Foreign nationals who have a immediate relationship with a U.S. Citizen or a Permanent Resident may be elegible to become apply for a green card via family-based immigration process to immigrate to the U.S. or adjust their status if they are already in the U.S. These familial relationships can be based on being an “Immediate Relative” of a U.S. Citizen or having another close relationship to a U.S. Citizen. Persons who also have a familial relationship with a Permanent Resident may be able to adjust their status through a family-based immigration status.

Who can be considered an Immediate Relatives?

For immigration purposes, only parents, spouses, and children (who are unmarried and under 21 years of age) of a U.S. citizen can be considered an immediate relative.

Visa available without waiting time:

All immediate relatives of a U.S. citizen can immigrate to the United States without being subject to any numerical restrictions, unlike other close family members of U.S. citizens and/or permanent residents. Namely, they can apply for the permanent resident status without having to deal with any waiting time. Other close family members of U.S. citizens or permanent residents are divided into several groups called “Preferences”. Each Preference is given a numerical quota per year to limit the number of immigrants admitted into the United States.

Family-sponsored preferences:

Other close family members of a U.S. citizen can qualify to immigrate to the United States, but unlike the immediate relatives of a U.S. citizen, they are subject to a numerical limit of immigrant visas available to them each year. Close family members are divided into several groups called “Preferences”. The higher the Preference, the quicker the alien will be eligible to receive a green card.

First: Unmarried Sons and Daughters of U.S. Citizens: 23,400 plus any numbers not required for fourth preference.

Second: Spouses and Children, and Unmarried Sons and Daughters of Permanent Residents: 114,200, plus the number (if any) by which the worldwide family preference level exceeds 226,000, plus any unused first preference numbers:

A. (F2A) Spouses and Children of Permanent Residents: 77% of the overall second preference limitation, of which 75% are exempt from the per-country limit;

B. (F2B) Unmarried Sons and Daughters (21 years of age or older) of Permanent Residents: 23% of the overall second preference limitation.

Third: Married Sons and Daughters of U.S. Citizens: 23,400, plus any numbers not required by first and second preferences.

Fourth: Brothers and Sisters of Adult U.S. Citizens: 65,000, plus any numbers not required by first three preferences.

Same-sex marriage:

On June 26, 2013, the United States Supreme Court held in United States v. Windsor that the federal interpretation of ‘marriage’ and ‘spouse’ as legislated in Section 3 of ‘DOMA’ to that of strictly heterosexual unions was unconstitutional because it denied legally married same-sex couples their due process under the Fifth Amendment. As a result, same-sex couples now have all of the same rights for immigration.


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