There are several ways to immigrate to the United States; one of the most common ways is through a family member.

Both United States citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents can apply for family members; however, which family members, differs for US citizens and LPRs.

Immediate Relatives & Preference Categories

The familial categories are broken down into two broad categories, (1) Immediate Relatives, and (2) Preference Category members. These two categories are important because Immediate Relatives always have a ‘visa number’ available, and Preference Category members must wait for a ‘visa number’ to become available.

In practice, Immediate Relatives do not have to ‘wait in line’ and can apply for a green card as soon as they are ready. Most Preference Category members must wait for a while until they are eligible to apply for their green card.

Applicants check the wait times for preference categories in the Visa Bulletin.  The Department of State updates the wait times for preference categories every month.

United States Citizens:

United Sates citizens can apply for the following family members:

The following relationships are classified as ‘Immediate Relatives:’

  1. Spouses of US citizens;
  2. Unmarried children under the age of 21;
  3. The parents of a US citizen where the US citizen is over 21 years of age.

The following relationships are classified as ‘Preference Category’ relationships:

  1. Unmarried Sons and Daughters of US citizens (‘Sons and Daughter’s means children over the age of 21);
  2. Married Sons and Daughters of US citizens;
  3. Brothers and Sisters of adult US citizens.

Lawful Permanent Residents:

Lawful Permanent Residents do not have any relationships that are classified as ‘Immediate Relatives.’

The following relationships are classified as ‘Preference Category’ relationships:

  1. Spouses of Lawful Permanent Residents;
  2. Children (under 21) of LPRs;
  3. Unmarried Sons and Daughters (‘Sons and Daughter’s means children over the age of 21) of Permanent Residents;

Examples

            Immediate Relative

You are a United States citizen, and you would like to bring your wife to the United States.  You would file an I-130 for her, and when that is approved your wife can immediately move onto the next step of applying for her ‘immigrant visa.’  You’ll also file your Affidavit of Support documents at that time.  Your wife only has to wait as long as it takes for the following: USCIS to process your I-130, the National Visa Center to process the DS-260 and financial document, and the Embassy to schedule an interview. Your wife does not have to wait any additional time.

Preference Category

You are a United States citizen, and you would like to apply for your brother in Ireland. You file an I-130 for him on July 1, 2022.  You then check the Visa Bulletin to see how long the wait is. You need three pieces of information to check this:

  1. Which Preference Category: Siblings of US citizens is the 4th Category (F4);
  2. Country of Chargeability: Country is Ireland;
  3. Visa Bulletin Chart: You check the Visa Bulletin and go to category F4 under the column ‘all chargeability areas except those listed.’ If your relative is from China, India, Mexico or the Philippines you’d check the respective column.

In this example, you filed an I-130 for your brother on July 1, 2022.  Your brother now must wait until his priority date (7/1/2022) is current, in order to apply for his immigrant visa (green card).

The National Visa Center is currently processing applications filed on March 22, 2007, for Ireland, so your brother will have to wait approximately 15 years for his priority date to become current; however, the reality is that the wait will likely be longer than that.

Family-
Sponsored 
All Chargeability
Areas Except
Those Listed
CHINA-mainland
born
INDIA MEXICO PHILIPPINES 
F1 01DEC14 01DEC14 01DEC14 15MAR00 01MAR12
F2A C C C 22APR19 C
F2B 22SEP15 22SEP15 22SEP15 01APR01 22OCT11
F3 22NOV08 22NOV08 22NOV08 15OCT97 08JUN02
F4 22MAR07 22MAR07 15SEP05 01JUN00 22AUG02

If you or a loved one would like to apply for a green card through consular processing, please contact an immigration attorney who is trustworthy and knowledgeable! Our attorneys at Landerholm Immigration, APC, are experienced in complex  and simple consular processing cases. Please feel free to call us at 510-488-1020 to see how we can help!