Green Card for a Family Member of a U.S. Citizen
Family Preference Category
If the family member of the U.S. citizen does not qualify as an immediate relative, then the U.S. citizen may still be able to sponsor them via what is called a “family preference category.”
Eligible Relatives in the Family Preference Category:
- Unmarried sons or daughters over the age of 21
- Married children of any age
- Brothers and sisters (if the U.S. citizen petitioner is over the age of 21)
Congress has limited the number of relatives who may immigrate under the family preference category each year so there is usually a waiting period before an immigrant visa number becomes available. The waiting period can be in excess of several years.
Green Card Process for the Family Preference Category
The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) offers an individual two primary paths to permanent resident status (a green card).
If you are currently outside the United States and are one of the specified categories of relatives of a U.S. citizen in a family preference category, you can become a permanent resident through consular processing. Consular processing requires the U.S. Department of State to issue a visa on an approved Form I-130 Petition for Alien Relative when a visa becomes available. If approved, the U.S. Consulate will issue you a visa and you may then travel on the visa and will officially become a permanent resident when admitted at a U.S. port of entry.
If you are currently in the United States and are one of the specified categories of relatives of a U.S. citizen in a family preference category, you may be able to become a permanent resident in two steps.
Step One – Your U.S. citizen family member (sponsor) must file the Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative with USCIS, for you and it must be approved. You must wait for your priority date in your immigrant visa category to become current. Your priority date is the date when the Form I-130 is properly filed (with correct fee and signature) on your behalf by your U.S. citizen relative.
Step Two – Once the priority date in your visa category is current, you may file Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status with USCIS. If approved, your status will be adjusted to that of a permanent resident and you will be issued a Green Card.
Things to keep in mind:
Child Status Protection Act. In certain cases, the Child Status Protection Act (CSPA) may allow you to retain the classification of “child” even if you have reached age 21. Generally, your age is “frozen” as of the date your U.S. citizen parent files Form I-130 for you.
Getting Married. If an immediate relative child under age 21 gets married, he or she can no longer be classified as an “immediate relative” and will become a “third preference” (F3) category married son or daughter of a U.S. citizen and a visa would no longer be immediately available. USCIS must be notified of any change in your marital status after Form I-130 has been filed for you and prior to becoming a permanent resident or obtaining an immigrant visa.
The immigration attorneys at Allen & Pinnix, P.A.. can assist you and your U.S. citizen relative through the entire Green Card application process. They can also determine if the Child Status Protection Act may apply to you. Schedule a consultation or by calling our office – 919-55-0505.