Whether you are already a citizen of the United States or living here as a Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR), it can be difficult to obtain family-based immigrant visas for relatives who are still living abroad. The visa application process requires a great deal of time and effort.
Unfortunately, even simple mistakes can result in significant delays. This illustrates the importance of learning all that you can about the policies and procedures affecting the family-based immigration visa process. Many citizens and LPRs find it helpful to get professional legal guidance when navigating these channels.
The two groups of immigrant relative categories are described below.
Immediate relative category
The immediate relative immigrant category generally includes family members with whom you have a close relationship. Citizens’ spouses, unmarried children age 20 and younger and parents wishing to emigrate to the United States are in this first category.
American citizens who have adopted children abroad or who have immigrant children already living in the U.S. also must apply for immediate relative immigrant visas. Unlike other types, there is no fiscal-year limit on the availability of these particular immigration visas.
Family preference category
For more distant family members, one immigration option might be a family preference immigrant visa. The relatives who are eligible for these visas must have familial relationships to either American citizens or LPRs. For example, if you are a citizen with unmarried, foreign-born children, they — along with their own children — could qualify for Family First Preference (F1) visa status.
Lawful permanent residents can apply for Family Second Preference (F2) visas for foreign spouses, minor children and unmarried children 21 or older. The Family Third Preference usually applies to married children of U.S. citizens, their spouses and children age 17 and younger.
U.S. citizens who want to obtain visas for siblings and their spouses and children can apply for Family Fourth Preference (F4) visas. Unlike the immediate relative visas, these family preference visas do have annual limitations.
Anyone attempting to obtain visas for close relatives may be able to do so either through the immediate relative category or the family preference category. In order to start the process, be sure you know which category applies to your situation. Then, learn as much as you can about the documentation you will need to submit and other filing requirements.