Our immigration practice group frequently receives inquiries from current and prospective clients regarding their options for family-based immigration to the US, including sponsorship by a US citizen or US Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) for LPR status (also commonly referred to as a “Green Card”). Generally, the US Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) provides for two primary types of family-based immigrant visa categories to obtain LPR status, including immediate relatives and family preference categories.
Immediate Relative (IR) Immigrant Visa Categories
The highly preferential immediate relative immigrant visa categories include:
- IR-1, spouse of a US citizen;
- IR-2, unmarried child under twenty-one (21) years of age of a US citizen;
- IR-3, orphan adopted abroad by a US citizen;
- IR-4, orphan to be adopted in the US by a US citizen; and
- IR-5, parent of a US citizen who is at least twenty-one (21) years of age.
Based on the US public policy interest in family unification for US citizens, there is no congressionally mandated fiscal limit or cap on the number of approvable immigration petitions in the IR immigrant visa categories. This means that the petition beneficiary’s immigrant visa issuance or application to adjust status will not be held up waiting for visa availability.
Family Preference Immigrant Visa Categories
The family preference immigrant visa categories are available for more distant family relationships with a US citizen and some specified relationships with LPR status holders, including:
- F-1, unmarried sons and daughters of a US citizen, and their minor children, if any;
- F-2, spouses, minor children, and unmarried sons and daughters, twenty-one (21) years of age or older, of LPRs;
- F-3, married sons and daughters of US citizens, and their spouses and minor children; and
- F-4, brothers and sisters of US citizens, and their spouses and minor children, provided the US citizens are at least twenty-one (21) years of age.
Unlike the IR immigrant visa categories, there are fiscal year numerical limitations on family preference immigrant visa categories. This can create a far longer period for processing and approval based on visa availability (per category and country of chargeability), as is demonstrated in the US Department of State’s monthly Visa Bulletin.
In addition to meeting the general eligibility requirements of family relationship and ensuring compliance with governmental processes, both the petitioner and beneficiary of immigrant visa petitions must meet standards for financial sponsorship, medical/health clearances, and admissibility.
Regardless of the family-based immigrant visa category, both the petitioner and the beneficiary must receive proper legal advice and guidance to ensure compliance with an increasingly complex array of law, rules, policies, and procedures related to these types of legal filings with US Citizenship and Immigration Services and US Department of State.