foreigners may seek asylum for themselves and their spouse and/or children who are unmarried and under 21 years old. Asylum applicants must apply within 1 year of arriving in the U.S. After a year in the U.S., asylees may apply to adjust their status to become legal permanent residents.
In most cases, asylees can remain in the country for as long as they need, though their asylee status may be revoked if they:
- committed a deportable offense;
- obtained protection from another nation;
- committed fraud in order to receive asylum status; or
- no longer has a well-founded fear of persecution.
Visit our page on Asylum to learn more about what asylee status permits and prohibits.
Contact Attorney Joyce Komanapalli Jones Today
If you have legal questions about immigration law and options for immigration, do not hesitate to reach out to an experienced immigration law attorney in California. Attorney Joyce Komanapalli Jones has years of experience in immigration law and has worked with a diverse palette of clients in California on immigration matters.