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Green Card for a Family Member of a U.S. Citizen

Posted On 2012 Nov 13
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U.S. citizens who want their relatives to immigrate to the United States can file a Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, for their spouse, children and if the U.S. citizen is at least 21 years old, their parents and brothers or sisters.

“Immediate relatives” of a U.S. citizen, defined as one’s spouse, unmarried children under the age of 21, and parents. Immediate relatives do not have to wait months or years for a priority date. Visas are available immediately.

If your relationship does not qualify you as an immediate relative of a U.S. citizen, then you may be in what is called a “family preference category.”  Eligible relatives include:

  • Unmarried sons or daughters over the age of 21
  • Married child(ren) of any age
  • Brothers and sisters (if the U.S. citizen petitioner is over the age of 21)

Congress has limited the number of relatives who may immigrate under these categories each year so there is usually a waiting period before an immigrant visa number becomes available.

This page discusses the steps required to get a green card (permanent residence) for relatives of a U.S. citizen in a preference category.

Get a Green Card While Inside the United States

If you are currently in the United States and are one of the specified categories of relatives of a U.S. citizen in a preference category, you may be able to become a permanent resident in two steps.

  • Step One – Your U.S. citizen family member (sponsor) must file the Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, for you and it must be approved. You must wait for your priority date in your immigrant visa category to become current. Your priority date is the date when the Form I-130 is properly filed (with correct fee and signature) on your behalf by your U.S. citizen relative. For more information on priority dates, see the “Visa Availability & Priority Dates”  section of the USCIS website.
  • Step Two – Once the priority date in your visa category is current, you may file for Adjustment of Status with Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status.  Adjustment of Status is the process you go through to become a Permanent Resident.

Get a Green Card While Outside the United States

If you are currently outside the United States and are one of the specified categories of relatives of a U.S. citizen in a preference category, you can become a permanent resident through consular processing. Consular processing is when we work with the U.S. Department of State to issue a visa on an approved Form I-130 petition when a visa is available. In this process the Department of State will issue you a visa. If approved, you may then travel on the visa and will officially become a permanent resident when admitted at a U.S. port of entry. For information on consular processing see the link to the left under “Green Card Processes & Procedures.”

Things to keep in mind:

  • The Child Status Protection Act (CSPA). In certain cases, the CSPA may allow you to retain the classification of “child” even if you have reached age 21. Generally, your age is “frozen” as of the date your U.S. citizen parent files Form I-130 for you. To determine if the Child Status Protection Act (CSPA) applies to you, see the “Child Status Protection Act”  check out the USCIS website.
  • Getting Married. If you are the unmarried son or daughter of a U.S. citizen and you get married prior to becoming a permanent resident, then you no longer qualify as an “Unmarried Son or Daughter of a U.S. Citizen” and will convert to the category of “Married Son or Daughter of a U.S. Citizen.” This change in categories may result in a significant delay in your immigrant visa becoming available.

The above information is as published online at http://www.uscis.gov and brought to you, courtesy of the Law Offices of Paul M. Allen.

For real honest immigration help, contact Attorney Paul Allen and schedule a free consultation. Offices conveniently located in Glendale: 818-334-5445, or Cerritos 562-356-9931.

(This article is for information purposes only, and does not necessary reflect the company’s opinions and views on general issues. We make no warranty, prediction nor representation, nor do we assume any legal liability for the completeness of any information and its effect on any case. Each case is different and results depend on the facts of each case. Consult with and retain counsel of your own choice if you need legal advice.)

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