Relatives of US Citizens and Permanent Residents

US citizens and permanent residents may be able to sponsor certain relatives for immigration to the US.

After a qualifying relationship has been established, relatives who are Immediate Relatives of US citizens may immediately be eligible to immigrate to the US. Immediate relatives of US citizens include: parents (if the petitioning US citizen child is at least 21 years of age), spouses, widows, and children (who are unmarried and under 21 years of age).

The other qualifying relatives of US citizens and permanent residents are divided into four Preference Categories, which are:

  • 1st Preference – Unmarried Sons and Daughters of Citizens
  • 2nd Preference – (A) Spouses and Children (Under 21 Years of Age) of Permanent Residents; (B) Unmarried Sons and Daughters of Permanent Residents (Over 21 Years of Age)
  • 3rd Preference – Married Sons and Daughters of Citizens
  • 4th Preference – Siblings of Citizens

Each preference category is allotted a certain number of immigrant visas per year. Those who fall into categories where visa numbers are backlogged will need to wait for a visa number to become available before they can immigrate to the US.

Visa numbers are issued in the order of the priority date for immigrant petitions – the priority date is the date that the sponsor’s immigrant petition for the relative was received by US Citizenship and Immigration Services. (Because there is a higher demands for immigrant visas for persons from China, the Dominican Republic, India, Mexico and the Philippines, priority dates for these countries may be different.) Once the priority date for a petition becomes current, the relative-beneficiary will be eligible to apply for US immigration.

The priority dates for the preference categories are updated monthly, and available through the Visa Bulletin, a publication of the US Department of State.

It is important to note that priority dates do not necessarily progress in real time. For example, while the backlog for a family-based fourth preference category petition may be 10 years, the actual wait may be much longer.

PLEASE NOTE: Immigration law and regulations change frequently. In order to protect yourself you should make sure that you understand the laws and how they apply to you. If you have questions about your status, you should consult an expert. If you would like to be notified about recent changes to this website, or if you would like to receive Immigration Tips by email, please provide us with your email address. If you would like help from Ms. Chappell-Daly, please contact her.