Can green card holders bring family members to live in the U.S.?

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Yes, although the process can take a while. Part of being a lawful permanent resident – a green card holder – is having the right to petition for your close family members to become lawful permanent residents, too.

Green card holders can petition for the following family members to live permanently in the U.S.:

  • Spouse
  • Unmarried children under the age of 21
  • Unmarried children 21 or older

You petition for these relatives by filing Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative. Once you have filed this form and the required evidence, your relatives are put into a queue for a visa. There are limited numbers of these visas available (226,000 annually), however, and more people apply each year than there are available visas. Therefore, depending on your relative’s place in the visa queue, they may have to wait for a year or more.

When will my relative’s green card be granted?

That’s a complex question. There are four so-called “preference categories” of relatives who will be allowed to apply for green cards:

  • First preference: Unmarried adult children of U.S. citizens
  • Second preference (2A): Spouses and unmarried children (under 21) of lawful permanent residents
  • Second preference (2B): Unmarried children (21 and over) of lawful permanent residents
  • Third preference: Married children of U.S. citizens
  • Fourth preference: Siblings of U.S. citizens

As you can see, the spouses and unmarried children of lawful permanent residents are both in the second preference category, although children under 21 are slightly preferred. As visas for each preference category are issued, fewer remain for the lower preference categories.

For example, if all of the available visas were taken by unmarried children of U.S. citizens, no second-preference visas would be available that year. In the unlikely event that all the available visas are not issued in a particular year, they are rolled over into the next year.

In addition, there are other limits on these visas. Only a certain percentage of all visas can be issued annually to nationals of the same country. If too many people from one country apply for these visas, the Department of State will consider that country “oversubscribed” and impose a cutoff date to reduce the number of applications.

Assuming there are visas available for your relative’s preference category, those visas will be issued in the order in which the petitions were received.

Once you have filed Form I-130, Petition for an Alien Relative, the Department of State will calculate your relative’s position in line. You can check their place in the visa queue through the State Department’s Visa Bulletin.

If you would like to bring a relative to live permanently in the United States, contact Yew Immigration Law Group. Attorney Alison Yew is a board-certified specialist in immigration and naturalization law.