Overview – Family Based Immigration (親屬移民)

There are two groups of family based immigration visa categories — immediate relatives, for whom there are unlimited visas (e.g., no annual quota) and visas are immediately available, and preference based relatives, for which there are 4 preference categories and there are 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. Immediate relative visa types include:

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.

Click here for an overview of the petition process for immediate relative visas.

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 a Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR, or “green card” holder). There are fiscal year numerical limitations on family preference immigrants.  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 (age 21 and over) of LPRs. At least seventy-seven percent of all visas available for this category will go to the 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.

Click here for a more detailed overview of the petition process for family preference immigrant visas.

Changing Preference Categories

It is possible for beneficiaries to move into a different preference category, which may speed up or delay their waiting time. This may take place when there is a change in the beneficiary’s marital status, a child “ages out” (ie, turns 21), or there is a change in the petitioner’s immigration status. As long as the new petitioner-beneficiary relationship supports a family petition, the beneficiary retains the petition and original priority date. For more details on various scenarios, click on each above-linked preference category.

To see if you may qualify to petition for a family member (or be petitioned by a relative in the US), please contact our office for an evaluation.