Family-Based Green Cards

What You Need To Know About Family-Based Visas

Family-based immigration is the most common form of obtaining lawful U.S. permanent residency, which is more commonly known as a “green card.” Family members of United States citizens and lawful permanent residents (LPRs) may obtain legal permanent residence in the United States.

Filing for permanent residency also allows one to obtain an employment authorization document (EAD), commonly referred to as a “work permit,” which authorizes lawful employment in the United States pending a decision on the green card application.

In general, a person who wishes to immigrate to the United States must have a petition approved by the USCIS before applying for an immigrant visa. For family-based visas, the petition is filed either by a U.S. citizen or U.S. lawful permanent resident relative.


Types of Family-Based Visas

  • K-1 fiancée visas allows a foreign national planning to marry a U.S. citizen to travel to the United States and reside legally until the wedding. Individuals with this visa may apply for a green card after the wedding.

  • K-2 visas re for the children of an individual receiving a K-1 visa.

  • K-3 spouse visas allow an alien who is currently married to a U.S. citizen to come to live in the United States while their I-130 petition is being processed.

  • Family-based green cards provide permanent residency to aliens who are sponsored by a family member who is already a Lawful Permanent Resident or U.S. citizen.

  • I-751 Removal of Conditions Petitions: After obtaining a conditional green card based on marriage to a U.S. citizen, certain individuals must file a petition to remove their conditions after a period of time.


Filing For A Family-Based Immigrant Visa

  • The sponsoring relative files a Petition for Alien Relative, Form I-130. The petition is filed with the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in the United States that serves the area where the petitioner lives.

  • Sometimes a U.S. citizen living abroad can file an immigrant visa petition at a U.S. embassy or consulate or with the USCIS overseas when the American citizen petitioner has been a resident there for the preceding 6 months and has host country permission to reside there.


Filing For an Immediate Relative

  • Immediate Relatives of U.S. Citizens (IR): These types of immigrant visas are based on a close family relationship with a U.S. citizen, including spouses, children, and parents.

    • Additionally, a U.S. citizen can sponsor a child adopted or to be adopted from abroad if that child meets the definition of an orphan as provided for in immigration law. Family members of United States citizens (not Legal Permanent Residents) can file Immediate Relative Petitions.

  • For Immigration purposes, Immediate Relative classifications include:

    • Spouse of a U.S. Citizen (IR-1)

    • Unmarried Child Under 21 Years of Age of a U.S. Citizen (IR-2)

    • Orphan adopted abroad by a U.S. Citizen (IR-3)

    • Orphan to be adopted in the United States by a U.S. citizen (IR-4)

    • Parent of a U.S. Citizen who is at least 21 years old (IR-5)

Returning Residents (SB) are immigrants who lived in the United States previously as lawful permanent residents and are returning to live in the U.S. after a temporary visit of more than one year abroad.

Sponsoring a Relative - Requirements

There are specific criteria that must be met in order to sponsor a relative to immigrate to the US:

  • You must be able to demonstrate that you’re a U.S. citizen or LPR.

  • There must be a qualifying relationship between you (sponsor) and the beneficiary.

  • As the sponsor, you must file an I-130 Petition for Alien Relative and prove that you can support the individual(s) at 125% above the poverty line.

Always remember that by bringing the relative to the United States you accept responsibility for financially supporting them.

Acquiring a Green Card While Outside the U.S.

If you are an immediate relative of a U.S. citizen and seeking a green card (while outside the country) you may become a permanent resident by way of consular processing.

This form of processing is when USCIS works in unison with the Dept. of State to issue a visa on an approved I-130. From there you can travel on that visa to the U.S. where you can become a permanent resident when arriving at the port of entry.

Limited Family Based Green Card Immigrants

These types of immigrant classifications involve specific, more distant, family relationships with a U.S. citizen and some specified relationships with a Lawful Permanent Resident. Under immigration law, there are fiscal year numerical limitations on family preference immigrants as explained below:

Family First Preference (F1): Unmarried sons and daughters of U.S. citizens, and their children, if any. (23,400)

Family Second Preference (F2): Spouses, minor children, and unmarried sons and daughters (over age 20) of lawful permanent residents. (114,200) At least seventy-seven percent of all visas available for this category will go to the spouses and children; the remainder will be allocated to unmarried sons and daughters.

Family Third Preference (F3): Married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens, and their spouses and children. (23,400)

Family Fourth Preference (F4): Brothers and sisters of United States citizens, and their spouses and children, provided the U.S. citizens are at least 21 years of age. (65,000)

REMEMBER: Grandparents, aunts, uncles, in-laws and cousins cannot sponsor a relative for immigration.



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