Family Immigration

How Can My Family Immigrate to the United States?

There are two ways to obtain an immigrant visa (aka “green card”), either through employment or through family.

Family-sponsored immigrants enter in one of two ways, either as immediate relatives or through what is called the family preference system. Here, it is the family member, rather than an employer, who files a petition to keep a foreign national in the country, with a permanent visa.

Through Immediate Relatives


There are an unlimited number of visas issued for immediate relatives of U.S. citizens, and immediate relatives of United States Citizens are exempt from the need for an immigrant visa number. This group includes the following:

Spouses: Spouses must prove the following: evidence of a bona fide marriage, valid marriage and legal termination of a prior marriage; a valid marriage, which is judged by law of the place it is entered into and physical presence together at the ceremony. (A proxy, picture, telephone, radio, television or similar absentee marriage does not confer immigration benefits.) However, consummation by cohabitation between the parties after the marriage will accrue benefits.

Unmarried minor children of U.S. citizens: Unmarried children must show they are unmarried and under the age of 21 AT THE TIME THE VISA IS ISSUED AND ENTRY INTO THE U.S. If the child marries or becomes 21 after the visa is issued, and BEFORE admission or adjustment, then they are no longer considered a child.

  • Stepchild is included in the definition of child if under 18 at the time the marriage occurred which created the status of stepchild.
  • Adoptive child is included if adopted under the age of 16 and in legal custody of and has resided with the adopting parent for at least 2 years.
  • Orphans under 16 at the time the visa petition filed on his or her behalf. Orphaned by death or disappearance or abandonment or desertion by, or separation or loss from, both parents.
  • Child born out of wedlock where child not is legitimated by the father. Full legal status as a child accomplished by marriage of the child’s natural parents. If not legitimized, the law recognizes the relationship with respect to the natural father where the parent and child lived together, father held child out as his own and provided some or all of child’s needs.

Parents of US citizens who are at least 21 years old: Defined term means a parent who is such, by reason of a relationship to a child as biological parent, stepparent, mother of child born out of wedlock or adoptive parent.

Through the Family Sponsored Preference

The family preference system is far more restrictive than immigration through an immediate relative, and has a limited number of visas issued in its four categories each year. In addition, the waiting period for a visa through family sponsored preference can be extremely long.

FS-1 Visa for Unmarried sons and daughters of U.S. Citizens

Such sons and daughters must prove that the son or daughter once qualified as a child, so, in effect, this applies to an adult, unmarried child of a U.S. citizen.

FS-2 Visa for Spouses and Unmarried Sons and Daughters of Permanent Resident Aliens

This group has two tiers:

  • 2A-Spouses and minor, unmarried sons and daughters
  • 2B-Adult unmarried children

FS-3 Visa for Married sons and daughters of U.S. Citizens

A U.S. citizen’s son or daughter, even if over 21 and married, includes legitimized children, but only if under the age of 18 at time of legitimating. Adoptive children qualify if they qualify as “children” within statutory definition.

FS-4 Visa for Brothers and Sisters of U.S. Adult Citizens

Citizen must be at least 21 years old. This group is backlogged and it may be best to try an another route such as a U.S. citizen sponsoring a parent who in turn sponsors a sibling. To establish a sibling relationship, petitioner and beneficiary must have once qualified as “children” of a common “parent.”

It is easy to see that family reunification is one of the most visible areas in government policy in which we support and strengthen family values. We acknowledge that family unification translates into strong families who build strong communities.
Keamy Tavares & Associates