Family Visas

You may be eligible to apply for permanent residency if you have a qualifying family member who is a US citizen or permanent resident.  Family members of US citizens who are eligible for immigrant visas include spouses, children, parents, and brothers and sisters.  Permanent residents of the United States may petition for their spouses, minor children, and unmarried children over 21 years old.  The family member in the US must be willing to file a petition with the US Immigration Service and “sponsor” the application.  In most situations, foreign family members must wait until a visa becomes available before they may become permanent residents of the United States.

To be eligible for lawful permanent residence based on a family relationship you must meet the following criteria:

  • You must have a relative who is a United States citizen or a lawful permanent resident of the United States
  • They must sponsor you for lawful permanent residency by filing the I-130, Petition for Alien Relative.
  • Your relative must prove that their income is at least 125% above the U.S. poverty level for their household size, including you and all other sponsored family members.
  • If your relative is a US Citizen, you may be eligible for permanent residency if you are their husband or wife, their child, their brother or sister if you are at least 21 years old; or their parent if your relative is at least 21 years old.
  • If your relative is a lawful permanent resident, you may be eligible for permanent residency if you are their husband or wife, or an unmarried son or daughter of any age.

To sponsor a relative to immigrate to the United States, you must meet the following criteria:

  • You must be a citizen or a lawful permanent resident of the United States and be able to provide documentation proving your status.
  • You must prove that you can support your relative by providing documentation that your income is at least 125% above the U.S. poverty level for your household size, including all sponsored family members.  This is done by filing an Affidavit of Support.

If you are a US Citizen you may petition for the following foreign national relatives to immigrate to the United States:

  • Husband or wife;
  • Unmarried child under 21 years old;
  • Unmarried son or daughter over 21;
  • Married son or daughter of any age;
  • Brother or sister, if you are at least 21 years old; or
  • Parent, if you are at least 21 years old

If you are a lawful permanent resident you may petition for the following foreign national relatives to immigrate to the United States:

  • Husband or wife; or
  • Unmarried son or daughter of any age.

Families of U.S. citizens and permanent residents are divided into different preference categories for immigration.

Family members of U.S. citizens are assigned the following categories:

  • Immediate Relatives: Parents, spouses, and unmarried children under 21 years old;
  • First Preference: Unmarried children over 21 years old;
  • Third Preference: Married children;
  • Fourth Preference: Brothers and sisters;

Family Members of Lawful Permanent Residents are assigned the following categories:

  • 2A Preference: Spouses and unmarried, minor children;
  • 2B Preference: Unmarried children over 21 years old.

Congress authorizes only a certain number of visas for each family preference category.  Because more people apply for visas than are authorized, people often have to wait for a visa to become available in their category before they can become a permanent resident.  The availability of visas is published each month in the Visa Bulletin, published by the US State Department.

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 to become available.  Once an immigrant visa petition filed for an immediate relative is approved, a visa will be immediately available.

The National Visa Center will notify the foreign national when the visa petition is received and again when an immigrant visa is available. You do not need to contact the National Visa Center, unless you change your address or there is a change in the situation that may affect eligibility for an immigrant visa, such as reaching age 21, marriage, divorce, or death of a spouse.

  • You must be eligible for lawful permanent residence based on a family relationship.
  • The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) must approve an immigrant visa petition, Form I-130 Petition for Alien Relative, which is filed by the US relative (sponsor).
  • Once USCIS receives your visa petition,called the I-130 Petition for Alien Relative, it will be approved or denied. USCIS will notify the person who filed the visa petition if the visa petition is approved.
  • If the petition is approved, the USCIS will send the approved visa petition to the Department of State’s National Visa Center, where it will remain until an immigrant visa is available.
  • The Department of State must determine if an immigrant visa is available to you. When an immigrant visa becomes immediately available to you, you can apply for an immigrant visa.
  • If you are already in the United States, you may be able to apply to change your status to that of a lawful permanent resident after a visa becomes available.  However, not everyone is eligible to do this.  There are serious risks of deportation for those who apply if they are not eligible.  Therefore, if you are already in the United States with an approved visa petition, you should consult with an attorney before taking any further steps.
  • If you are outside the United States when an immigrant visa number becomes available for you, you must then go to the U.S. consulate servicing the area in which you reside to complete your processing.
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