Caring Representation For Family-Based Immigration
Our San Jose immigration law firm takes great pride in our ability to help reunite families. If you are already a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident (LPR, or “green card” holder), you may sponsor your spouse, immediate relatives and other family members through the following family-based immigrant visas.
There are two groups of family-based immigration visa categories – immediate relatives, for whom there are unlimited visas (e.g., no annual quota) that are immediately available, and preference-based relatives, for which there are four preference categories as well as visa limitations (quotas) each fiscal year.
Immediate Relative Immigrant Visas (Unlimited)
These visa types are based on a close family relationship with a U.S. citizen described as an immediate relative (IR). The number of immigrants in these categories is not limited each fiscal year. According to the U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS), the immediate relative visa types include:
- IR-1: The spouse of a U.S. citizen
- IR-2: A U.S. citizen’s unmarried child under 21 years of age
- IR-3: An orphan adopted abroad by a U.S. citizen
- IR-4: An orphan to be adopted in the U.S. by a U.S. citizen
- IR-5: A parent of a U.S. citizen who is at least 21 years old
- K-1: A fiancé(e)
Note that immediate relatives do not have derivative beneficiaries. Thus, their spouses and/or children must have petitions filed for them separately and must independently qualify for those benefits.
Family Preference Immigrant Visas (Limited)
These visa types are for specific, more distant, family relationships with a U.S. citizen and some specified relationships with an LPR. There are fiscal year numerical limitations on family preference immigrants. The website for the U.S. Embassy in Malaysia states that the family preference categories (along with the visa quotas per fiscal year) are:
- Family first preference (F1): Unmarried sons and daughters of U.S. citizens and their minor children, if any (23,400)
- Family second preference (F2): Spouses, minor children and unmarried sons and daughters (ages 21 and over) of LPRs. At least 77% of all visas available for this category will go to spouses and children; the remainder is allocated to unmarried sons and daughters. (114,200)
- Family third preference (F3): Married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens and their spouses and minor children (23,400)
- Family fourth preference (F4): Brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens and their spouses and minor children, provided the U.S. citizens are at least 21 years of age (65,000)
Grandparents, aunts, uncles, in-laws and cousins cannot sponsor a relative for immigration. Unmarried children of LPRs (F2) will lose the petition if, while it is pending, they get married, as there is no visa category for married children of LPRs.
Changing Preference Categories
A beneficiary may be able to change his or her visa category and, as a result, speed up or slow down his or her wait time. This may take place when there is a change in the beneficiary’s marital status, when a child “ages out” (i.e., turns 21) or when there is a change in the petitioner’s immigration status. Under limited circumstances, the beneficiary may retain the original priority date. For more details on various scenarios, click on each linked preference category above.