Family Preference Green Card

Family members who are eligible for a green card based on their relationship fall into two groups. Immigration authorities refer to these groups as “immediate relative categories” and “family preference categories.”

Only a limited number of permanent immigrant visas are issued each year for applicants in the family preference categories, so many applicants have a long wait to complete the process. It is critical to document your eligibility correctly and avoid mistakes that could cause further delays or result in a denial.

When you work with a dedicated immigration attorney at American Dream™ Law Office, we help you navigate the process to present your best evidence and avoid pitfalls so you can obtain your green card as efficiently as possible.

Categories for Family Preference Visas

To get a green card identifying you as a lawful permanent resident (LPR) of the U.S., you need to apply for and receive a family preference immigrant visa. There are five categories of family preference visas ranked in order of priority. Relatives of U.S. citizens have greater priority and more opportunities than relatives of LPRs (green card holders). Age, marital status, and closeness of the family relationship also affect your eligibility for particular categories.

Family preference visas can be granted to:

  • F1–Unmarried adult children (age 21 or older) of U.S. citizens
  • F2A—Spouses and unmarried minor children (under age 21) of LPRs
  • F2B—Unmarried adult children of LPRs
  • F3—Married children of U.S. citizens
  • F4—Brothers and sisters of adult U.S. citizens

Note that unmarried minor children, parents, and spouses of U.S. citizens rank even higher than these categories because they are considered “immediate relatives.” If you apply for a visa in a family preference category with a sponsor who is an LPR and your sponsor later becomes a citizen, it is important to have your immigration lawyer contact the agencies processing your application to inform them of the change so that your application can receive higher priority.

Process for Obtaining a Family Preference Green Card

Once you have determined that you meet the qualifications to obtain a green card, the first step toward becoming a LPR is to have the sponsoring family member file a Form I-130 Petition for Alien Relative with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). This must be accompanied by documentation verifying the sponsor’s status as a citizen or LPR and establishing the relationship between the applicant and the sponsor. This could include passports, birth certificates, marriage certificates and other documents requested by the agency. An experienced immigration lawyer can help ensure that you provide the right evidence to support the petition.

If the person seeking the green card is in the U.S. lawfully, they may be able to file an application to adjust status (Form I-485) at the same time the petition is filed. If the applicant is outside the U.S., then when USCIS finishes processing the petition, the agency will forward the materials to the National Visa Center for the next step. When a visa becomes available, the person seeking the green card will receive an application and requests for additional information. Applicants in lower preference categories often have a long wait at this stage in the process, particularly if they reside in a country with a high rate of immigration.

When a visa is available, the applicant submits the required fees and information, undergoes a medical exam, and then has an interview before officials decide whether they qualify to receive a visa and obtain a green card as a lawful permanent resident.

Let American Dream™ Law Office Help You Make the Most of Your Immigration Opportunities

U.S. immigration laws and policies are complex and subject to frequent changes. When you work with an experienced immigration attorney at American Dream™ Law Office, we can ensure that you are meeting all the requirements and taking advantage of the best opportunities to obtain a family preference green card with as few delays as possible. Contact us now to find out how we can help you avoid costly mistakes and find the best path to the future. 

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