Many people become permanent residents through family members. The United States promotes family unity and allows U.S. Citizens and Permanent Residents to petition for certain relatives to come and live permanently in the United States.
Green Card for a Family Member of a Permanent Resident:
A permanent resident may petition for his/her spouse and unmarried children of any age to immigrate to the United States. Congress has limited the number of relatives who may immigrate under these categories each year so there is a waiting period before an immigrant visa number becomes available.
Green Card for a Family Member of a U.S. Citizen:
U.S. citizens who want their relatives to immigrate to the United States can petition on behalf of their spouse, children and if the U.S. Citizen is twenty one years of age or older, their parents and brothers or sisters. “Immediate relatives” of a U.S. citizen, i.e. spouse, unmarried children under the age of 21, or parents, always have a visa number immediately available.
Other relatives in the “family preference category” include:
- Unmarried sons or daughters over the age of 21
- Married children of any age
- Brothers and sisters (if the U.S. citizen petitioner is over the age of 21)
Congress has limited the number of relatives who may immigrate under these categories each year so there is usually a waiting period before an immigrant visa number becomes available. The wait will depend on your preference category:
Family-Based Preference Categories
There are four family-based preference categories:
- 1st preference: unmarried sons and daughters (21 and older) of U.S. citizens
- 2A: spouses and unmarried children (under 21) of lawful permanent residents
- 2B: unmarried sons and daughters (21 and older) of lawful permanent residents
- 3rd preference: married sons and daughters (21 and older) of U.S. citizens
- 4th preference: brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens
Relatives who fall within these preference-based categories must wait for their priority date to become current before they can apply for their green cards. Each month, the U.S.Department of State publishes the Visa Bulletin, which shows the priority dates that are current in each category for that month. The priority date is generally the date that the I-130 Petition was filed.
Adjustment of Status vs. Consular Processing
Once a person’s priority date is current, that person can take the next step toward obtaining his/her green card. This will either be adjustment of status or consular processing. Adjustment of status is when a person applies for his/her green card from within the United States with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
Many people do not have the option of applying for their green cards from within the United States. As a general rule,a person cannot apply for his/her green card from within the U.S. unless the person either entered the U.S. legally or qualifies under a special law found at INA Section 245(i). If a person cannot apply within the U.S., the person may be required to consular process in his/her home country. Our law firm regularly prepares applications for adjustment of status and consular processing.
You can find more information, as well as forms and filing fees, on the website of U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services.
Green Card Through Special Categories of Family:
One may be able to become a permanent resident through a special family situation. These adjustment of status programs are limited to individuals who meet particular qualifications and/or apply during certain time frames:
- Battered Spouse or Child (VAWA)
- K Nonimmigrant (includes fiancé)
- Person Born to a Foreign Diplomat in the United States
- V Nonimmigrant
- Widow of a U.S. Citizen