Family-Based Immigration


There are two groups of family based immigrant visa categories: Immediate Relative Visas (unlimited) and Family Preference Immigrant Visas (limited).

Immediate Relative Immigrant Visas: These visa types are based on a close family relationship with a U.S. citizen. Immediate relative visa types include:

  • IR-1: Spouse of a U.S. Citizen 
  • IR-2: Unmarried Child Under 21 Years of Age of a U.S. Citizen
  • IR-3: Orphan adopted abroad by a U.S. Citizen 
  • IR-4: Orphan to be adopted in the U.S. by a U.S. citizen
  • IR-5: Parent of a U.S. Citizen who is at least 21 years old

Immediate relatives have special immigration priority and do not have to wait for a visa number to become available.

Family Preference Immigrant Visas: These visa types are for specific family relationships with a U.S. citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR). The family preference categories are:

  • Family First Preference (F1): Unmarried sons and daughters of U.S. citizens, and their minor children.
  • Family Second Preference (F2): Spouses, minor children, and unmarried sons and daughters (age 21 and over) of LPRs.
  • Family Third Preference (F3): Married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens, and their spouses and minor children.
  • Family Fourth Preference (F4): Brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens, and their spouses and minor children, provided the U.S. citizens are at least 21 years of age.

There are fiscal year numerical limitations on family preference immigrants. In some categories with many approved petitions compared to available visas, there may be a waiting period of several years, or more, before a priority date is reached. 

Fiancé(e) K-1 Visa Process: 

If your fiancé(e) lives overseas, a K-1 visa allows your fiancé(e) to enter the U.S for a period of 90 days, so that your marriage ceremony can take place in the U.S. Once you and your fiancé(e) marry, your spouse can file an Adjustment of Status application and remain in the U.S. while the application is processed.

Adjustment of Status vs. Immigrant Visa Process (IVP):

The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) provides two pathways to permanent resident status. The first, adjustment of status, is the process by which an eligible individual already in the U.S. can obtain permanent resident status without having to return to their home country to complete visa processing. The second, the Immigrant Visa Process "IVP," allows for an individual who is physically outside the U.S. (or who is in the U.S. but is ineligible to adjust status) to obtain a visa abroad and enter the U.S. as a permanent resident.

Adjustment of Status: An individual may change his or her immigration status while in the U.S. from nonimmigrant or parolee (temporary) to immigrant (permanent) if the individual was: (1) inspected and admitted or paroled into the U.S., and (2) is able to meet all required qualifications for a green card (permanent residence) in a particular category. 

Immigrant Visa Process: An individual who is: (1) the beneficiary of an approved immigrant petition, and (2) has an immigrant visa number immediately available, may apply at a U.S. Department of State consulate abroad for an immigrant visa in order to come to the U.S. and be admitted as a permanent resident.

Conditional Permanent Residence

Permanent residence will be conditional if it is based on a marriage that was less than 2 years old on the day you were given permanent residence. Conditional permanent residence is valid for 2 years and must be removed by filing a Form I-751, Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence. File the Form I-751 during the 90 days before your second anniversary as a conditional resident. (Note: the conditions on your resident status must be removed or you will lose your permanent resident status).

Application Process

The process generally begins by filing a Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative. The Form I-130 establishes that a familial relationship exists between the sponsoring relative and the foreign national relative. If your relative is in the U.S., he or she may apply to adjust status to a permanent resident. If your relative is outside the U.S., your petition will be sent to the National Visa Center (NVC). The NVC will forward your petition to the appropriate U.S. consulate when a visa becomes available and your relative will be notified about how to proceed.