Family-based Immigration to United States - Information and Requirements

This post provides an overview of family-based immigration to the United States, including information on who is eligible, various categories for which an individual may apply, and basic requirements. It also includes a list of family members who can qualify for these types of visas or adjustments.

Family-based Immigration to United States - Information and Requirements

Family-based Immigration - A foreign citizen seeking to live permanently in the United States requires an immigrant visa (IV). However, to be eligible to apply for an immigrant visa (IV). A foreign citizen must be sponsored by an immediate relative who is at least 21 years of age and is either a US citizen or US Lawful Permanent Resident (that is, a green-card holder).

However, some can also say that family-based immigration to the United States refers to immigrants who are granted permanent residence status through their family members who are citizens or lawful permanent residents of the U.S. Most people apply for either an IR1 (spouse of U.S. citizen) or IR2 (parent of U.S. citizen age 21 or older) visa, but there are other options depending on your situation and familial relationship to the U.S

Do you know what are the requirements for family-based immigration? In this guide, we explain in detail everything you need to know about family visas.

On our website, you will find related articles on how to get a Green Card or expand information about the visa for the United States. If the family member wishes to obtain proof of citizenship or naturalize, please review our section dedicated to obtaining US citizenship.

Overview of the Family-based Immigration in 2024

A Family-based Green Card enables foreign family members of U.S. citizens/permanent residents to become Green Card holders in the USA. Spouses, parents, children, and siblings of U.S. citizens/Green Cardholders could be eligible to receive a Family-based Green Card.


Immigration law allows US citizens to petition certain members of their families. Thus, foreign relatives can obtain a green card, a K-1 fiancé visa, or a K-3 / K-4 visa.

Moreover, there are two types of family-based immigrant visas:

  • Immediate Relative – these visas are based on a close family relationship with a U.S. citizen, such as a spouse, child, or parent. The number of immigrants in these categories is not limited to each fiscal year.
  • Family Preference – these visas are for specific, more distant, family relationships with a U.S. citizen and some specified relationships with a Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR). The number of immigrants in these categories is limited each fiscal year.

However, note that US citizens can file an immigrant visa petition for their spouse, son or daughter, parent, brother or sister. While US Lawful Permanent Residents can only file an immigrant visa petition for their spouse and unmarried son or daughter.

In this section you will find which family members you can claim to obtain American residency by family petition:

What other family members can be petitioned?

There are several categories of preference for non-immediate relatives. This type of family visa has the peculiarity that they are limited. Therefore, unlike visas for immediate relatives, there is no visa number always available.

Visas are available for a certain category of preference, depending on the priority date. Here are the categories of preference:

  1. First preference. Corresponds to sons/daughters over 21 years of age, unmarried, of American citizens.
  2. Second preference (2A). It includes the spouse of a permanent resident (holder of a Green Card, and unmarried children under 21 years of age.
  3. Second preference (2B). It includes adult and unmarried sons and daughters of holders of a residence card.
  4. Third preference. Married sons/daughters, regardless of age, of American citizens.
  5. Fourth preference. Adult brothers/sisters of US citizens.
  6. For more information on visa priority dates and availability, consult the Department of State’s visa bulletin.

How to help a family member to become a permanent resident of the United States?

US citizens by birth or naturalization can petition their immediate relatives and others.
They can do so by sponsoring the relative through a foreign relative petition and showing that they can support him financially.
For this, they must present evidence of income and/or sufficient assets.
The relative petition process begins with the filing of Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative. The form establishes the relationship between the relative and the petitioner.

Sometimes Form I-130 can be filed together with the Green Card application, through Form I-485.

While the application is being processed, the foreign relative who is outside the United States will have to wait in their country of origin to be able to immigrate legally.


However, if you are already within the US, then you can adjust your status to permanent resident and file Form I-130. For family members of US citizens who are members of the Armed Forces, a special statute applies.

Petitions from relatives living abroad are sent to the National Visa Center (NVC). After processing the petition, the NVC forwards it to the US consulate in the relevant country. At that moment the so-called consular process begins.

Can an American citizen ask for a nephew?

It’s not possible. Although immigration law is quite broad, there are non-immediate relatives who do not qualify for this type of benefit. Citizens or permanent residents of the United States can only ask immediate family members, not a nephew.

Eligibility Requirements for a Family-based Immigration Sponsorship

Moreover, there are certain criteria that a US citizen/permanent resident needs to meet in order to be a sponsor. In addition to the basic fundamental requirement of being a US citizen or Green Card holder, a sponsor needs to:

  • Be able to prove that you have a close relationship with the family member which is one of the permitted categories
  • Maintain a principal residence in the United States
  • Have a minimum income of at least 125% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines
  • Prove that you can financially support your sponsored family member after they arrive in the United States

Required Documents for a Family-based Immigration

However, for both immediate relative and family preference sponsorship, the following documents need to be included in the application:

  • Passport valid for at least six months beyond the intended date of entry into the U.S
  • Birth certificate
  • Marriage certificate, if applicable
  • Marriage termination documentation, if applicable
  • Affidavit of support
  • Immigration medical examination form
  • Two passport-sized photographs

Moreover, note that depending on your individual circumstances, you may need to submit other documentation. Such as any documents which are not in English and therefore need to be translated.

Family-based Immigration Application Process

All Family-based Green Card applications follow the same procedure, regardless of whether the application is through the immediate relative or preference relative routes.

The family-based immigration process generally begins with the petitioner (U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident) making a request to the U.S. government to allow a family member to immigrate. The petitioner files Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, with USCIS.

However, the I-130 petition establishes the existence of a qualifying family relationship (within the immediate relative or family preference categories). For more details on what happens after filing the I-130 petition, view the Form I-130 processing time.

Once USCIS approves the I-130 petition and a visa number is available, the foreign family member may apply for a green card. There are two basic paths to apply for a green card: consular processing or adjustment of status. Consular processing is a means for applying for an immigrant visa (green card) through the U.S. embassy or consular office in a foreign country.

Applying for a U.S. Visa Through Family Sponsorship

In order to immigrate through family sponsorship, you must be an immediate relative of a U.S. citizen, which includes spouses, unmarried children under 21 years old (called unmarried children), parents, or siblings of either half or full blood. If your spouse is a U.S. citizen, he or she may petition for you to receive a green card. The two of you will have to submit documentation and attend an interview at a U.S. embassy in your home country in order to process this application.

What is Consular Processing?

Consular processing is the most common path to obtaining a green card. In some cases, an immigrant that is already inside the United States as a temporary visitor (e.g. student, tourist, etc.) may be able to adjust their status to permanent resident.

However, Consular processing is for those who are applying for a Green Card outside of the U.S. Via this route, the approved I-130 form will be forwarded to the embassy or consulate in the country where the applicant lives. The petitioner and the beneficiary will be notified when the petition arrives at the embassy or consulate, and they will also be informed of how to proceed with the process.

Once you receive this information, you will need to complete the DS-261 form. When this has been received and processed, you will need to pay the application fee of $325. You may also need to pay a $120 affidavit of support fee.

When the DS-261 form has been submitted and the application fee has been paid, the next step is to complete the DS-260 form. After you’ve submitted the DS-260 form and received confirmation, you will need to submit your documents to the National Visa Center. Moreover, the beneficiary will also need to attend a one-on-one interview with a consular officer to verify their eligibility as part of the process.

What is the Adjustment of status?

Adjustment of status is the process of changing immigration status to permanent residence (green card holder). Adjustment of status is only available to a small group of applicants. If the family member is in the United States. Then, the process that will need to be followed is the adjustment of status. This means that in order to obtain a Green Card, an I-485 form must be completed and submitted to the USCIS, along with all the required documentation.

How Much Does a Family-based Immigration Cost?

However, the cost of a family-based immigrant visa application depends on the particular application route:

  • I-130 Petition for Alien Relative form: $535
  • I-485 Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust status form: $1,140
  • DS-261 Application: $325

The Advantages of Family-Based Immigration

Moreover, here are the benefits of obtaining a family-based green card:

  1. Families are crucial to the social and economic incorporation of newcomers.
  2. Family-based immigration has a positive impact on business development and community improvement.
  3. Immigrants who come to the country on a family-based visa tend to move up the socioeconomic ladder.

Is family-based immigration permanent?

U.S. immigration law allows certain aliens who are family members of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents to become lawful permanent residents (get a Green Card) based on specific family relationships.

If you or a family member of yours want to obtain American residency for a family petition or for any case related to immigration matters, the immigration lawyers at Lluis Law are at your disposal and help you solve all your doubts. Get Your Application In progress By starting your Application Today from the US Immigration Portal.

How Can I Apply?     

First of all, anyone who wishes to immigrate based on family ties must be a US citizen or a legal permanent resident. Legal permanent residents (LPRs) have one year from the date of entry into the U.S. First off, you will need to apply for an immigrant visa by filing Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative with USCIS (the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services).

If you are eligible, once USCIS approves your petition, your family member can apply in a foreign country at a U.S. embassy or consulate if they live there (or will live there) while their permanent residence application is pending—more information on that process here: Applying For An Immigrant Visa At A U.S.

Final Thought 

The basics of family-based immigration to America are simple, you must be related by birth or marriage to a citizen or a legal resident of America. If you are an American citizen seeking information on bringing your spouse, parents, brothers, sisters, or children over from another country then please continue reading as we will provide you with everything that you need to know about applying for family-based visas.

1) You can only apply for family-based visas if you have already been approved in principle before going ahead with the application process.

2) You should start off by speaking to someone at the US Embassy in your home country so they can give you advice on what type of visa would be best suited to your situation.

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