California residents who are American citizens or legal permanent residents can file immediate relative or family preference petitions with the immigration authorities on behalf of foreign relatives who wish to live in the United States. Immediate relative petitions, which can only be submitted by U.S. citizens, are the preferable route because they are considered an immigration priority. This means that the number of green cards available to meet immediate family petitions is unlimited, which results in faster processing times and shorter waiting periods for beneficiaries. When a family preference petition is granted, the beneficiary must wait until a green card becomes available.

Who qualifies for immediate relative petitions?

Immediate relative petitions can be made on behalf of immediate relatives. The immigration authorities consider spouses and unmarried children under the age of 21 to be immediate relatives. American citizens under the age of 21 can also submit immediate relative petitions on behalf of their parents.

Who qualifies for family preference petitions?

American citizens can file family preference petitions on behalf of their siblings and children who are over the age of 21 or married. Sibling petitions can only be filed by U.S. citizens over the age of 21. Permanent residents can file family preference petitions on behalf of their spouses and any unmarried children they have regardless of their age. Family preference petition beneficiaries who are waiting for a green card can learn about visa availability by checking a monthly bulletin issued by the Department of State.

Exemption for children affected by long green card waiting times

The nation’s immigration laws are complex and change frequently, which is why it may be wise for you to consult with an attorney experienced in this area before submitting an immediate relative or family preference petition. The rules were revised significantly in 2002 when Congress passed the Child Status Protection Act. This law created an exception for children who turn 21 while they wait for a green card. Prior to the CSPA’s passage, these beneficiaries would have been “aged out” of the process and denied a green card. In addition to explaining the various rules and exceptions, attorneys could answer your questions about the process and ensure that your paperwork is completed and submitted correctly.