Many people in the United States have family living overseas. The American immigration system allows citizens and lawful permanent residents to file visa petitions for their immediate relatives in order to unite their family.

Under US immigration laws, immediate relatives include:

  • Spouses of US citizens
  • Unmarried children under 21 years old of US citizens
  • Orphans adopted abroad by US citizens
  • Orphan to be adopted in the United States by US citizens
  • Parents of US citizens who are at least 21 years old.

Immediate relatives are permitted to get green cards without any quota restrictions. As a practical matter, most immediate relatives are able to become permanent residents within 18 months.

The US citizen must petition for each immediate relative individually, including children and stepchildren.

All family-based green card cases require the filing of a Petition for Alien Relative (form I-130), to provide evidence of the petitioning family member's legal status as well as evidence showing the relationship between family members. After the I-130 petition is approved, there are two potential pathways the green card process can take.

If the person who will receive the green card petition meets certain eligibility requirements, he or she can seek “adjustment of status” and remain in the US during the entire green card application process.

If the person who will receive the green card does not qualify for the adjustment of status process, or does not live in the United States,  he or she will go through an interview process at the US Consulate in his or her country to obtain approval of legal permanent resident status.

More Distant Relatives

The U. S. government makes a limited amount of family-based immigrant visas available to more distant relatives of U. S. citizens and Legal Permanent Residents(LPRs). The order of preference and numbers allocated each year are shown below.

1st Preference:
Unmarried sons and daughters of U.S. Citizens, and their minor children, if any, are given 23,400 visas.

2nd Preference:
Spouses, minor children, and unmarried children (age 21 and over) of LPRs get 114,200 visas. At present, seventy-seven percent of these visas will go to the spouses and minor children, while the rest is allocated to the unmarried children.

3rd Preference:
Married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens, and their spouses and minor children can avail of 23,400 visas.

4th Preference:
Lastly, a U. S. citizen who is at least 21 years old can also petition for their brothers and sisters and their spouses and minor children. At present, 65,000 visas are available in this category.

If you are looking to bring your children, parents, or siblings to the U.S., contact Donald Gross Law for a free 30-minute consultation to start the application process.