US immigration law allows certain categories of relatives of US citizens and permanent US residents (green card holders) to immigrate to the US. The process and conditions depend on which category of relatives you fall into.


This category is not limited by quotas. The number of immigrants in this group is not limited.

This category includes spouse, parents, minor children of US citizens. 

Only children under the age of 21 and who are not married are considered as immediate relatives including minor stepchildren. 

Note that if a parent of a US citizen gets married, then the parent’s spouse does not automatically become eligible to apply for a green card. A parent will be able to apply for a green card for a spouse only after receiving his/her own green card. The same applies to minor children of US citizens.


In addition to Immediate Relatives, the following categories of relatives may qualify for green card, however, other categories of relatives are limited by annual quotas and for this reason, the processing time can be long. The processing time can be determined by reviewing USCIS bulletin.

Preference categories
 1st Preference Category (F1):
  • Unmarried Sons and Daughters (21 years of age or older) of U.S. Citizens.
 2nd Preference Category (F2):

Includes two subcategories: 

  • (F2A) Spouses and children under 21 years of age of US permanent residents.
  • (F2B) Unmarried Sons and Daughters (21 years of age or older) of Permanent Residents.
 3rd Preference category (F3):
  • Married Sons and Daughters of U.S. Citizens.
 4th Preference category (F4):  
  • Brothers and Sisters of Adult U.S. Citizens. A US citizen sponsoring a sibling must be at least 21 years of age.

All other relatives who are not Immediate Relatives or do not fall into any of the Preference Categories are not eligible to obtain a green card (for example, uncles, aunts, grandparents, nephews, etc.)


 Applicants outside of the US
  • The first step is submission of a family petition by the US citizen or permanent resident on the form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative.
  • Once the I-130 is approved, the case will be transferred from USCIS to the National Visa Center. For Immediate Relatives it takes 2-3 months for the transfer. For Preference Categories, the I-130 case can either be transferred to the NVC if the processing date in the Visa Bulletin is “current” (See Table B) or it can await in USCIS until the processing time in the Visa Bulletin becomes “current”.
  • The relative will be asked to submit DS-260 and additional documents to the NVC.
  • The NVC will notify the applicant about the interview date. If the consular officer approves the case, the relative will be issued an immigrant visa.
  • Once the applicant enters the US, a green card should arrive in the mail within 120 days.
Applicants in the US
  • The first step is submission of a family petition by the US citizen or US permanent resident on the form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative.
  • In certain cases, an I-485, Adjustment of Status application can be filed together with the I-130 or while the I-130 is pending or once the I-130 is approved. In certain cases, filing I-485 is not an option and the relative will be required to leave the US to attend consulate interview. Consult an immigration attorney to determine available options in your case.
  • Once the I-130 is approved, an interview will be scheduled by USCIS to make decision on the I-485 (unless the interview is waived). The applicant will be notified about the interview date
  • The applicant will be notified about USCIS decision on the I-485 at the interview or later.
  • If the I-485 is approved a green card will arrive in the mail.

We strongly recommend to work with an immigration attorney on your family immigration case. The process is filled with various details and regulations making it stressful and overwhelming.

Our goal is providing client with clear and complete information, no hidden fees, and timely return of client calls and messages. Our attorneys have been working on family immigration cases for many years and have helped many clients to reunite with their relatives in the United States. Schedule your attorney consultation today.

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