Family Based Immigrant Visas include those immigrant petitions for permanent residency based on an immigrant’s family relationship with a United States citizen or permanent resident. The first step in the visa process is to have a sponsor (United States citizen or permanent resident) petition the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to allow the beneficiary (the family member) to apply for an Immigrant Visa. After approval by the USCIS the petition is then sent on to the National Visa Center (NVC) for processing. The NVC will then provide instructions to the sponsor and beneficiary regarding forms, fees and other required documents to complete the application. The sponsor’s status determines which relatives are eligible to receive immigration benefits and how long the process will take.
Immediate Relative of a United States Citizen
An unlimited number of green cards are available for immediate relatives of United States citizens, which means that the family member does not need to wait in line for a visa. Immediate relatives of a United States Citizen include:
The application process for immediate relatives generally takes between 6-12 months.
Other Family Members of a United States Citizen
Other close family members of a United States citizen can qualify to immigrate to the United States. Unlike immediate relatives the visas allotted for these categories are subject to annual numerical limits. A visa becomes available to a preference category based on the date the application was filed. Close family members are divided into several groups called “Preferences”. The higher the Preference, the quicker the family member will be eligible to receive a green card. The preference categories for family members of United States citizens are:
The waiting time for family members falling into a preference category is approximately between 4 and 23 years. Waiting periods are set for each preference category according to country of birth and are released by the Department of State monthly in the Visa Bulletin.
Family Members of a Permanent Resident
A permanent resident may petition for a spouse and unmarried children to immigrate to the United States. Family members of permanent residents fall under the Second Preference category. The Second Preference is broken down into two categories. The categories for family members of permanent residents are:
The waiting time is approximately between 4 and 23 years. The annual visa allotment available for this category is 114,200, plus any visas not used by the First Preference. 77% of these visas go to the 2A subcategory and the other 23% go to the 2B subcategory.
Special Family Categories
Battered Spouse, Children, and Parents
A battered spouse, child, or parent may file an immigrant visa petition under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). There are provisions in the INA which allow certain spouses, children, and parents of United States citizens and certain spouses and children of permanent residents to file a petition for themselves without the abuser’s knowledge. This allows victims to seek both safety and independence without the abuser being notified about the filing. The provisions in the INA apply to both men and women.
Children Born in the United States to Foreign Diplomats
A child born in the United States to a foreign diplomatic officer can not be considered a United States citizen at birth under the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution. However, this child can be considered a permanent resident and receive a green card through creation of record. To be considered a foreign diplomatic officer the parent’s title must be listed in the State Department Diplomatic List. To be eligible to receive a green card through creation of record the child must meet all of the following conditions:
The provisions of permanent residency will not apply until the child relinquishes his/her rights, privileges, exemptions, or immunities which are available as the child of a foreign diplomatic officer.
Widows or Widowers
To immigrate as the widow or widower of a citizen, you must prove that you were legally married to the citizen, and that you entered the marriage in good faith, not solely for the purpose of immigration. To qualify, you must not have been divorced or legally separated from the U.S. citizen at the time of death. Your eligibility to immigrate as a widow or widower ends if you have remarried. If your citizen spouse did not have a Form I-130 pending at the time of death, you must file the Form I-360 no more than 2 years after the spouse’s death. Your unmarried children under the age of 21 may be included on your immigration petition.
You may be eligible to receive a green card as a widow or widower if you:
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This information is provided by the USCIS. For more information about the Immigration Process visit the USCIS website.