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Family-Sponsored Permanent Residence

U.S. Citizens or Lawful Permanent Residents (“LPRs”) may sponsor certain family members for permanent residence.  Individuals applying for permanent residence are classified into different preference categories based on whether the sponsor is a U.S. Citizen or an LPR and how the foreign national beneficiary is related to the sponsor. These preference categories determine the waiting time after the immigrant petition (Form I-130) is filed and before the relative is permitted to apply for permanent residence (Form I-485 if filed within the United States and DS-260 Immigrant Visa Application if applying from abroad). Filing the I-130 petition is the first step in establishing the relative’s place in line (or “priority date”). For current wait times, see the State Department Visa Bulletin.

Immediate Relatives of U.S. Citizens – parents, spouses, and unmarried children under age 21 of U.S. Citizens – are not included in the preference category system and are not subject to the visa backlog that other relatives may face. The family-based preference categories are as follows:

  • First Preference: Unmarried, adult sons and daughters of U.S. citizens. (Adult means 21 years or older).
  • Second Preference: Spouses of Lawful Permanent Residents and their unmarried children (under 21) or their unmarried adult sons and daughters.
  • Third Preference: Married sons and daughters of U.S. Citizens.
  • Fourth Preference: Brothers and sisters of adult U.S. Citizens.

U.S. Citizen and LPRs can petition for their foreign national relatives by filing an I-130 Petition for Alien Relative with USCIS. Once the foreign national’s priority date is current, s/he can apply for permanent residence. Applying for permanent residence entails a medical examination, police and security background checks, proving that the foreign national will not become a public charge, and otherwise proving admissibility.

There are two different ways for foreign national relatives to apply for permanent residence –adjustment of status within the United States and consular processing abroad. Relatives who are in valid nonimmigrant visa status in the United States can file the I-485 Application to Adjust Status to Permanent Residence with USCIS. Immediate relatives living in the U.S. can file the I-485 concurrently with the I-130 because there is no wait for the immigrant visa number. In fact, immediate relatives in the United States do not necessarily need to be in valid nonimmigrant status to be eligible to adjust status; they must simply have lawfully entered and been inspected at the U.S. port of entry.

Those who are outside of the United States may apply for an immigrant visa at a U.S. consulate abroad once the I-130 petition is approved. The immigrant visa application process commences with the filing of the required forms and civil documents with the National Visa Center of the U.S. Department of State and culminates in an interview at a U.S. consulate in the applicant’s home country after undergoing medical, criminal, and security clearances.

I-751 Petition to Remove Conditions on Permanent Residence

For spousal cases, if the couple has been married for less than two years when the green card is issued, the couple must file an I-751 petition to remove conditions on residence in the 90-day period leading up to the second anniversary of the green card. This petition is typically jointly filed by the spouses, but in certain cases of divorce, abuse, etc., they may be filed by the foreign national along with a waiver of the joint filing requirement.