Permanent Residency based on Family Relations

The U.S. immigration law allows U.S. citizens and permanent residents to sponsor close family members to become U.S. permanent residents. The law creates two broad categories for family members: immediate relatives and family-based preference categories.


Immediate Relatives:

This category includes permanent residence petitions for spouses, parents, minor unmarried children, and certain widows and widowers of U.S. citizens. This is the best family category because there is no limit on the number of immediate relatives who may be admitted each year into U.S. Also, if the relatives are in the U.S. and have overstayed their non-immigrant visas or have engaged in unauthorized employment, they may still be eligible to adjust their status to permanent residence.

The petitioning U.S. citizen spouse must be legally married to the foreign national and their children or step-children must be unmarried and under the age of 21 at the time of admission as permanent residents. Children who are married and 21 years old or older may be admitted under the family-based preference categories.

Parents of U.S. citizens may be granted permanent residence in the U.S. upon petition by their U.S. children who are at least 21 years of age.


Family-based preference categories:

Visa availability in the family-sponsored visa preference categories varies depending on the prospective immigrant’s country of origin. Natives of the Philippines, Mexico and India usually face the longest delays in obtaining family-sponsored visas. There is a limited amount of visas that are attributed to family-based preference categories each year, unlike the immediate relative category where there are always visas for eligible family members seeking permanent residence in the United States. The following are the different family-based preference categories:

First Family-sponsored Preference: This category consists of unmarried sons and daughters of U.S. citizens who do not qualify for the immediate family category because they are 21 years of age or older.

Second Family-Sponsored Preference: This category is further divided into two subcategories 2A and 2B. The family 2A preference subcategory is for spouses or children who are unmarried and under 21 of age of permanent residents, and family 2B preference covers adult unmarried children of permanent residents.

Third Family-Sponsored Preference: This includes married children of U.S. citizens.

Fourth Family-Sponsored Preference: This consists of brothers and sisters of adult U.S. citizen.


Conditional Permanent Residence:

A foreign national who applies for permanent residence status based upon marriage to a U.S. citizen may be granted a “conditional permanent residence” status if at the time his/her application is adjudicated by the USCIS he/she has been married for less than two years. Applicants who are granted condition permanent residence status must petition to remove the condition on their green cards within 90 days of the expiration of their conditional status.

DISCLAIMER: The information given in this website is intended as general information only and is not a substitute for the services of an immigration attorney in your specific case.