Family Based Immigration

Immigrating to the U.S. Through Relatives

As one of the primary pathways for entering the United States on a permanent basis, family-based immigration allows foreign nationals to obtain immigrant visas through eligible relatives. These family members must either be U.S. Citizens or Lawful Permanent Residents (LPRs) and must file petitions with USCIS on behalf of their foreign national relative. There are two main categories of family-based immigration:

Immediate Relatives
Immediate relatives of U.S. Citizens are given the highest priority when it comes to obtaining immigrant visas and permanent resident status. Foreign nationals who qualify as immediate relatives under the USCIS definition are not subject to numerical visa limitations and will not have to wait for a visa to become available. This means that they can immigrate to the U.S. faster than those who immigrate under preference categories. According to the USCIS, immediate relatives are:

  • Spouses of U.S. citizens;
  • Unmarried children under 21 of U.S. citizens;
  • Orphans adopted abroad by a U.S. citizen;
  • Orphan to be adopted in the U.S. by a U.S. citizen;
  • Parent of a U.S. citizen who is at least 21 years old.

Family Preference Immigrant Visas

Non-immediate relatives of U.S. citizens and close relatives of Lawful Permanent Residents will complete the family-based immigration process according to the family preference visa categories. Unlike immediate relatives of U.S. citizens, applicants who fall into family preference categories must wait until a visa becomes available. Immigrant visas become available according to priority dates and numerical limitations established by the USCIS.

  • (F1) First Preference – Unmarried sons and daughters of U.S. Citizens aged 21 or over, and their minor children, if any;
  • (F2) Second Preference – Spouses, minor children and unmarried sons and daughters aged 21 and over of LPRs. At least 77% of all visas available for this category will go to the spouses and their minor children; the remainder is allocated to unmarried sons and daughters;
  • (F3) Third Preference – Married sons and daughters of U.S. Citizens and their spouses and minor children;
  • (F4) Fourth Preference – Siblings of U.S. Citizens and their spouses and minor children, provided the U.S. Citizens are 21 years of age or older.