Immigration. Travel. Living.

USA Immediate Relative Immigrant Visas

US immigration law allows certain categories of relatives of US citizens and permanent US residents (green card holders) to immigrate to the US. The process and conditions depend on which category of relatives you fall into. 480 thousand visas are issued annually.

USCIS sign.

Process in brief:

  • Decide on the category of relatives
  • Filing an I-130 petition
  • Interview passing
  • Obtaining a residence permit

Obtaining a residence permit:

1. Close relatives of US citizens

This category includes spouses, parents, minor children of US citizens.

Juvenile immigration law treats children under the age of 21 and who are not married; this also includes underage stepdaughter and stepson.

Note that if a parent of a US citizen gets married or gets married, then the parent’s spouse does not automatically get the opportunity to apply for a green card. A parent will be able to apply for a green card for a spouse only after receiving their green card. The same goes for minor children of US citizens.

This category is not limited by quotas. The number of immigrants in this group is not limited.

2. Other categories of relatives of US citizens

In addition to close relatives, the following categories of relatives may qualify for US residency based on kinship.

Preference categories of relatives:

People who want to immigrate are divided into categories according to the preference system. This system does not apply to immediate family members of US citizens (parents, spouses, and unmarried children under 21). Immigrant visas can be obtained by immediate family members as soon as the Citizenship and Immigration Service approves their visa petitions. Other relatives must wait for their visas as they become available, according to the following line of preference:

  1. Unmarried adult children of US citizens. “Adults” means at least 21 years of age.
  2. Spouses of the lawful permanent residents of the United States, their unmarried children (under the age of 21), and the unmarried adult children of the lawful permanent residents.
  3. Unmarried children of US citizens.
  4. Brothers and sisters of adult US citizens.

Since the demand for visas exceeds the number of visas that can be issued in due course, there is a waiting period. The waiting period depends on how much the demand exceeds the availability of visas, as well as from which country the future immigrant comes. The US Department of State publishes updated information on waiting times monthly in its Visa Bulletins.

What problems arise in the family immigration process?

In particular, the following problems:

  • During long periods of waiting, new family circumstances often emerge that affect the process. For example, it may be that the American petitioner has died, or the married child is divorced, or an adult brother who has small children dies.
  • The American petitioner must reside in the United States at the final stage of the process (when the immigrants receive their status).
  • The US petitioner must make a financial commitment at the final stage of the process.
  • Due to their intent to immigrate to the United States, petitioned family members may have difficulty obtaining visitor visas during this lengthy process.
  • Since the petition does not require the signature of the applicant for an immigrant visa, a situation may arise when the applicant is not even aware that his relative in the United States has applied for immigration on his behalf (this turns into a problem when he applies for a visitor visa. without indicating that an immigration petition has already been filed on his behalf).
  • If the petitioner changes address and does not properly notify the Immigration Service, the Service’s notices may not be delivered and the validity period may expire.

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