If you have obtained residence or citizenship in the United States, the law allows certain relatives of yours to apply for immigrant visas and eventually become green card holders. The Immigration and Nationality Act specifies two categories:
- Immediate relatives of U.S. citizens. This includes spouses, unmarried minor children, and parents. Applicants in this category have priority over other people seeking family-based immigrant visas: they may apply for and receive a visa without having to wait for one to become available.
- Preference relatives: Family preference immigrant visas are for relatives of legal permanent residents and distant family members of U.S. citizens. Unlike the unlimited visas available to close relatives of U.S. citizens, there is a quota on family preference applicants.
Family Preference Immigrant Visas Explained
The preference system distributes the limited amount of visas available per year according to specific categories, or preferences. They are:
- First Preference (F1): This category is reserved for unmarried adult children of American citizens.
- Second Preference (F2): Spouses, minor children, and unmarried children over 21 of legal permanent residents can apply for this category.
- Third Preference (F3): This category is for married children of a U.S. citizen
- Fourth Preference (F4): Siblings of American citizens can apply for an immigrant visa under this category.
Any family members in these four preference categories are allowed to have derivative beneficiaries (spouses and unmarried children under the age of 21) join them in becoming lawful permanent residents.
There is an annual limit on the number of available visas for each family preference category. This number is also limited by country, so in some instances, it can take several years for a family-based visa to become available, especially if the applicant is from a country where visa demand is high.
What If a Visa Is Not Available?
When a family preference visa is not available right away, all approved petitions are organized chronologically according to the date they were filed with USCIS. Each month the Department of State publishes a bulletin indicating how that month’s green cards are going to be distributed, with priority date, preference category, and country determining who receives them. Applicants currently living in the U.S. may apply to become a permanent resident via an adjustment of status form (Form I-485) while those residing abroad must be processed at their closest U.S. consulate. There are other limitations on who can indeed apply, and in some cases, the relatives will need to go through additional steps to become permanent residents.
Contact an Immigration Attorney
The Law Offices of Connie Kaplan, PA has helped hundreds of family members of American citizens or lawful permanent residents obtain green cards. If you are seeking to have a loved one join you or remain with you in the U.S., we will help you submit all the required documents for a family preference immigrant visa and take all the additional steps necessary to bring about a positive result for your application. We understand the importance of family unity and always strive to provide you with efficient and timely service. To learn more about how we can help you reunite with your family in the U.S., contact us today!