The Basics of Family-Based Immigration


The law allows certain relatives of US citizens and lawful permanent residents to immigrate to the United States.  The process of bringing your family to live with you in the United States involves two steps:  a visa petition and an application for permanent residency.  The US citizen or lawful permanent resident who makes a request for a family member to join them is a “petitioner.”  The family members who will immigrate are known as “beneficiaries.”  The number of family-based immigrant visas available is determined by the US government.  For some immigrants known as “immediate relatives,” there is no limit on the number of immigrant visas given.  Therefore an immigrant visa is available for an immediate relative upon approval of their family petition.  Immediate relatives include only spouses, parents, and unmarried minor children of US citizens.  For other relatives of US citizens and permanent residents, immigrant visa quotas apply.  This can mean that some family members must wait long periods of time.  The law sets forth a preference category system based on the immigrant’s relationship to the petitioner.  The following chart names all classes of relatives who may immigrate to the US based on family relationships:

Relatives of US Citizens

Category

Subject to visa limitations?

Spouse (including same-sex spouse if the marriage was legally recognized upon in the place it was entered into)

Immediate Relative (IR)

NO

Parents

IR

NO

Unmarried Minor Children (under age 21)

IR

NO

Unmarried Adult Children (21 years and older) and their minor children

F1

YES

Married Adult Children and their families

F3

YES

Siblings and their families

F4

YES

 

Relatives of Lawful Permanent Residents

Category

Subject to visa limitations?

Spouse (including same-sex spouse)

F2A

YES

Unmarried Minor Children (under age 21)

F2A

YES

*Unmarried Adult Children (21 years and older) and their minor children

F2B

YES

*Note there is no visa category for Married children of Lawful Permanent Residents.  The petitioner must naturalize prior to the marriage of his/her son or daughter in order to protect the validity of the relative petition.

 

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