The primary purpose of family-based immigration is the reunification of families. If you have a familial relationship with a U.S. citizen or Legal Permanent Resident (LPR), you may be eligible to apply for immigration status in the U.S. or outside the U.S. through the Department of State.
Who is considered an Immediate Relative?
You can apply for legal permanent residence if you fall into one of the following categories:
Spouse of a U.S. citizen
Unmarried child (under 21 years of age) of a U.S. citizen*
Parent of a U.S. citizen who is over 21 years of age
As an immediate relative, there is no cap on the number of visas available each year. That means your family member can file an I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, for you, and once it is approved, you can immediately apply to either adjust your status or consular process, depending on your method of entry into the U.S.
*Under the Child Status Protection Act (CSPA), some adult sons and daughters of U.S. citizens who were petitioned while less than 21 years of age may be eligible to apply as children (individuals under age 21).
What are Preference Categories?
If you do not have an immediate relative who is a U.S. citizen, you are not completely out of luck. The preference categories allow for certain individuals who do not meet the above criteria to be petitioned by U.S. citizens or LPRs. The following are the non-immediate relatives who can be petitioned:
(F1) Unmarried Sons and Daughters of U.S. Citizens. The term “sons and daughters” implies that the individual is over the age of 21.
(F2A): Spouses and Children of Permanent Residents. The term “child” or “children” implies that the individual is under the age of 21.
(F2B): Unmarried Sons and Daughters (21 years of age or older) of Permanent Residents.
(F3): Married Sons and Daughters (21 years of age or older) of U.S. Citizens.
(F4): Brothers and Sisters of Adult (21 years of age or older) U.S. Citizens.
As you can see, the first, third and fourth preference categories only apply to individuals whose family members are U.S. citizens. The second preference categories apply to individuals whose family members are LPRs.
*Please also note that each category permits the individual being petitioned to include his or her dependents in the petition.
Another important thing to note is that Preference Category petitions are limited. Each year, only a certain number of visas are issued in each of those categories; therefore, the preference category you fall into determines the amount of time you will have to wait, after your I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, is approved, to consular process.
For example, in the F4 preference category, Brothers and Sisters of Adult U.S. Citizens, there are only 65,000 visas issued per year. Because there is a very large number of F4 applications submitted each year, the wait can be very long depending on your country of origin. For example, Immigration is currently reviewing F4 petitions for Philippines-born applicants filed in April 1991. Although not exact, it could be 23 years before the beneficiary of an F4 petition from the Philippines is eligible to apply for LPR status.
Contact the Immigration Attorneys at Antonini and Cohen
Although we’ve tried to simplify the family-based immigration process in this blog, we’re sure you can see that it is still very confusing. The attorneys at Antonini and Cohen Immigration Law Group can help you determine if you are eligible to apply for a family-based petition and can advise you as to the length of time the process will likely take.
Please contact our office at 404.850.9394 or complete a contact form to schedule a consultation with one of our experienced immigration attorneys.