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Tips and Guidance for Family Reunification Petitions

A pair of ethnic adult female friends are reuniting at at the airport and are happy. One of the women is rolling a suitcase while the other woman has her back to the camera and is holding her arms out for a hug.

Family reunification is a cherished value in the United States, and the immigration system is designed to facilitate this reunification. However, for immigrants seeking to bring their family members to the U.S., the journey through the immigration system can be arduous, marked by strict regulations, fluctuating rules, and varying wait times. Petitioners must carefully consider their status, their relationship with the intended family member, and the country of origin to plan and navigate the process effectively.

Who Can Petition for Alien Relatives?

Here are the general guidelines for who can petition for which family members:

  • A U.S. citizen can petition for parents, spouses, children, and siblings. 
  • A U.S. Permanent Resident can petition for a spouse and unmarried children. 
  • A U.S. Refugee or Asylee can petition for spouse and unmarried children under 21, as long as the petition is filed within two years of arrival or within 2 years of being granted asylum status. Refugees or Asylees also can apply for the Priority 3 (P-3) Affidavit of Relationship (AOR) for family in the same economic unit, as long as the application is filed within 5 years of arrival. 

Fees for filing petitions for alien relatives range from $0 to more than $2,000 depending on the circumstances.

How Can I Bring My Family Together Quicker?

Family reunification can take several months to several years, depending on the unique circumstances. You can find average case processing times on the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website. 

It is essential to understand that the country of origin plays a significant role in determining wait times and costs associated with family reunification. The U.S. immigration system categorizes countries into preference categories, allocating a limited number of visas each year based on family relationships and national quotas. Countries with high demand for visas often face longer wait times due to backlogs. 

It is wise to consult with an experienced immigration attorney who can help choose the most efficient path toward reunification and ensure all paperwork is submitted properly. Immigration laws are complex, and the rules can change—an immigration attorney will know the latest regulations and can identify barriers or special eligibility unique to your circumstances.

While there is no surefire way to guarantee a swift family reunification, understanding the intricacies of the immigration system and seeking appropriate legal counsel can go a long way in ensuring a smoother journey through the complex landscape of U.S. immigration. Ultimately, the goal is to unite families and uphold the nation’s commitment to the principles of family unity and compassion.


About JFCS Pittsburgh Immigration Legal Services

Jewish Family and Community Services (JFCS) Pittsburgh offers a range of services and resources to community members in need of legal advice relating to immigration matters. For more information, please call JFCS Senior Services at (412) 422-7200 or visit www.jfcspgh.org/immigration-legal-services.