Family of U.S. Citizens

A U.S. citizen may petition certain family members to receive a green card, fiancé visa or a K-3/K-4 Visa based on your relationship.

Type of Relative U.S. Citizen Can Petition Immigration Benefit
Children (unmarried and under 21)
Sons and daughters (married and/or 21 or over)
Parents, if you are 21 or over
Siblings, if you are 21 or over
Green Card (Permanent Residence)
A fiancé(e) residing outside the United States and children of fiancé(e) under 21 Fiancé(e) Visa
Children of spouse (unmarried and under 21)
K-3/K-4 Nonimmigrant Visa

Application for Green Card (Permanent Residence)

To petition for a family member to receive a green card (permanent residence), you must submit the following:
  • Proof of your U.S. citizenship
  • Evidence of the qualifying relationship (birth certificate, marriage certificate, divorce decree, etc.)
  • Proof of any legal name change for you or the beneficiary
Spouses of deceased U.S. permanent residents (widows and widowers) may also be eligible to become permanent residents.

Immediate Relatives

The term “immediate relative(s)” is used to define certain immigrant relatives of U.S. citizens. Immediate relatives include:
  • Spouses of U.S. citizens
  • Children (unmarried and under 21) of U.S. citizens
  • Parents of U.S. citizens (The petitioning citizen must be 21 or older.)
For immediate relatives of U.S. citizens, visas are always available, which means that your family member does not need to wait in line for a visa.

Preference Categories

Preference categories apply to family members who are not immediate relatives. The visas allotted for these categories are subject to annual numerical limits. A visa becomes available to a preference category based on the priority date (the date the Form I-130 was filed). Preference categories are grouped as follows:
  • First preference: Unmarried, adult sons and daughters of U.S. citizens (adult means 21 or older.)
  • Second Preference (2A): Spouses of green card holders, unmarried children (under 21) of permanent residents
  • Second Preference (2B): Unmarried adult sons and daughters of permanent residents
  • Third Preference: Married sons and daughters (any age) of U.S. citizens
  • Fourth Preference: Brothers and sisters of adult U.S. citizens
For current wait times, see the “Processing Dates” link and the “Visa Bulletin” link on the home page of this website.

Next Steps

  • If your relative is already in the United States, he or she may apply to adjust status to become a green card holder (permanent resident) after a visa number becomes available using Form I-485.
  • If your relative is outside the United States, your petition will be sent to the National Visa Center (NVC). The NVC will forward your petition to the appropriate U.S. consulate when a visa becomes available and your relative will be notified about how to proceed. This process is referred to as “Consular Processing.”
  • Your family member’s preference category will determine how long he or she will have to wait for an immigrant visa number.

Members of the Military

If you or a member of your family is in the U.S. military, special conditions may apply.