Family Based Immigration
The Immigration and Nationality Act allows U.S. Citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents to petition for their foreign relatives to enter the United States and obtain Lawful Permanent Residence. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) categorize the availability of immigrant visas for family based petitions as either “Immediate Relatives” or “Preference Immigrants.”
Immediate Relative Category: This category has no limit on the number of visas issued each year and there is no wait other than the period of time it takes the USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Service, formally known as the I.N.S.) to process the visa petition. The following fall under the Immediate Relative Category:
Spouse or unmarried child under the age of 21 of a U.S. Citizen.
Spouses of deceased U.S. citizens, under certain circumstances.
Parents of U.S. citizens, provided the citizen petitioner is at least 21 years of age.
Step-children of U.S. Citizens provided the child was under the age of 18 when the marriage creating the step-relationship occurred.
Family Based Preference Category: This category places family petitions in a preference order. Persons subject to the preference category system must wait for their visa to become available; the U.S. Department of State releases a monthly Visa Bulletin which reports the availability of immigrant visas. The Visa Bulletin can be found on the U.S. Department of State website.
First Preference: Single children 21 years of age or older of United States Citizens.
Second Preference: Spouses and children under the age of 21 of Lawful Permanent Residents (Second Preference A) and children of Lawful Permanent Residents who are 21 years of age or older and single (Second Preference B).
Third Preference: Married Children of United States Citizens.
Fourth Preference: Siblings of United States Citizens.