Today's question: how do I apply for a green card for a family member who is outside of the United States?
A United States Citizen can apply for a spouse, parent, child or sibling. A permanent resident can apply for a spouse or an unmarried child.
As always, check with an immigration attorney to make sure that all procedures are followed carefully, and to ensure eligibility for permanent residence of the beneficiary. In some cases, the beneficiary may be ineligible due to previous immigration violations or crimes committed, and in others, a waiver may be available.
First, the form I-130 with filing fee and appropriate supporting documentation is filed to the USCIS Service Center with jurisdiction over the petitioner's place of residence. If all papers are in order, USCIS will approve the case and forward it to the National Visa Center, or "NVC". Once the NVC receives it, if a visa number is available, it will send out bills for additional fees to be paid, and, when these are received, sends out the application for the visa and the affidavit of support to be completed. When these forms are received, NVC forwards the file to the appropriate consulate or embassy for further action.
The consular office schedules a visa interview, and sends out a list of evidence the beneficiary will need to bring. If all goes well at the interview, a visa is affixed into the passport, and the beneficiary enters the United States as a permanent resident -- and hopefully, receives the green card in the mail soon afterwards.
The process can be slow -- from a year to several years, depending on preference category.
It should go without saying, but this is a general outline, and each case is different. If you want to file for a relative, feel free to call my office to schedule an appointment.