U.S. immigration law allows certain individuals to gain permanent residence due to their familial relationships to U.S. Citizens or U.S. Lawful Permanent Residents (LPR). In each case, the U.S. citizen or LPR must sponsor and petition for his/her relatives to bring them to the US. Different family-based visa preference categories were created according to the sponsor's status and relationship to the alien.

Immediate Relative Immigrant Visas (Unlimited)
  • IR-1: Spouse of a US Citizen
  • IR-2: Unmarried Child Under 21 Years of Age of a US Citizen
  • IR-3: Orphan adopted abroad by a US Citizen
  • IR-4: Orphan to be adopted in the US by a US citizen

IR-5: Parent of a US Citizen who is at least 21 years old

Family Preference Immigrant Visa Categories (Limited)
  • Family First Preference (F1): Unmarried sons and daughters of US citizens, and their minor children, if any. (23,400 per year)
  • Family Second Preference (F2): Spouses, minor children, and unmarried sons and daughters (age 21 and over) of LPRs. At least seventy-seven percent of all visas available for this category will go to the spouses and children; the remainder is allocated to unmarried sons and daughters. (114,200 per year)
  • Family Third Preference (F3): Married sons and daughters of US citizens, and their spouses and children. (23,400 per year)
  • Family Fourth Preference (F4): Brothers and sisters of US citizens, and their spouses and minor children, provided the US citizens are at least 21 years of age. (65,000 per year)

If family members of US citizens or Permanent Residents are already legally in the US in another status, they may qualify to directly adjust to Lawful Permanent Resident status by filing a Form I-485 without needing to return to their home country.

For family members outside of the US, or those in the US who do not qualify for direct adjustment of status, consular processing will take place at the US Embassy or Consulate with jurisdiction over their place of foreign residence.

Application Procedure for Permanent Residence for a Relative

As a US citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident, the first step to getting your relative a Green Card is filing a Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, with the USCIS to establish your relationship to your relative. A separate form must be filed for each eligible relative who wishes to immigrate.

A US citizen 21 years of age or older may petition for the following family members:

  • Spouse
  • Child/Children
  • Parents
  • Siblings

US citizens under the age of 21 may only petition for their spouse and/or children.

A Lawful Permanent Resident may only petition for a spouse and any unmarried children.

With the I-130 petition you must include proof of your relationship to your relative and proof of your US citizenship. Filing a Form I-130 and proving a qualifying familial relationship gives your relative a place in line with others waiting to immigrate from the same country or region and based on the same type of familial relationship. When they reach the front of the line they may apply for their immigrant visas.

As a sponsor you must also be able to show that you can financially support your relative(s) once they come to America. When the time comes for your relative to immigrate, you must agree to be his or her financial sponsor by filing Form I-864, Affidavit of Support. If you do not meet the financial qualifications, other individuals will need to make this commitment.

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