Throughout the history of the United States, one of the hallmarks of its immigration system has been to keep the family unit together. As a result, Donald Trump’s family (Melania Trump’s parents – his in-laws) has benefitted from this policy.
Under the U.S. family-based immigration system, United States citizens (“USCs”) and lawful permanent residents (“LPRs”) may petition or sponsor only certain family members: children and spouses can be sponsored by both USCs and LPRs, while siblings and parents can be sponsored only by USCs; uncles, aunts, grandparents, and cousins unfortunately do not make the list.
The family-based immigration system is broken down into immediate relatives and preference categories. The term “immediate relative” is defined as a USC’s spouse, unmarried child under 21 years of age, and parent so long as the USC child is at least 21 years old. If a foreign national family member does not meet the definition of “immediate relative”, then the question is whether they fall within one of the following preference categories* in order to be sponsored for a green card:
- F-1 – USC’s unmarried sons and daughters over age 21
- F-2 – LPR’s:
- Spouse and unmarried child under 21 (F-2A)
- Unmarried sons and daughters over age 21 (F-2B)
- F-3 – USC’s married sons and daughters over age 21
- F-4 – USC’s brothers and sisters
Immediate relatives have the fastest path to a green card, realizing such benefit in under 1-1.5 years, depending on the case. On the other hand, foreign nationals falling into one of the above preference categories must wait from at least two (2) years up to fourteen (14) years before a visa number is available with which they can file a green card application.**
Although Melania Trump obtained U.S. permanent residency on her own merit and subsequently became a U.S. citizen, her parents are probably a product of “chain migration”, a term used by President Trump to refer to all immigration to the U.S. based on family ties. It has been reported that Mrs. Trump’s parents are in fact green card holders, but it is unknown how they actually acquired that status.
Since their daughter would not have been able to sponsor them when she herself held LPR status, the most plausible way her parents became green card holders is that Melania sponsored them some time after becoming a USC in 2006, unless they similarly qualified on their own merit. Nonetheless, President Trump wants to limit the sponsorship of family members to those falling within the definition of an “immediate relative” and hopes to cut legal immigration by doing away with the family preference categories altogether.
Restricting family immigration would cause many families to remain broken with no opportunity for unification. Hopefully the Trump administration reconsiders its position on chain migration.
* Note: A USC’s/LPR’s children are referred to as such so long as they are unmarried and under age 21, but after age 21, they are referred to as sons and daughters.
** Based on the June 2018 Visa Bulletin