Under certain circumstances a foreign national may be able to immigrate to the United States (U.S.) through their relationship with a lawful permanent resident (a “green card” holder) or U.S. Citizen (USC) family member. A Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) is someone can live and work permanently in the United States. Prior to becoming eligible to become a U.S. Citizen (USC), a foreign national must first become a Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR). To become an LPR based on your relationship with a family member who is an LPR or U.S. Citizen (USC) is a multi-step process.
- First, an immigrant visa must be approved for you. The process is generally started by filing the Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative along with proof of the relationship between the foreign national and the LPR or USC.
- If the immigrant visa is immediately available to you, then you can move to the next step of applying to become a Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR). If an immigrant visa is not immediately available, then you must wait until a visa becomes available to apply to become an LPR. The U.S. Department of State publishes the Visa Bulletin which states when a visa may become available to you based on your relationship to the LPR or USC and which country you may be from.
- Once an immigrant visa is available, if you are inside the United States, you can apply for adjustment of status (if you are eligible.) If you are not in the U.S., you will be notified when a visa is available and you may apply to your consulate to become an LPR. Eligibility: In order for a relative to sponsor you to immigrate to the U.S., they must meet the following criteria.
- They must be a Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) or U.S. Citizen (USC) and be able to provide documentation of the family relationship.
- They must be able to prove that they can support you at 125% above the government set poverty line.
Who May Petition
Relatives which may be petitioned for depend on whether the sponsor is a Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) or a U.S. Citizen (USC).
U.S. Citizen – If the sponsoring relative is a U.S. Citizen, they can sponsor the following relatives:
- Parent (if the U.S. citizen petitioner is over the age of 21)*
- Unmarried child under the age of 21*
- Unmarried son or daughter over the age of 21
- Married sons or daughters of any age
- Brother or Sister (if the U.S. citizen petitioner is over the age of 21)
*“Immediate relatives” of a U.S. citizen are defined as a spouse, unmarried children under the age of 21, and parents. Immediate relatives always have a visa number immediately available. Congress has limited the number of relatives who may immigrate under these categories each year so there is usually a waiting period before an immigrant visa number becomes available for those family preference categories which are not considered immediate relatives.
Lawful Permanent Resident – If the sponsoring relative is a Lawful Permanent Resident, they can sponsor the following relatives:
- Unmarried son or daughter
Priority Date and Preference Categories
To immigrate to the U.S. as a relative of a Lawful Permanent Resident or U.S. Citizen you must first obtain an immigrant visa number based on your relationship with a Lawful Permanent Resident or U.S. Citizen. This is done by filing Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative. The date the Form I-130 is properly filed will be your “priority date.” Because there are a limited number of visas issued each year, you must wait for your priority date in your immigrant visa category to become current before an immigrant visa becomes available.
Your relationship to the sponsor will determine the “preference category” you fall into. This preference category will determine how long you may have to wait for a visa to become available.
- Immediate Relative (IR) – spouse, unmarried children under the age of 21, and parents of the sponsor. Immediate relatives always have a visa number immediately available and do not have to wait until their preference date.
- First Preference (F1) – Unmarried Sons and Daughters of U.S. Citizens.
- Second Preference (F2) – Spouses and Children, and Unmarried Sons and Daughters (21 years or older) of Permanent Residents.
- Third Preference (F3) – Married Sons and Daughters of U.S. Citizens.
- Fourth Preference (F4) – Brothers and Sisters of Adult U.S. Citizens.
To see when your priority date will become current and a visa will be available please check the Visa Bulletin as published by U.S. Department of State.