Family-based Lawful Permanent Residence PDF Print E-mail

Family-based Lawful Permanent Residence


Background Information

Certain family members of citizens and lawful permanent residents can immigrate to the United States   categories of family-based lawful permanent residence:

(1) Immediate Relative Category; and

(2) Family Preference Category.

Both these categories define who are eligible and how quickly an individual can immigrate to the U.S. as a lawful permanent resident with their "green card."

Immediate Family Category

Immediate Family Category means that the family members below, when petitioned by their U. S. citizen relative, have an immigrant visa immediately available for processing. The waiting period is much shorter than for the Family Preference Category.

There are five immediate family categories

1.  Spouses of U. S. citizens;

2.  Minor children (unmarried and 20 years and below) of U.S. citizens;

3.  Orphans adopted overseas by U.S. citizens;

4.  Orphans adopted in the U.S. by U.S. citizens; and

5.  Parents of adult (21 years and above) U.S. citizens.

Once the I-130 Petition for Alien Relative has been approved, the processing of immigration forms can begin immediately either in the relative's country of origin (Consular Processing) or through the USCIS office in the United States, if the beneficiary and their derivatives are in legal immigration status (Adjustment of Status).

Family Preference Category

Family Preference Category means that certain family members, when petitioned by the U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident relative, can immigrate to the U.S. However, relatives from the Family Preference Category will have to wait when an immigrant visa is available in order to immigrate into the U.S.

First Preference: Unmarried adult children (21 years old and above) of U.S. citizens.

Second Preference:

2A:   Spouses and unmarried minor children (20 years old and below) of lawful permanent residents.

2B: Unmarried adult children (21 years old and above) of lawful permanent residents.

Third Preference: Married children of U.S. citizens. The beneficiary (married children of U.S. citizens) can immigrate with their spouses and unmarried minor children (20 years and below) The family members of the beneficiary are referred to as "derivatives."

Fourth Preference: Siblings of U.S. citizens as long as the U.S. citizen is at least 21 years old. The beneficiary can immigrate with their spouses and unmarried minor children (20 years and below) as "derivatives."

There are only a certain number of immigrant visas available under the Family Preference Category. Therefore, the length of time for the waiting period depends on the country of origin and beneficiary's category.

When an I-130 Petition for Alien Relative is properly filed with the USCIS, a receipt date is issued and it is this date that is referred to as the "priority date." This "priority date" will determine whether an immigrant visa is available. The availability of visas is issued monthly by the Department of State through the Visa Bulletin. The Department of State Visa Bulletin is accessible at OR

The dates listed in each of the columns are the priority dates. When the priority date becomes current, the processing of immigration forms can begin either through Consular Processing in the beneficiary's country of origin or through an Adjustment of Status at the USCIS office that has jurisdiction over the beneficiary's residence.

Child Status Protection Act

The U.S. Congress passed the Child Status Protection Act (CSPA) in order for a "child" (unmarried and 20 years and below) who is a beneficiary to retain classification as a "child" even if they have reached the age of 21. Before CSPA, which became effective on August 6, 2002, a beneficiary "child" who turned 21 years old before receiving permanent residency would "age out" of the "child" classification for immigration purposes, only to be re-classified into another family relative classification. What would happen is that because of the long immigrant processing and the long waiting period for a priority date to become current, many who were classified as a "child" would "age out" and most often be re-classified into another "Family Preference Category" only to wait many more years for their priority date to be current. CSPA remedies this problem and now many beneficiaries, even though they are 21 years old or above, may preserve their "child" status for immigration purposes.

Note: In order to determine whether your "child" is eligible for CSPA contact an Immigration Attorney as the CSPA determination is complicated with a specific eligibility criteria and qualifications.

Admissibility into the United States

As a general rule, all non-immigrants and immigrants who enter the United States have to be deemed by the United States government as being admissible into the country. Therefore, when an immigration applicant, whether through consular processing in their country of origin or through adjustment of status in the United States, applies to become a permanent lawful resident, the government will determine whether any of these inadmissibility grounds apply: Health, Criminal, Security, Public Charge, and any Immigration Violations. For further information on (in)admissibility, please consult an Immigration Attorney.

Note: Petitioning for a family relative to become a lawful permanent resident can be a complicated process and, therefore, it is advisable to contact an Immigration Attorney to ensure a higher probability of success in the application process.



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