U.S. immigration law permits for specific individuals to obtain permanent residence based on their familial relationships with U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents (LPRs). The sponsor, who is the U.S. citizen or LPR, must petition for their relatives and provide sponsorship throughout the immigration process. Different family-based visa preference categories were established based on the sponsor's status and their relationship to the foreign relative.

Immediate Relative Immigrant Visas (Unlimited):

  • IR-1: Spouse of a U.S. Citizen
  • IR-2: Unmarried Child Under 21 Years of Age of a U.S. Citizen
  • IR-3: Orphan adopted abroad by a U.S. Citizen
  • IR-4: Orphan to be adopted in the U.S. by a U.S. Citizen
  • IR-5: Parent of a U.S. Citizen who is at least 21 years old

Family Preference Immigrant Visa Categories (Limited):

  • Family First Preference (F1): Unmarried sons and daughters of U.S. citizens, and their minor children (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 the visas are allocated to spouses and children, and the remainder is for unmarried sons and daughters (114,200 per year)
  • Family Third Preference (F3): Married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens, and their spouses and children (23,400 per year)
  • Family Fourth Preference (F4): Brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens, and their spouses and minor children, provided the U.S. citizens are at least 21 years of age (65,000 per year)

If family members of U.S. citizens or LPRs are already in the U.S. legally or do not qualify for direct adjustment of status, they may be eligible to apply for permanent residence by consular processing at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in their home country.

The application process for a relative's permanent residence starts with the sponsor filing a Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, with the USCIS to establish the familial relationship. Each eligible relative requires a separate petition. The sponsor must provide proof of the relationship and their U.S. citizenship or LPR status. Sponsors are also required to demonstrate their financial ability to support their relatives by filing Form I-864, Affidavit of Support. If the sponsor does not meet the financial requirements, other individuals may need to provide financial support.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Which relatives can be petitioned for?

 U.S. citizens can petition for spouses, children, parents, and siblings. LPRs can petition for spouses and unmarried children.

Can my relative wait in the U.S. until becoming a permanent resident?

No, an approved I-130 petition only gives the relative a place in the immigration waiting line; it does not grant permission to live or work in the U.S. illegally.

Can I bring my fiancé(e) to the U.S.?

Yes, U.S. citizens can file a Form I-129F to bring their fiancé(e) to the U.S. on a K-1 nonimmigrant visa. They must marry within 90 days, and then the U.S. citizen can file a Form I-485 to adjust the spouse's status to that of a permanent resident.

What happens if I filed a petition for a relative while I was a Permanent Resident, but I am now a U.S. Citizen?

If you previously filed a petition for a relative when you were a Permanent Resident but have now become a U.S. Citizen, you have the option to upgrade your relative's visa classification and expedite the processing of their petition. You can do this by informing the relevant agency of your naturalization. As a U.S. citizen, your spouse and any unmarried children under the age of 21 may have visas immediately available to them.

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