Helping You Build Your Family

Whether you are seeking to reunite your family in the United States or you are outside the country and marrying a U.S. citizen, there is an immigration process designed for you. With several decades of combined experience, our lawyers have a detailed understanding of the immigration process and can provide exceptional client service no matter the complexity of your situation. We encourage you to schedule a consultation with an attorney at the Houston, Texas, office of The Gonzalez Law Group, PLLC, as soon as possible.

Who Are Immediate Relatives?

The immediate relatives of U.S. citizens do not come under the quota system, so immigrant visas are always available. "Immediate relatives" are defined as spouses of U.S. citizens, parents of U.S. citizens over the age of 21 and unmarried children (under the age of 21) of a U.S. citizen.

If not an immediate relative, an applicant must show a relationship under one of these family-based categories:

  • First preference: Unmarried sons and daughters (age 21 or older) of U.S. citizens
  • Second preference: Spouses and children (under 21) of permanent residents or unmarried sons and daughters (over age 21) of permanent residents
  • Third preference: Married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens (over age 21)
  • Fourth preference: Brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens (over age 21)

Only the primary beneficiary needs to establish the familial or employment relation in all of the immigrant visa preference categories. The person's spouse and minor children are eligible to immigrate under the same preference, but the total number of visas issued for that family count against the annual quota. The quota system precludes the issuance of visas to nationals of any one country in excess of 25,600.

Consular Processing

The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) offers an individual two primary paths to permanent resident status (a green card). An individual who is the beneficiary of an approved immigrant petition and has an immigrant visa number immediately available may apply at a U.S. Department of State consulate abroad for an immigrant visa to come to the United States and be admitted as a permanent resident. This pathway is referred to as "consular processing."

The consular processing time is approximately four to six months, compared with several years in adjustment of status. Consular processing has a significantly lower risk of refusal as a consular officer may not deny an immigrant visa based on discretion, as can happen with adjustment of status.

DOMA: Defense Of Marriage Act Declared Unconstitutional

On June 26, 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court declared section three of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) unconstitutional. This meant that the federal government had to recognize the legal marriages of same–sex couples. Such couples who were married in a state or country that recognizes these marriages could now receive a variety of federal protections, including the right to seek permanent resident status for foreign-born spouses of U.S. citizens, even if living in another state.

On June 26, 2015, the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage across the United States. Thirty-six states and the District of Columbia already recognized gay marriage, but this Supreme Court ruling required the remaining 14 states to lift any bans against gay marriage.

To discuss your specific family-based immigration matter, call or email our firm. Se habla español.