Under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) US citizens and permanent residents can petition for their relatives to obtain permanent resident status. This process is often referred to as family-based immigration.
It can take months to many years for a family member to become a permanent resident. How long it takes for the intending immigrant family member to receive his or her permanent resident card (i.e. green card) depends on whether the petition is based on an immediate relative relationship or another qualifying relationship.
Jarrett & Price represents clients throughout Georgia and the Coastal Empire in filing for permanent resident status for their family members. Call us today at 912.401.8880.
The term “immediate relative” refers to a relationship recognized under immigration law that is not subject to the numerical limitations other family-based categories are subject to. This means that an immigrant visa is automatically available upon the approval of a petition based on one of these relationships. The phrase “immediate relative” relationship is defined by federal statute at INA § 201(b)(2)(A)(i) (8 USC 1151(b)(2)(A)(i)) as including the following family relationships:
- spouse of a US citizen;
- the unmarried, under 21 year old child of a US citizen; and
- the parent of a US citizen child who is over 21 years of age.
If the intending immigrant family member is in the United States, generally she can adjust status to that of permanent residence while remaining in the country. Currently, adjustment of status applications can be filed concurrently with the petition, which reduces the time families have to wait for their relatives to receive permanent resident status.
If the intending immigrant family member is not in the United States, then the process takes longer, but the petition is still not subject to the numerical limitations non-immediate relative petitions are. The petition is filed by the US citizen petitioner and the process is finalized through the US consulate in the immigrant family member’s home country.
Non-Immediate Relative Family-Based Immigration
Family members who are the beneficiary of a visa petition by a permanent resident are subject to numerical limitations. Also, some relationships with US citizens are subject to the numerical cap. The total number of family-based immigrant visas that are issued each year is 480,000. Although immediate relative petitions are not subject to the numerical limitation, they do count toward the numerical limitation. These family-based immigrant visa petitions are allocated in what is called the preference categories.
There are four preference categories with the second preference category being divided between two different family relationships. The preference categories for family-based petitions are as follows:
- First preference: unmarried sons or daughters of US citizens;
- Second preference:
- 2A: spouses and unmarried children of lawful permanent residents;
- 2B: Unmarried sons and daughters (over 21 years of age);
- Third Preference: Married sons and daughters of US citizens;
- Fourth Preference: Brothers and sisters of US citizens.
When seeking to determine visa availability, we check the visa bulletin provided by the Department of State on its website. Depending on the country of birth of the intending immigrant, the wait times can be decades for some preference categories.