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All Family Members


Spouse

A spouse of a U.S. citizen is eligible for a green card as an “immediate relative.” Immediate relatives are not subject to quotas, so they do not need to wait until a visa is available.

To obtain green card based on marriage the immigrant must be:

  • legally married (it doesn't matter in what country) to a U.S. citizen or permanent resident;
  • not married to someone else at the same time;
  • not married to someone who has another wife or husband.

Within the application process, you'll have to prove all of the above things. Legal marriage is usually the easiest to prove, by simply providing a copy of your marriage certificate. To show that the marriage is the real thing, you'll have to provide copies of documents such as joint bank statements, children's birth certificates, photos of the wedding and afterwards, love letters, and more.

The process for applying for permanent resident status depends on whether the foreign spouse is within or outside of the United States . 

Application Procedure if Inside the United States

If the foreign spouse is already in the United States in a nonimmigrant status, the U.S. citizen spouse should file a petition and an application to adjust status with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). 

Application Procedure if Outside of the United States

If the foreign spouse is outside of the United States , the U.S. citizen should file an immigrant petition and request that the USCIS notify a U.S. Consulate in the country where his or her spouse lives.  Once the petition is approved, the National Visa Center of the U.S. State Department sends a series of forms called a “Packet 3.”  After the necessary forms are completed, the alien spouse goes to the U.S. Consulate overseas to apply for an immigrant visa. The alien spouse becomes a permanent resident when he or she enters the United States with an immigrant visa.

Parents

Parents of U.S. citizens are eligible for permanent resident status as immediate relatives.  The U.S. citizen child must be 21 years of age or older to apply for a parent.

If the U.S. citizen child is adopted, the adoption must have been finalized before the child's 16th birthday. Furthermore, the parent must have had legal custody of the child for at least two years, either before or after the adoption. The child must also have resided with the adoptive parent for at least two years either before or after the adoption. 

If the U.S. citizen is a stepchild of the alien parent, the marriage creating the stepchild relationship must have been taken place before the child's 18th birthday.

The parents of a spouse are not considered “parents” for immigration purposes. In other words, a U.S. citizen may not sponsor an immigrant petition for a father-in-law or mother-in-law. The spouse may petition for parents if that spouse is a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident.

The application process depends on whether the alien parent is inside or outside of the United States .  If the alien parent is already within the United States in a nonimmigrant status, the U.S. citizen can file an immigration petition (I-130) and the parent can file an application to adjust status to permanent resident at the same time.  If the alien parent is outside of the United States , the U.S. citizen should file an immigration petition and request that USCIS notify a U.S. Consulate in the country where the parent lives. The USCIS sends the approval notice to the National Visa Center of the U.S. State Department, who then sends “Packet 3” to the U.S. citizen. After the necessary forms are completed, the parent goes to the U.S. Consulate overseas to apply for an immigrant visa. The parent becomes a U.S. permanent resident when he or she enters the United States on an immigrant visa.

Children

Children of U.S. citizens may obtain permanent residency in the United States . As long as the petition for an immigrant visa is filed before the child turns 21, the child qualifies as an immediate relative, and, therefore, the procedure to adjust status takes less time.

Children over 21 qualify under the first preference category. Children in this category must wait until a visa becomes available before they can enter the United States as a permanent resident. The State Department's Visa Bulletin shows the wait for visas for each of the preference categories (waiting period for the first preference category is approximately 6 to 8 years).

An adopted child qualifies as long as the adoption was finalized before the child's 16th birthday. The adoptive parents must have legal custody of the child for two years before or after the adoption.  The child must reside with the adoptive parents for two years before or after the adoption.

A step-child qualifies as a child, if the marriage occurred before the step-child's 18th birthday.

Application Procedure if Inside the United States

If the child is already in the United States in another nonimmigrant status, the U.S. citizen parent can file an immigrant petition and an application to adjust status at the same time. Once the petition and application are approved, the child is a permanent resident of the United States.

Application Procedure if Outside the United States

If the child is outside of the United States, the U.S. citizen must file an immigrant petition with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The petition should request that the USCIS notify a U.S. Consulate in the country where the child lives. If the child is over 21 years old or married, the child must wait until a visa becomes available. The State Department's National Visa Center then sends a series of forms called a “Packet 3.”  After the necessary forms are completed, the child goes to the U.S. Consulate to apply for an immigrant visa.  The child is a permanent resident when he or she enters the United States with the immigrant visa.

Immediate family members of a child of a U.S. citizen may be eligible to immigrate to the United States. If the child of a U.S. citizen is married, the spouse is eligible to accompany their wife or husband in immigrating to the United States.  If the child of a U.S. citizen has children of their own, those children may immigrate with their parent if their parent is either married or over 21.  These categories are subject to numerical limits, which are described in the Visa Bulletin

Brother / Sister

The U.S. citizen of 21 years of age or older can apply for green card for his brothers and sisters. To qualify as a brother or sister of a U.S. citizen, the brother or sister and the U.S. citizen must share at least one parent in common.  

The number of permanent residents in this category is limited to 65,000 per year, plus any visas not used by the first three preferences. The State Department's Visa Bulletin shows the current wait times for a visa by category.

Immediate family members of the brother or sister (such as their spouse and children) may also receive a green card at the same time.

Application Procedure if Inside the United States

The U.S. citizen should file an immigrant petition (called an I-130) on behalf of a brother or sister.  The brother or sister must wait for the immigrant visa number to become current before he or she may apply to adjust to permanent resident (I-485).  During this waiting period, the brother or sister must maintain valid nonimmigrant status if they are already in the US .

Application Procedure if Outside of the United States

If the brother or sister is outside of the United States , the U.S. citizen should file an I-130 immigrant petition.  The petition should request that the Immigration Service notify the U.S. Consulate in the country where the brother or sister lives.  Once the USCIS approves the immigrant petition and an immigrant visa is available, the National Visa Center of the U.S. State Department sends “Packet 3” to the U.S. citizen.  After the necessary forms are completed, the brother or sister goes to the U.S. Consulate overseas to apply for an immigrant visa.  The brother or sister becomes a U.S. permanent resident when he or she enters the United States on an immigrant visa.