US immigration law allows certain aliens—family members of US citizens or Green Card holders—to become lawful permanent residents (also known as Green Card holders) based on specific family relationships. A US permanent resident is a foreign national who has been granted the privilege of permanently living and working in the United States of America.
Eligible Categories for Permanent Residency through Relatives:
To be eligible for lawful permanent residency based on a family relationship, you must meet the following criteria:
- You certainly have a relative who is a US citizen or a Green Card holder and is willing to sponsor you for lawful permanent residency by filing Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative.
- Your relative must be able to support you and provide documentation that his/her income is at least 125% above the US poverty level for their household size, including you and all other sponsored family members. For more details about meeting this criterion and filing the Affidavit of Support, see Filing an Affidavit of Support for a Relative section.
- If your relative is a US citizen and can legally prove that you share one of the following relationships. In that case, you may be eligible for lawful permanent residency (please see Family Preference Categories & Visa Numbers section):
- Husband or wife,
- Child under 21 years old,
- Unmarried son or daughter over 21 years old,
- Married son or daughter of any age,
- Brother or sister, if you are at least 21 years old, and
- Parents if you (US Citizen or Green Card holder) are at least 21 years old
- If your relative is a Green Card holder and can legally prove that you share one of the following relationships. In that case, you may be eligible for lawful permanent residency (please see Family Preference Categories & Visa Numbersbelow):
- Husband or wife, and
- Unmarried son or daughter of any age
Eligible Categories for Sponsoring a Relative:
To be eligible to sponsor a relative to immigrate to the United States of America, you must meet the following criteria:
- You must be either a US citizen or a Green Card holder and provide documentation proving your status.
- You must prove that you can support your relative by providing documentation that your income is at least 125% above the US poverty level for your household size, including all sponsored family members. For more details about meeting this criterion and filing the Affidavit of Support, see Filing an Affidavit of Support for a Relative section.
Family Preference Categories & Visa Numbers
People who want to become immigrants based on family-relationships fall into “Preferences” categories. According to the Preference System, if their immigrant visa petition is approved, they must wait for an immigrant visa number to become available. An exception exists for the US citizens’ immediate relatives, which exclusively include parents, spouses, and unmarried children under the age of 21, who do not have to wait (in a queue) for an immigrant visa number to become available once the immigrant visa petition is approved. Instead, an immigrant visa number comes readily available for the immediate relatives of US citizens.
The relatives other than the immediate relative categories must wait for a visa number to become available according to the following preferences:
- First Preference (F1):Unmarried children (any age, but presumably age 21 or older) of a US citizen
- Second Preference (F2A+F2B):This category is further divided into two subcategories.
- Subcategory F2A is for spouses and unmarried children (under 21 years old) of Green Card holders
- Subcategory F2B is for unmarried sons and daughters of Green Card holders, who are already 21 years old or older
- Third Preference (F3):Married children (any age) of a US citizen
- Fourth Preference (F4):Sisters and brothers of US citizens, where the US citizen is at least 21 years old
Upon approval of your visa petition, Form I-130: Petition for Alien Relative, USCIS will notify the person who filed the visa petition. USCIS 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.
Because of the limited quantity of immigrant visa numbers that comes available each year, you may not get an immigrant visa number immediately (an exception to the immediate relatives of a US citizen) after your immigrant visa petition is approved. In some cases, it could take several years. The National Visa Center will notify you and 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 change your current situation or that of your relative, which may affect eligibility for an immigrant visa, such as reaching age 21, marriage, divorce, or death of a spouse. For more information and any support, please contact us.