Is it faster to get a residency by paying a lawyer?

In my column This week's Consulta Migratoria® answers a question from a reader who wishes to immigrate through his U.S. citizen sister.

Each case is different and the answers vary depending on the immigration history of each person. Here I provide general answers to your questions. Please consult with an immigration attorney to receive personalized legal advice before beginning any process.

I am a 21 year old Venezuelan living in Venezuela. My sister lives in New York and last year she became an American citizen. This year I plan to go live with her because she is going to ask me and things here in Venezuela are very bad. Is it possible that by paying an immigration lawyer I can get my residency faster? -Miguel H.

Miguel, family petitions for siblings of U.S. citizens are processed on a first-come, first-served basis. Unfortunately, a family petition for a sibling, even if filed by a U.S. citizen and approved, has a long wait before a visa is available.

Therefore, hiring an immigration lawyer cannot help you get this kind of immigration paperwork processed faster. However, hiring an immigration lawyer helps the process to be done correctly.

Your citizen sister may be able to file a family petition on your behalf if you meet all the requirements, including proving your relationship and evidence of your sister's U.S. citizenship.

The process works like this:

Your sister must file the application on your behalf with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

If USCIS approves the application, the case is assigned to the F4 family category, siblings of U.S. citizens.

3. USCIS sends the application to the National Visa Center for further processing and waiting for an immigrant visa.

To find out how long you have to wait for a visa to become available, you have to check the Visa Bulletin which is published and updated monthly by the U.S. Department of State.

According to the March 2016 Visa BulletinThe Department of State is granting immigrant visas to cases in the F4 family category that were filed before July 1, 2003.

This means that in your case, there is a wait of approximately 13 years for an immigrant visa to become available to you.

Your sister's family petition does not allow you to live legally in the United States while you are waiting for an immigrant visa.

I understand that the situation in Venezuela is driving you to leave your country, but if you do come here and living in the U.S. illegally, your case will be complicated and you may not be able to obtain permanent residency through your sister's family petition.

Consult with an immigration attorney before beginning any immigration proceedings.