Family-Based Green Cards



The process differs a bit when petitioning and applying for family-based green cards for family members, other than immediate family members, from the USCIS.

Getting a Green Card

The basic process is the same four-step process as for immediate family members, but with one important difference; for non-immediate family members, there is a limit to the number of green cards issued each year, and so non-immediate family members do have to wait for a visa number to become available to them.

This is different than the scenario for immediate family members. Immediate family member visas are not limited, and a visa number must be made available immediately to these persons so they can complete the process of applying for a green card as quickly as possible, thus allowing for the couple and/or family unit to be reunited as quickly as possible.

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Who Qualifies?

Immediate family members are considered to be a sponsor's . . .

  • Parents (mother, father)

  • Spouse (husband, wife)

  • Minor children

Non-immediate family members may be sponsored, but will be processed according to the availability of visa numbers in their home country; these are processed in order of preference according to the relationship to the sponsor. The order of preference is:

  1. Unmarried adult children (over 21)

  2. Spouses of permanent residents (green card holders) and their unmarried children of any age

  3. Married children of US citizens and their family (spouse and children)

  4. Siblings of US citizens and their family (spouse, children)

How Long Does It Take?

For non-immediate family members, the wait for a place in line (a visa number) could be months or years. It really all depends on the number of visas available in their country. The USCIS does issue bulletins with availability information you can check to try and estimate the wait.

In any case, it is important to understand this essential difference between immediate and non-immediate family-based green cards so you know what to expect and how to proceed. For more advice and information, see the resources on this site.

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