Family Based Immigration

There are five categories of immigrant visas that allow relatives of United States citizens and U.S. permanent residents to become U.S. permanent residents. Congress has limited the number of people, by country, who can immigrate each year, for many categories and nationalities. As such, for other than immediate relatives of U.S. citizens, there is a waiting list for the immigrant visa. For the current visa bulletin, please follow this link:

The following are the five family based immigrant visa categories:

  • Immediate Relatives of U.S. Citizens – Spouses, Parents (where U.S. citizen child is 21 years of age or older) and Unmarried Children Under Age 21.
  • First Preference – Unmarried Sons and Daughters (21 years of age or older) of U.S. citizens.
  • Second Preference – Spouses and Unmarried Sons, Daughters, and Children of U.S. Lawful Permanent Residents.
  • Third Preference – Married Sons and Daughters (age 21 or older) of U.S. citizens.
  • Fourth Preference – Brothers and Sisters of U.S. Citizens (U.S. citizen must be age 21 or older).

There are generally two stages involved in obtaining permanent residency through a family member. The first step is for the U.S. citizen or permanent resident to file Form I-130 and evidence demonstrating a valid familial relationship with the appropriate service center in the United States. Once approved, and a visa becomes available, the applicant can proceed with the greencard application either in the United States through Adjustment of Status (Form I-485) or directly through a U.S. Consular office abroad. In some cases, immediate relatives of U.S. citizens can file these two steps concurrently if they are in the United States.


U.S. Citizenship can be obtained by either birth or naturalization. There are benefits to becoming a U.S. citizen. Such benefits include, but are not limited to, the right to vote and sit on a jury. In addition there are federal grants and scholarships, which are only available to U.S. citizens.

Naturalization is the process whereby U.S. citizenship is conferred upon a foreign citizen or other national after he/she fulfills requirements established by Congress in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). The following is an overview of the general requirements for administrative naturalization include:

  • Period of continuous residence and physical presence in the United States;
  • Ability to read, write, and speak English;
  • Knowledge and understanding of U.S. history and government;
  • Good moral character;
  • Attachment to the principles of the U.S. Constitution; and
  • Favorable disposition toward the United States.

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service website provides a detailed Guide to Naturalization. Please use this link to determine your eligibility for naturalization.

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