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Family Immigration


Overview

Non-Immigrant: The U.S. has provisions for certain visa holders to bring dependents (their spouses and children) on accompanying visas. These dependent visas do not allow for the same privileges as the primary visa or status.

Family-Based Immigration ranges from bringing in immediate relatives of U.S. citizens (spouse and minor, unmarried children and parents) to "preference" relatives in several categories (unmarried sons and daughters of green card holders and U.S. citizens, married sons and daughters of citizens, and brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens).

A person seeking a lawful permanent resident status based on the fact that he/she has a relative who is a citizen of the United States or a relative who is a lawful permanent resident, must go through a multi-step process.

  • First, the USCIS must approve an immigrant visa petition. This petition is filed by relative (sponsor) and must be accompanied by proof of relationship to the requesting relative.
  • Second, the Department of State must determine if an immigrant visa number is immediately available to the foreign national, even if he/she is already in the United States. When an immigrant visa number becomes immediately available the beneficiary (foreign national) can apply to have one of the immigrant visa numbers assigned to him. You can check the status of a visa number in the Department of State's Visa Bulletin.
  • Third, if the beneficiary is already in the United States, he may apply to change his status to that of a lawful permanent resident after a visa number becomes available for him. If the beneficiary is outside the United States when an immigrant visa number becomes available, he must then go to the U.S. consulate servicing the area in which he resides to complete your processing. This is the other way in which he can apply to secure an immigrant visa number.

Note: Information concerning the new K (advance admission for the spouse and children of a U.S. citizen) and new V (advance admission for the spouse and the minor children of a lawful permanent resident) nonimmigrant categories is available. For updates on the Legal Immigration Family Equity (LIFE) Act, please click here.

Eligibility

To be eligible 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 at 125% above the mandated poverty line.
  • If you are a US Citizen you may petition for the following foreign national relatives to immigrate to the United States; however you must be able to provide proof of the relationships:
    • 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; however you must be able to provide proof of the relationships:
    • Husband or wife; or
    • Unmarried son or daughter of any age.

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 who can provide documentation proving their status and is willing to sponsor you for lawful permanent residency.
  • Your relative must prove they can support you by providing documentation that their income is 125% above the mandated poverty line for their family, including you and all other sponsored family members. Click here to find out more information about meeting this criteria and filing the Affidavit of Support.
  • If your relative is a US Citizen and they can legally prove you share one of the following relationships, you may be eligible for lawful permanent residency, please see below for preference category information.
    • Husband or wife;
    • 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
    • Parents if you are at least 21 years old.
  • If your relative is a lawful permanent resident and they can legally prove you share one of the following relationships, you may be eligible for lawful permanent residence, please see below for preference category information:
    • Husband or wife; or
    • Unmarried son or daughter of any age.

Preference Categories

The relative you wish to immigrate must obtain an immigrant visa number that is based on the preference category in which they fall.

People who want to become immigrants are classified into categories based on a preference system. The 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 number to become available once the visa petition filed for them is approved by the INS. An immigrant visa number will be immediately available for immediate relatives of U.S. citizens. Click here for information on obtaining an immigrant visa number if you are an immediate relative of a U.S. citizen. The relatives in the remaining categories must wait for an immigrant visa number to become available according to the following preferences:

  • First Preference: Unmarried, adult sons and daughters of U.S. citizens. Adult means 21 years of age or older.
  • Second Preference: Spouses of lawful permanent residents, their unmarried children (under twenty-one), and the unmarried sons and daughters of lawful permanent residents.
  • Third Preference: Married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens.
  • Fourth Preference: Brothers and sisters of adult U.S. citizens.

Once INS receives your visa petition, it will be approved or denied. INS will notify the person who filed the visa petition if the visa petition is approved. INS will then send the approved visa petition to the Department of State's National Visa Center, where it will remain until an immigrant visa number is available. The Center will notify you, the foreign national, when the visa petition is received and again when an immigrant visa number is available. You do not need to contact the National Visa Center, unless you change your address or there is a change in your personal situation, or that of your alien relative, that may affect eligibility for an immigrant visa, such as reaching age 21, marriage, divorce, or death of a spouse.

Visa Information

The Department of State is responsible for providing visa numbers to foreign nationals interested in immigrating to the United States. To find out more about the Department of State's visa process visit the Department of State or click here for specific information on how to get an immigrant visa number.

To check the status of a visa number you can review the Department of States Visa bulletin.