Introduction to Family-Based Immigration

Posted on February 06, 2007 by Warren Wen | Category: Immigration

The United States was born from the dream that people are created equally and that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights of freedom, equality and the right to pursue happiness.  In pursuing this dream, 102 pilgrims stepped into the Mayflower and arrived in the United States of America in 1620.  This was the beginning of U.S. immigration.  Hundreds years later, the United States became the strongest and most developed country in the whole world.  Its citizens enjoy unprecedented freedom and liberty.  Every year, millions of aliens swarm into the United States to pursue their American dreams.

Generally speaking, there are two primary categories in the U.S. immigration selection system: one is employment-based immigration, and the other is family-based immigration.  Compared to the employment-based immigration, family-based immigration is easier to qualify for, and the application process is much simpler.  Hence, a great number of aliens immigrate to the United States under the family-based category each year.

Under U.S. immigration laws, there are two basic categories under family- based immigration: Immediate Relatives and Preference Relatives.  Immediate relatives of U.S. citizens can get green cards without worrying about numerical limits or waiting periods, but preference relatives are subject to yearly numerical limits and waiting periods between 1 and 23 years.

Immediate Relatives

There is no limit on the number of visas which may be issued to immediate relatives of U.S. citizens, which include the following:

1.    Spouses of U.S. citizens;
2.    Minor unmarried children (under 21) of U.S. citizens;
3.    Parents of U.S. citizens, provided that the citizen petitioner is as least 21 years of age.

Preference Relatives

All the preference relatives are subject to numerical limits and waiting periods, which are divided into four preference categories.  The quotas and waiting periods are different for each category.

1. First preference – Unmarried sons or daughters of U.S. citizens;
2. Second Preference – Spouses, children, and unmarried sons and daughters of lawful permanent resident aliens:
2A. Spouses and Children;
2B. Unmarried Sons and Daughters (21 years of age or older);
3. Third Preference – Married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens;
4. Fourth preference – Brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens, their spouses and children, if such citizens are at least 21 years of age.

The overall cap for family-sponsored immigrants shows some mobility each year, and the quotas are allocated differently depending on which countries and regions the aliens come from.  If anyone wants to apply for Lawful Permanent Resident status based on family relationship, it is recommended that he or she seek legal advice and service from professionals.

This article is only for your reference. Please do not apply mechanically to any exact cases. You are welcome to consult our attorneys at Liu & Associates, P.C. For contact information, please click here.