Family-Based Green Cards

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Family-Based Green Card Attorneys

If you are a family member of a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, you may be able to obtain a green card based on that family relationship. Below are the different categories of family-based green cards and the procedures for applying, which vary depending on whether you are inside or outside the United States. The immigration lawyers at Bolour/Carl can help you navigate the process of acquiring a family-based green.

Immediate Relatives

There is an unlimited number of green cards available for immediate relatives of U.S. citizens every year. Immediate relatives include:

  • The spouse
  • Unmarried children under age 21 of a U.S. citizen
  • Parents of a U.S. citizen (if the citizen is over 21 years of age)

Family Preference

The family preference visa category applies to a broader range of family members of U.S. citizens and, in some cases, U.S. permanent residents. The number of green cards that are processed in this category is limited each year, with certain relationships receiving greater preference.

F1 First Preference

The F1 preference category is reserved for unmarried children of U.S. citizens who are age 21 and over.

F2 Second Preference

The F2 preference is broken out into two categories.

F2A visas are for spouses and children (unmarried and under age 21) of U.S. permanent residents.
F2B visas are for unmarried children (age 21 and older) of U.S. permanent residents.

F3 Third Preference

The F3 preference category is for married children of U.S. citizens.

F4 Fourth Preference

Finally, the F4 preference is for siblings of adult U.S. citizens.

How to apply for a family-based green card

If you are applying for an immediate relative or family-based green card, your U.S. citizen or permanent resident family member must file Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, with United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) on your behalf.

If you already live in the United States under a different status, you can apply to adjust your status using Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status. You will also have to submit supporting documentation, including Form I-864, Affidavit of Support, which your petitioner will have to fill out and sign, accepting financial responsibility for you.

As long as there is a visa available for you, you can file to adjust your status at the same time your family member files Form I-130, or you can file while Form I-130 is pending or after it has been approved. If a visa is not available, you will have to wait to file Form I-485.

If you currently live outside the United States, you must apply for your visa through a U.S. Embassy or Consulate in your country. You cannot do this until USCIS approves the I-130 petition and transfers your case to the National Visa Center. After you pay your fees, you must complete Form DS-260, Application for Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration online and submit supporting documentation. Your petitioner must submit Form I-864, Affidavit of Support, accepting financial responsibility for you. You must attend your interview on the scheduled time and date, at which point a Consular official will determine if you are eligible to obtain a green card.

Petition Number

Although green cards for immediate relatives are always available, family preference green cards are typically limited to 226,000 per year. This is divided into several sub-categories, based on the preference category and the applicant’s country of origin. No single country can account for more than 7 percent of the green cards in a particular category. If demand for your subcategory outstrips supply, you will be placed in a visa queue. You will be assigned a priority date, which corresponds with the date that the I-130 petition was property filed on your behalf.

The Department of State’s Visa Bulletin shows which green card applications can proceed based on the priority date. You can use the Visa Bulletin to estimate your wait time by monitoring how quickly you are moving up in line. The wait time may be several months or several years depending on your preference category and your country of residence.

If you would like to speak to a family-based green card lawyer, contact Bolour/Carl Immigration Group at 323-857-0034 or [email protected].

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While this website provides general information, it does not constitute legal advice. The best way to get guidance on your specific legal issue is to contact a lawyer. To schedule a meeting with an attorney, please call 323-857-0034 or complete the intake form below.


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Bolour / Carl Immigration Group is a full service immigration law firm. We have been representing immigrants, nonimmigrants, families, businesses, employees, and the like, from around the globe for over 25 years. With over 25 years of experience exclusively in the field of Immigration Law, we have garnered the knowledge to handle the most complex cases and adequately represent a wide range of clientele. The size of our firm ensures that all of our clients receive hands on service from their attorneys and a direct line of communication with our attorneys.