Two groups of family based immigrant visa categories, including immediate relatives and family preference categories, are allowed under the provisions of United States immigration law. Below is a brief description of these categories:
Immediate Relative Immigrant Visas (Unlimited): These visa types are based on a close family relationship with a United States (U.S.) citizen described as an Immediate Relative (IR). The number of immigrants in these categories is not limited. Immediate relative visa types include:
• Spouse of a U.S. Citizen
• Unmarried Child Under 21 Years of Age of a U.S. Citizen
• Orphan adopted abroad by a U.S. Citizen
• Orphan to be adopted in the U.S. by a U.S. citizen
• Parent of a U.S. Citizen who is at least 21 years old
Family Preference Immigrant Visas (Limited): These visa types are for specific, more distant, family relationships with a U.S. citizen and some relationships with a Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR). There are numerical limitations on family preference immigrants. The family preference categories are:
• Family First Preference:Unmarried sons and daughters of U.S. citizens, and their minor children, if any.
• Family Second Preference:Spouses, minor children, and unmarried sons and daughters (age 21 and over) of LPRs.
• Family Third Preference:Married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens, and their spouses and minor children.
• Family Fourth Preference: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.
Because the number of qualified applicants for a category typically exceeds the available immigrant visas, there will be a wait that varies depending on the intending immigrant’s nationality, with limited exceptions. The available immigrant visas will be issued in the chronological order in which the petitions were filed using their priority date. Immigrant visas cannot be issued until an applicant's priority date is reached.
The first step in sponsoring a relative is the filing of a Petition for Alien Relative, Form I-130 with the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) In certain circumstances, a U.S. citizen living abroad can file an immigrant visa petition outside the United States.
Contact one of our attorneys if you seek to petition for a family member.