Family-based

A U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident (LPR) may petition for certain relatives to become an LPR (“green card” holder).  The amount of time it takes to receive a green card varies depending on the petitioner’s status (U.S. citizen or LPR) and the immigrant’s relation to the petitioner, age, marital status and country of birth.

The basic steps are: 1) petition for an immigrant visa; 2) once the petition is approved, wait for an immigrant visa to become available; and 3) once the immigrant visa becomes available, apply to consular process at a U.S. consulate overseas or adjust status if in the U.S.

U.S. Citizen Petitioner

The U.S. citizen can petition for immediate and other relatives.

Immediate Relatives

An immediate relative is a spouse, child (unmarried and under age 21) or parent of a U.S. citizen. To petition for a parent, the U.S. citizen must be age 21 or older.

For immediate relatives, an immigrant visa is immediately available.  Thus, once the petition for immigrant visa is approved, if the relative is overseas, he or she may then consular process once all documents are sent to the National Visa Center (NVC), forwarded to the U.S. consulate and the interview is scheduled.  If the relative is in the U.S., in most cases he or she can adjust status to LPR in the U.S. (application to adjust status can be filed at the same time as the petition for immigrant visa).

Even if the relative is no longer maintaining a legal status, as long as he or she entered the U.S. legally, he or she may adjust status in the U.S.  If the relative did not enter the U.S. legally, then he or she can not adjust status in the U.S. and must leave the U.S. to consular process.  However, depending on long the relative was in the U.S., he or she will trigger a 3 or 10 year bar upon departing.  A waiver can be applied for based on extreme hardship to the U.S. citizen prior to leaving the country.

Other Relatives

U.S. citizens may also petition for sons and daughters (21 and older) and brothers and sisters.  These are divided into different preference categories.  Unmarried sons and daughters are in the first preference (F1) category, married sons and daughters are in the third preference (F3) category, and brothers and sisters are in the fourth preference (F4) category.  In these categories, there is usually a long wait for an immigrant visa to become available once the petition is approved.  The Department of State Visa Bulletin, published monthly, lists the immigrant visas that are available.  Your immigrant visa becomes available when the date your immigrant petition was filed (called the “priority date”) is on or before the date listed in the Visa Bulletin for the your preference category.  Once your immigrant visa is available, you will then consular process in your home country or adjust status in the U.S.

Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) Petitioner

An LPR can petition for a spouse,  children (unmarried and under age 21) and unmarried sons and daughters (21 and older).  These relatives of the LPR are in the second preference category (F2).  This category is further divided as follows: spouse and children (F2A), and unmarried sons and daughters (F2B).  The Department of State Visa Bulletin, published monthly, lists the immigrant visas that are available.  Your immigrant visa becomes available when the date your immigrant petition was filed (called the “priority date”) is on or before the date listed in the Visa Bulletin for the your preference category.  Once your immigrant visa is available, you will then consular process in your home country or adjust status in the U.S.