What happens after I submit a family petition application?

This week in my column in La Opinión I answer the question of a reader interested in knowing about the process of a family petition after submitting an application. Here I provide a general answer to your questions. Each case is different, so you should consult an attorney for personalized legal advice.

I am married to an American citizen and we live in California. My wife just sent a family petition for me to immigration. What will happen now with my application? - Juan G.

When your wife's petition arrives at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), it will be reviewed to determine whether it meets the requirements, including whether it is signed by your wife and bears the appropriate fee.

If the preliminary application requirements are in order, USCIS will issue an official receipt that will be sent to your spouse and your legal representative if you have one.

The petition will then be assigned to a USCIS officer, who will carefully review the application to determine if your wife qualifies to petition for you. For example, your wife will have to prove that she is indeed a U.S. citizen, that you are married, and that your marriage is bona fide.

USCIS may call them in for an interview and ask for more information before making a decision, but if it does, it will give them a reasonable amount of time to submit the requested documents.

USCIS will then issue an official decision for or against you.

If the application is approved and USCIS determines that you are eligible to apply for permanent residence in the United States, it will recommend that you file an application for adjustment of status to apply for permanent residence. This application should be sent to the USCIS office that has jurisdiction over the place where you live.

If USCIS determines that you are not eligible to apply for permanent residence in the country, they will forward your case to the National Visa Center for processing at the U.S. Consulate in your home country.

Regardless of where you apply for permanent residence - in the United States or abroad - you will always have to demonstrate that you are eligible for this benefit, including proving that you are of good moral character and that you will not be a public charge to the country.

It is extremely important to seek the advice of an immigration attorney during this process, especially if you have to travel out of the country to obtain your permanent residency.