Family-Based Green Cards
A citizen or lawful permanent resident (Green Card Holder) of the United States may petition with U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) to establish the relationship to certain foreign national relatives who wish to immigrate to the United States. A separate petition must be filed for each eligible relative.
If you are a US Citizen, you may petition:
- your husband, wife or unmarried child under 21 years old;
- your unmarried son or daughter over 21, or married son or daughter of any age;
- your brother or sister if you are at least 21 years old;
- your parent if you are at least 21 years old.
If you are a lawful permanent resident (Green Card Holder), you may petition:
- your husband or wife;
- your unmarried child under 21 years of age;
- your unmarried son or daughter over 21 years of age.
Overview of the Process
If your relative wants to become a lawful permanent resident (Green Card Holder) based on the fact that you are a citizen of the United States or a lawful permanent resident (Green Card Holder), you and your relative must go through a multi-step process.
First, the USCIS must approve an immigrant visa petition filed by you on behalf of your relative. This petition must be accompanied by proof of your relationship to the relative abroad.
Second, the Department of State must determine if an immigrant visa number is immediately available to your relative, the foreign national, even if he or she is already in the United States. When an immigrant visa number becomes immediately available to your relative, it means that he or she can apply to have one of the immigrant visa numbers assigned to him or her. You can check the status of a visa number in the Department of State’s Visa Bulletin.
Third, if your relative is already in the United States, he or she may apply to change his or her status to that of a lawful permanent resident after a visa number becomes available for him or her. This is one way he or she can apply to secure an immigrant visa number. If your relative is outside the United States when an immigrant visa number becomes available for him or her, he or she must then go to the U.S. consulate servicing the area in which he or she resides to complete processing. This is the other way in which he or she can apply to secure an immigrant visa number.
When May Your Relative Immigrate to the United States?
The relative you wish to immigrate must obtain an immigrant visa number that is based on the preference category in which they fall. People who want to become immigrants are classified into categories based on a preference system.
The immediate relatives of U.S. citizens, which includes parents, spouses and unmarried children under the age of 21, do not have to wait for an immigrant visa number to become available once the visa petition filed for them is approved by the USCIS. An immigrant visa number will be immediately available for immediate relatives of U.S. citizens.
Relatives Under the Preference Categories
The relatives in the remaining categories must wait for an immigrant visa number to become available according to the following preferences:
- First Preference: Unmarried, adult sons and daughters of U.S. citizens. Adult means 21 years of age or older.
- Second Preference: Spouses of lawful permanent residents, their unmarried children (under twenty-one), and the unmarried sons and daughters of lawful permanent residents.
- Third Preference: Married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens.
- Fourth Preference: Brothers and sisters of adult U.S. citizens.
Once USCIS receives your visa petition, it will be approved or denied. USCIS will notify the person who filed the visa petition if the visa petition is approved. USCIS will then send the approved visa petition to the Department of State’s National Visa Center, where it will remain until an immigrant visa number is available.
The Center will notify the foreign national when the visa petition is received and again when an immigrant visa number is available. You do not need to contact the National Visa Center, unless you change your address or there is a change in your personal situation, or that of your alien relative, that may affect eligibility for an immigrant visa, such as reaching age 21, marriage, divorce, or death of a spouse.