Immigration law is a complex and convoluted body of statutory and regulatory provisions combined with a multitude of administrative memoranda and manuals. In other words, it is a labyrinth, which is difficult to navigate even for legal professionals who are not experienced in the field, let alone the general public. In this regard, the component of the immigration law that relates to family immigration is no different or easier. It is especially so in light of the fact that the complexity of immigration law increases as the law continues to evolve and change due to political pressures, administrative changes and resource availability.
Generally, the American People believe in the importance of family. It is reflected in the history of this country, views of the Founding Fathers and political philosophy revealed in the actions of the U.S. Congress. Uniting families is viewed by Congress as one of the most important aspects and functions of the immigration law. As a result, members of the nuclear family of U.S. Citizens (USC's) and Legal Permanent Residents (LPR's) are awarded special privileges in U.S. immigration system. These privileges are subdivided into three major categories:
- immediate relatives
- individuals who do not need to wait in line and can always immigrate; members of the nuclear family
- spouses and minor (under 21 years of age) children of the LPR's and extended family members including unmarried adult children of the USCs and LPRs as well as married adult children and siblings of the USC's.
Those who are subject to the waiting periods are required to wait their turn before they are allowed to join their family members in the USA. The waiting periods may be lengthy and are influenced by the per-country numeric limitations on the number of visas available annually. At the same time immediate relatives are not subject to such limitations and thus allowed to have their immigration applications processed as soon as they are filed.