There are many options for U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents (green card holders) to sponsor immediate relatives to permanently immigrate to the United States. These options depend on the petitioner’s immigration status, their relationship to the beneficiary, and the beneficiary’s immigration history, among other factors. Immediate relatives are spouses, children (unmarried and under 21), parents, and siblings. In some cases, U.S. citizens may petition for their fiancé(e). Petitions for different immediate relatives go through different processes, which may take different lengths of time. We represent clients in many different forms of family-based immigration.
Legal permanent residents may petition for a spouse and unmarried children.
U.S. citizens may apply for a spouse, parents, siblings, and children, regardless of marital status.
The U.S. government gives different levels of priority to different categories of petitioners and their beneficiaries. These are called “family preference categories,” and they are noted below.
Family Preference Categories
- First Preference: unmarried adult (21 or older) children of U.S. citizens
- Second Preference: spouses and unmarried children (all ages) of green card holders.
- Third Preference: children (all ages) of U.S. citizens.
- Fourth Preference: siblings of adult U.S. citizens.
For the most up to date information on current processing times, look at the current visa bulletin.
U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents may petition for an immigrant spouse. The process and the length of time it takes depends on the circumstances. Generally, there are two parts to this process: 1. obtaining recognition from the U.S. government that an immigrant is married to a U.S. citizen or permanent resident and 2. applying for legal permanent residency (green card).
A one-step marriage petition and adjustment of status is when the immigrant spouse is eligible to apply for both the marriage petition and for their green card (adjustment of status) at the same time.
A marriage petition with consular processing is when the immigrant spouse is not eligible to file for the marriage petition and adjustment of status at the same time. Some of those reasons include: the spouse is outside of the United States, the spouse is in immigration court proceedings, or the spouse needs a waiver. After the marriage petition is approved, the case is sent for consular processing, and ultimately the immigrant spouse has their interview at the U.S. embassy or consulate in their home country.
A fiancé(e) visa is a petition for an immigrant fiancé(e) to enter the U.S. and then apply for legal permanent residency. The immigrant fiancé(e) first applies for a visa to enter the U.S. and goes through consular processing, a series of applications, examinations, and interviews by the U.S. government to allow the immigrant fiancé(e) to enter the U.S. as a visa holder. Once in the U.S., the couple must legally marry within 90 days of the immigrant’s arrival in order for the immigrant to apply for permanent residency. This process is only available when a U.S. citizen has a foreign fiancé(e), and the couple has plans to marry within 90 days of the fiancé(e)’s arrival in the U.S.