Family-Based Permanent Residence: Who is Eligible?

Looking to join your family as a United States permanent resident? It can be overwhelming to learn about the process of obtaining a green card, so it’s important to know exactly where you should start. In order to get a green card through family, you will generally apply within one of four possible categories. Take a look at these options to see which one most resembles your situation.

  1. You’re the Immediate Relative of a US Citizen

For the purpose of this green card, you must be the immediate relative of a US citizen. That means you’re either the citizen’s spouse, an unmarried child of the citizen under the age of 21, or a parent of the citizen (as long as the citizen is 21 or older). As an immediate relative, you get special priority in the immigration process, as there are unlimited visas available for your category. That means you won’t have to wait for an immigrant visa number to become available.

  1. You’re in a US Citizen’s Family Preference Category

If you’re not an immediate relative of a US citizen by the above definition, you can still apply for a green card through something called a family preference category. You may be eligible if you’re the citizen’s unmarried son or daughter over the age of 21, a married child of any age, or brother or sister (as long as the citizen is over 21). Unlike immediate relatives, Congress limits the number of people who can immigrate under this category, so you may need to go through a waiting period before you receive an immigrant visa number.

  1. You’re the Family Member of a Green Card Holder

US immigration law also allows you to apply for a green card if you’re the family member of a permanent resident. You’ll have to file either as an immediate relative or someone in a family preference category, as described above. Again, visas are limited for this category, so you may have to sit through a waiting period before you get your immigrant visa number.

  1. You’re in a Special Category

Green cards are also available for people in special situations. If you’re the battered spouse, child, or parent of an abusive US citizen, the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) allows you to file a petition without the abuser’s knowledge. Alternatively, you may want a green card as the fiance of a US citizen or the fiance’s minor child; as someone born in the US to a foreign diplomat; as a V-Visa holder who is the child or spouse of a permanent resident; or as the widow of a US citizen.

Generally speaking, the first three categories involve filing Form I-485 after your US citizen family member (called your “sponsor” or “petitioner”) has filed Form I-130. This can be done from inside or outside the United States by following different procedures. If you’re in a special category, you’ll most likely have a different set of rules and forms to follow.

While the US immigration process can be intimidating, you don’t have to go through it alone. At Sánchez-Roig Law Firm, P.A., we take pride in reuniting people with their families. Call our dedicated attorneys to maximize your chances at a successful green card application.