- Marriage and Family
A person seeking
to permanently reside in the United States may acquire a green card
through a family member. The family member becomes the alien's sponsor
and files the green card petition on behalf of the alien. In order
to act as a sponsor the family member must be either a citizen or
a lawful permanent resident of the United States
It is important
to note that the status of the sponsor will impact the alien's petition.
For example, a United States citizen may sponsor a spouse, children,
parents, brothers and sisters. A lawful permanent resident may only
sponsor a spouse, children and unmarried sons and daughters. Thus,
a lawful permanent resident should consider becoming a citizen if
the objective is to obtain an immigrant visa for parents, married
children or siblings.
The law divides
family based immigration into the 5 following categories:
Relatives of Citizens
Relative family based category permits green card petitions to
be filed by United States citizens on behalf of their immediate
relatives. For the purpose of this category immediate relatives
means the children, spouses and parents of a United States citizen,
except that, in the case of parents, the citizen must be at least
21 years of age. This means that a child born in the United States
while the child's parents were temporarily in the country cannot
petition for an immigrant visa on their behalf until the child
turns 21 years of age, even though the child is a United States
The law makes
a distinction between children, and sons and daughters. Children
are under 21 years of age, while sons and daughters are 21 years
of age and over. Unlike the preference categories (discussed below)
there is no numerical limitation for immediate relative petitions.
This means that the petitions are processed immediately.
Sons and Daughters of Citizens
Preference Family Based (FB1) category makes available 23,400
immigrant visas to unmarried sons and daughters of United States
citizens. The fact that Congress has placed a numerical limitation
on this and all other preference categories means that the alien
may experience a delay prior to receiving a green card. As is
the case with all family based immigration, an offer of employment
is not a requirement although evidence of support is required
prior to issuance of the green card.
Lawful Permanent Residents
Preference Family Based (FB2) category is the only category that
permits lawful permanent residents to sponsor family members.
Aliens eligible to receive an FB2 green card are immigrants:
are the spouses or children of an alien lawfully admitted for
permanent residence, or
are the unmarried sons or unmarried daughters (but are not the
children) of an alien lawfully admitted for permanent residence.
subcategory is allotted 77 percent of the approximately 115,000
FB2 green cards issued annually while the remaining 23 percent
are made available to the second subcategory. This division results
in a long delay for unmarried sons and daughters. As this category
suggests, lawful permanent residents may not sponsor their parents,
siblings or married sons and daughters. For this reason many lawful
permanent residents decide to become United States citizens; and,
by doing so they become able to sponsor more of their family members
and will also benefit from the quicker processing times available
to United States citizen petitioners.
and Daughters of Citizens
Preference Family Based (FB3) category permits a United States
citizen to petition for an immigrant visa for the petitioner's
married sons and daughters. Congress has allocated 23,400 green
cards to this category to be issued yearly along with any number
not required by the first or second preference family categories.
However, it is unlikely that there will be any spillover from
the other categories because of the great demand for green cards
in the FB2 category.
and Sisters of Citizens
Preference Family Based (FB4) category permits immigrant visa
petitions to be filed on behalf of brothers and sisters of United
States citizens. Due to the large number of petitions filed in
this category a backlog has developed. Estimates range anywhere
from a nine to 20 year wait. Only 65,000 FB4 green cards are issued
per year, and with the number of siblings wishing to obtain a
green card, it is unlikely that the wait will decrease. The use
of the FB4 category to facilitate the issuance of a green card
is not a viable option.
A spouse or
child accompanying or following to join a principal alien (i.e.,
the beneficiary) may be accorded the same preference and priority
date as the principal alien without the necessity of a separate
petition. However, a child of an alien who is approved for classification
as an immediate relative is not eligible for derivative classification
and must have a separate petition approved on his or her behalf.
It is always
advisable to investigate the options that exist through family based
immigration. These options may provide for the quickest and most
cost effective means available.
If you would
like to explore your specific green card options please send a request
to us at:
12865 Point Del Mar, Suite 190
Del Mar, CA 92014, USA
Tel. (858) 481-5211
Fax. (858) 481-7271