Fairfax Family Immigration Attorneys: What You Should Know About Family-Based Immigration

U.S. citizens and U.S. lawful permanent residents may petition for, or “sponsor,” certain close family members to become permanent residents. 

Immediate Relatives

The term “immediate relative” is used to define certain immigrant relatives of U.S. citizens. Immediate relatives include:

  • Spouses of U.S. citizens
  • Children (unmarried and under 21) of U.S. citizens
  • Parents of U.S. citizens (The petitioning citizen must be 21 or older.)

For immediate relatives of U.S. citizens, visas are always available, which means that your family member does not need to wait in line for a visa.

Preference Categories

Preference categories apply to family members who are not immediate relatives. The visas allotted for these categories are subject to annual numerical limits. A visa becomes available to a preference category based on the priority date (the date the Form I-130 was filed). Preference categories are grouped as follows:

  • First preference: Unmarried, adult sons and daughters of U.S. citizens (adult means 21 or older.)
  • Second Preference (2A): Spouses of green card holders, unmarried children (under 21) of permanent residents
  • Second Preference (2B):  Unmarried adult sons and daughters of permanent residents
  • Third Preference: Married sons and daughters (any age) of U.S. citizens
  • Fourth Preference: Brothers and sisters of adult U.S. citizens

In most family-based preference categories, with the exception of immediate relatives, there are long waiting periods before the sponsored individual may become a permanent resident. Waiting periods are set for each family-based preference category according to country of birth and are released by the Department of State monthly in their publicly viewable “visa bulletin.”

Fairfax Family Immigration Attorneys