Obtain Green Card for Spouse and Child through F2A Visa
Updated on 10/31/2022
If you are a U.S. Legal Permanent Resident (also known as a green card holder) and you wish to obtain a green card for your spouse and children, you may be able to do so through an F2A Visa. In this article, we will explain the what, how, and why of an F2A Visa, including the entire process for petitioning for your qualifying spouse or child.
What is an F2A visa?
The United States has a system of Family Based Immigration, meaning certain foreigners can obtain green cards based purely on their familial relationship to a US citizen or US Legal Permanent Resident (LPR for short). In this system, the US citizen or LPR (called Petitioner) must apply to the US Government on behalf of their foreign family member (called Beneficiary) in order to receive a Family Based Visa, which then allows the beneficiary to obtain a green card. Which Family Based Visa the Petitioner applies for depends on whether he or she is a US citizen or LPR and on the familial relationship to the beneficiary (i.e. spouse, sibling, etc.) as there are different visas assigned for each familial category.
The F2A Visa is one of these Family Based Visas which is reserved for spouses and children of LPRs. If a spouse or child of an LPR is granted an F2A Visa, they can then obtain a green card and live and work in the United States permanently.
Who qualifies for an F2A visa?
Only spouses and children of US Legal Permanent Residents who meet certain criteria may be granted an F2A Visa.
In the case of a beneficiary spouse, requirements include:
- You are legally married to an LPR-
- The marriage does not have to take place in the United States, nor do you have to register your foreign marriage in the US. The United States recognizes any lawful marriage performed in a foreign country as valid.
- It is not polygamy-
- The United States does not recognize polygamous marriages, even if it is legal in the country in which the marriage took place. In cases such as these, the first marriage would be considered valid for immigration purposes (i.e. “first wife”) while the second marriage would be considered invalid.
- The marriage is not fraudulent-
- If the marriage with the LPR was only entered into for the purpose of obtaining a green card, it is considered fraudulent and is not valid for immigration purposes.
- You will be required to show evidence that the marriage is genuine through supporting documents such as joint property, pictures, birth certificates of children you have together, etc.
In the case of a beneficiary child of an LPR, the requirements include:
- The Beneficiary is under the age of 21 years old
- The Beneficiary is not married
- Can prove a parent/child relationship with the LPR-
- For Immigration purposes, a parent/child relationship is automatically assumed if the beneficiary child is a natural-born child of the LPR and the beneficiary spouse, and they were married at the time of his or her birth.
- If the beneficiary child is the natural-born child of parents who were unmarried at his or her birth: i) A parent/child relationship will still be assumed if the Petitioner LPR is the beneficiary child’s mother; ii) A parent/child relationship will still be assumed if the LPR and the beneficiary spouse married before the beneficiary child reached 18 years of age; or iii) Proof of a bona fide parent-child relationship before the beneficiary child reached 21 years of age will have to be shown if the Petitioner LPR is the beneficiary child’s father.
Can a stepchild or adopted child of an LPR obtain an F2A visa?
A stepchild of an LPR can obtain an F2A Visa as long as the child was under the age of 18 when the step-parent married the child’s biological parent, and they have remained married. In some instances, the step-parent relationship can be considered ongoing even if the original step-parent marriage has ended. If that the case, you’d better consult a skilled immigration lawyer first.
An adopted child can qualify for an F2A Visa as long as he or she was under the age of 16 when adopted, and he or she meets all the criteria set out by US immigration for a valid adoption. However, in the case of adoption and when the child is an orphan before adoption, there are other paths for obtaining a green card for the adopted child which may be faster than an F2A Visa.
What are the requirements for the Petitioner and Beneficiary?
The LPR who is applying for an F2A Visa for the beneficiary spouse or child, must:
- Be at least 18 years old
- Reside in or intend to reside in the United States immediately after the beneficiary obtains a F2A visa
The beneficiary spouse or child must be admissible to the United States. Common grounds of inadmissibility include malignant infectious disease, criminal history, terrorism, national security, visa fraud, violation of nonimmigrant status, unauthorized employment in the U.S., removal proceeding.
There are other eligibility requirements that Petitioner and beneficiary must meet. You can free check eligibility before you take any application steps.
What is the F2A visa cap?
U.S. law sets the limit on how many foreign relatives can obtain a Family Based Visa each year depending on the Visa category. The different Family Based Visa categories, and the number of visas allocated to each one, can be found at the visa bulletin monthly issued by the Debarment of State.
The number of visas allocated to the F2A category is 77% of 114,200 or 87,934 visas in a year. If there are not enough F2A visas available for the number of people who have been approved for them in a year, then a backlog is created where beneficiaries must wait in line for an F2A visa to become available before they can proceed with the immigration process.
Fortunately, F2A visa number has always been available since the year of 2019, which means that for those beneficiaries who are keeping a legal status (with other requirements) in the U.S. can concurrently file an I-485 adjustment of status application with their I-130 petition; therefore they will obtain a green card faster than before. For those beneficiaries outside the U.S., no visa backlog means they can start their NVC consular processing immediately after USCIS approves their I-130 petition. Please the next section for details.
What is the process to get an F2A visa?
- The process of obtaining an F2A visa begins with the Petitioner LPR filing an I-130 Petition (and supplemental I-130A form in spousal cases) with the USCIS on behalf of the beneficiary spouse or children. With this petition, the Petitioner is officially asking the government to recognize the bona fide relationship between them and the Beneficiary, which will be the basis for the grant of an F2A visa. The Petitioner will attach evidence to the petition which establishes the qualifying relationship between him or her and the beneficiaries.
- The Beneficiary must now wait for an F2A visa to come available. As stated above, there is a limit to how many F2A visas are granted in a year so the Beneficiary cannot proceed with the immigration process until they are sure that there is an available visa for them.
- You can check F2A visa availability online at the US Department of State Visa Bulletin The Visa Bulletin is updated every month so you must keep checking to see how availability is progressing.
- On the Visa bulletin, the F2A category is broken up into boxes by country of origin. In each box, it will either show a priority date (i.e. 22NOV08) or the letter C, which stands for current. If the box with your country of origin is current, you can continue with the immigration process. If it shows a priority date, you must wait until the priority date you were assigned by USCIS is earlier than the date that is showing in the box.
- After the I-130 petition is approved and an F2A visa is available, the Beneficiary will apply for the F2A visa, and a green card, themself. How they apply depends on whether the Beneficiary is living in the United States or is living abroad.
- If the Beneficiary is legally living in the United States, they will file a Form I-485 in order to Adjust Status (obtain a green card) without having to leave the country. There are several additional requirements and qualifications for being able to Adjust Status in the United States, one of which is having maintained lawful status. As described above, F2A visa number has always been available since the year of 2019, thus Beneficiary in legal status can always submit their Form I-485 and I-130 at the same time. As long as Beneficiary submits their Form I-485, Beneficiary is lawfully authorized to continue to stay in the U.S. to wait for their green card, no matter whether they can keep their legal status or not after submission. Nevertheless, Beneficiary cannot work in the U.S. without a work permit.
- The Beneficiary can file Form I-765 together with Form I-485 to apply for a work permit. The Beneficiary can also file Form I-131 together with Form I-485 to apply for an Advance Parole which is required for any future international travel before Beneficiary obtains a green card.
- If the Beneficiary is abroad, they will file Form DS-260 in order to Consular Processing, i.e. obtain a green card through a U.S. Consulate in a foreign country where the Beneficiary has permanent residence.
Both processes will require a signed Form I-864, Affidavit of Support. This document must be signed by the Petitioner and/or other U.S. citizens or LPRs who agree to support the Beneficiary so he or she does not become a public charge and can show that they have assets and income valued at 125% above the Federal Poverty Guidelines.
- For the Beneficiary under Adjust Status Processing, the Beneficiary will also be required to attend a biometrics appointment in which the US government will take their fingerprints, photograph, and signature, and use this information to confirm their identity and to perform a detailed criminal background check.
- The Beneficiary will also be required to undertake an immigration medical exam to make sure they are in good health and do not pose a public health risk to the United States. For the Beneficiary under Adjust Status Processing, the Beneficiary will need to submit I-693 medical exam report. It can be submitted with Form I-485 or at the future green card interview. For the Beneficiary under Consular Processing, the Beneficiary will need to have the medical exam after receiving a visa interview letter and bring the medical exam report to the interview.
- The Beneficiary will then attend a green card interview. This will either be at a USCIS office, if the Beneficiary is in the US, or at a consulate or embassy, if the Beneficiary is abroad. At the interview, the US government official will ask questions about the Beneficiary’s background and their relationship with the Petitioner, mainly to establish the validity of the marriage and/or parent/child relationship. The official will also be assessing if there is anything in the Beneficiary’s history that would make them inadmissible to the United States.
- If the interview goes well, the Beneficiary under Adjust Status Processing will receive their green card in the mail, while the Beneficiary under Consular Processing will receive an immigrant visa stamp in their passport. With this visa stamp, they can enter the U.S. as a lawful permanent resident and a physical green card will be mailed to them within 120 days after entry.
The type of green card the Beneficiary receives depends on how long the Petitioner and Beneficiary have been married on the day their Form I-485 gets approved or they enter the U.S. with an immigrant visa.
- If they have been married less than 2 years, the Beneficiary will receive a conditional green card that is valid for two years. Toward the end of 2 years, the couple must apply to “remove the conditions” and receive a permanent green card.
- If they have been married for more than 2 years, the Beneficiary will receive an unconditional permanent green card.
What does the F2A visa process cost?
- Form I-130 filing fee: $535
- Adjust Status fees: Form I-485 filing fee of $1,140, and biometrics fee of $85 if Beneficiary is between 14 and 78 years of age
- Consular Processing fees: DS-260 processing fee of $325, Affidavit of Support processing fee of $120, and USCIS immigrant fee of $220
- Medical Exam: Depends on the doctor, $400-$800 on average
How long does the F2A visa process take?
The time it takes from I-130 petition filing to the arrival of a green card depends on several factors, including the processing speed of the local USCIS office or consulate, F2A visa availability, and even unforeseeable events like Covid shutdowns. The times shown below are only estimates based on recent filings and may vary from person to person:
- Adjust Status Processing: 1-2 years
- Consular Processing: 2-3 years
Does the LPR need to file separate I-130 petitions for the beneficiary spouse and child(ren)?
No, beneficiary children (under 21 years old and unmarried) can be placed as derivatives on a beneficiary spouse’s I-130 petition. However, it is highly recommended for the LPR to file a separate I-130 petition for the beneficiary child under two situations:
- The beneficiary child will turn 21 years of age soon; or
- The LPR will become a U.S. citizen soon.
What if a beneficiary child turns 21 years old during the F2A visa process?
If a beneficiary child turns 21 while waiting to be approved for an F2A visa, they will no longer be eligible for that visa. They will instead automatically be moved to a different visa category – F2B, reserved for unmarried sons and daughters of an LPR who are over 21 years old. The problem is that there are much fewer F2B visas available than F2A visas, meaning that the wait time for a visa will be much longer. Depending on the country of origin, the difference in wait time for a visa can increase by a matter of decades.
Due to the inherent unfairness of this, the US Congress passed the 2002 Child Status Protection Act (CSPA) to provide some relief. The act allows a beneficiary child to subtract the time that the I-130 visa was pending with USCIS from their age on the date an F2A visa becomes available when calculating whether are under 21. This does not help every beneficiary child, but it does help those in close calls.
This scenario becomes even more complicated if the beneficiary child who turns 21 was petitioned as a derivative on a beneficiary spouse’s I-130 (instead of being petitioned on their own I-130). In this case, the beneficiary child who turns 21, and is beyond the leeway time allowed them by CSPA, is automatically dropped as a derivative from the beneficiary spouse’s I-130 and must be petitioned for again in the F2B visa category, and worse thing is that they will lose the visa priority date they had when they were derivatives on the beneficiary spouse’s petition. That’s why it is highly recommended for the LPR to file a separate I-130 petition for the beneficiary child who will turn 21 years of age soon at the very beginning.
What if the Petitioner naturalizes (becomes a U.S. citizen) during the F2A visa process?
If the Petitioner becomes a U.S. citizen during the F2A petition, the beneficiaries will be moved to different visa categories as a consequence.
In the case of a beneficiary spouse, he or she will be moved to the IR1 visa category, making a visa immediately available with which to apply for a green card.
Similarly, a beneficiary child who is on their own I-130 petition will be moved to the IR2 visa category and will also have a visa immediately available.
A beneficiary child who is a derivative on a beneficiary spouse’s I-130 petition on the other hand will lose their status and be dropped from the petition as soon as the Petitioner naturalizes. This is because US immigration rules strangely require that a U.S. citizen file a separate I-130 for each beneficiary spouse and child, unlike an LPR. In this case, the new US citizen Petitioner would file another I-130 for the beneficiary child and put him or her in the IR2 visa category. However, to file another I-130 petition for the beneficiary child means to start over the whole process from the beginning. Accordingly, it is advisable for the LPR who plans to become a U.S citizen soon to file a separate I-130 petition for the beneficiary child at the very beginning.
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