Dear Mrs Walker-Huntington,
My parents received their Green Card approximately one year and six months ago. They were advised to file for their two unmarried children who were over the age of 21 years, again as soon as they received their Green Card. Therefore, they sent in the paperwork and the funds and were told that since the United States (US) would have information on everyone from before my grandmother filed for my dad and his entire family, then the process would be expedited. I was even given the estimate of a year or two by my dad.
My boyfriend of nine years has now become my fiancÚ and I wouldn't want him waiting too long for us to tie the knot as we are Christians. My question is, how long do you think the process will take? I am getting a little concerned because when I checked the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website, it has the filing for my brother and me as in 'Initial Review.' I asked my dad if there was any person he could check with, and he said it had to be at a certain point. Right now, it seems that it has only been acknowledged, but no work has begun.
In certain circumstances, family members can 'follow to join' a new immigrant - if they were eligible to travel with the primary beneficiary when that person migrated. For example, the wife of a brother/sister whose US citizen sibling petitioned for permanent residency, if that wife was not processed when her husband was being processed, she can follow to join her husband without the need for the husband filing a new, direct petition for residency.
However, in instances such as yours, where you were over 21 years of age and ineligible to travel with your parents when they became eligible for their residency, one of your parents is required to file a new petition on your behalf. In this instance, the fact that your biographical information may have been listed on your parents' documents does not mean that the filing will be expedited. All new petitions have to stand on their own and must wait the time period allotted for their preference category.
As the adult unmarried daughter of a permanent resident, you are in the F2B preference category, and for the month of February 2013, the US Department of State is processing persons with a priority date prior to January 5, 2005. With a filing date of August 2011, and if the processing time continues as it has, you are looking at an eight-year wait if your parents remain Green Card holders. Be advised, however, that the processing time fluctuates. However, if your parents become US citizens and you remain unmarried, you would move to the F1 preference category, and that is currently a seven-year wait.
You indicated that you are engaged and are contemplating marriage. If you get married while your parent is a Green Card holder, that initial petition dies, and whichever parent filed for you would have to file a new petition once he or she became a US citizen. The current waiting time for the married daughter of a US citizen is ten and a half years.
A choice to makes
The decision on whether to get married is one that you and your fiancÚ will have to make in light of this information. However, if you wait until your parent becomes a US citizen before you get married, the process will be a little faster, and your husband will be able to migrate with you. You will also retain your original filing date.
When a petition for alien relative is filed with the USCIS, it is processed and assigned a priority date. In a case like yours, where there is a significant waiting period, the USCIS is not usually in a rush to process the initial petition, and substantial time may pass before you are contacted with an approval. You can visit www.uscis.gov to check the processing time for the particular service centre that would have your petition to see how long they are taking to process the initial petition, and whether your case is within their processing time frame. Once the petition is approved, the file will be sent to the National Visa Center - United States Department of State for further processing and to await the priority date becoming current and the availability of a visa.
Dahlia A. Walker-Huntington is a Jamaican-American attorney who practises immigration law in the United States, and family, criminal, and personal injury law in Florida. She is a mediator, arbitrator, and special magistrate in Broward County, Florida. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.