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Family-Based Immigration

Under current immigration laws, U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents (LPRs) can sponsor certain family members for a visa that provides permanent residence (green cards). As in all other USICS immigration procedures, it is needed to prove eligibility for permanent residence by filing supporting documentation to support each case.

The U.S. Citizen/LPR (Petitioner) must also prove that he or she can financially sponsor the intending immigrant (Beneficiary), meaning that the beneficiary will not become a public charge to the U.S. There are mainly two groups eligible for family-based visas: Immediate Relatives and Family Preference Categories. These groups are dependent on the type of relationship that exists between the intending immigrant and the U.S. Citizen or LPR.


The immediate relative categories (I.R.) have an unlimited number of visas available, and in most cases, the entire application process takes around five months. These categories are reserved for the spouse, unmarried children, and parents of U.S. citizens:

IR1: Spouse of a U.S. citizen
IR2: Unmarried child (under 21 years of age) of a U.S. citizen
IR3: Orphan adopted abroad by a U.S. citizen
IR4: Orphan to be adopted in the United States by a U.S. citizen
IR5: Parent of a U.S. citizen (who is at least 21 years old)



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These categories are subject to a limited number of visas. The U.S. Department of State publishes a monthly visa bulletin stating when specific family preference cases become current. The categories based on family preferences are:

F1: Unmarried, adult sons and daughters (age 21 or over) of U.S. citizens
F2A: Spouses and unmarried children (under age 21) of permanent residents
F2B: Unmarried adult sons and daughters of permanent residents
F3: Married sons and daughters (any age) of U.S. citizens
F4: Brothers and sisters of adult U.S. citizens


The family-based immigration process begins with the petitioner (U.S. citizen) filing Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, with the USCIS. Once the I-130 is approved and a visa number is available (in the case of family preference), the foreign beneficiary may apply for a green card either by Consular Processing or Adjustment of Status.

Consular processing is when the final green card interview with a consular officer happens outside the United States at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate in the country of residence of the green card applicant. Consular processing is the most frequent path to obtaining a green card.

The Adjustment of Status occurs when a nonimmigrant visa holder (student, temporary worker, tourist, etc.) already in the United States applies for permanent residence under a temporary legal status. In this case, the green card interview is held at the USCIS.

It is important to notice that those applying for the adjustment of the status process have limitations to work and use U.S. public benefits while their green card applications are being processed by USCIS.

Regardless of the family-based immigration category, it is essential to rely on the legal services of specialized lawyers who can assist in every step of your green card application process. Gondim Law Corp has a team of attorneys with proven experience and a track record of success in all types of immigration proceedings to the United States.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is family-based immigration?

Family based immigration is becoming a U.S. permanent resident through certain family relations. Normally, a U.S. citizen (USC) or legal permanent resident (LPR) would file an immigration petition with the United States Citizenship and Immigrations Services (USCIS). This USC or LPR is called the “Sponsor.” The alien relative for whom the immigration petition is filed is called the “Beneficiary.”

Who can be a Sponsor?

A USC or LPR can be the Sponsor of a family-based immigration petition. However, the Sponsor has to meet some requirements and legal obligations. The Sponsor has to execute a legally binding affidavit of support for the Beneficiary, in which the Sponsor guarantees to maintain the standard of living of the intending immigrant at a level not lower than 125% of the national poverty level. This obligation continues until the Beneficiary has become a U.S. citizen or has worked in the United States for 40 qualifying quarters.

    Who can be a Beneficiary?

    First of all, “immediate relatives” of a USC, including parents, spouses, widows, and children of a USC (children who are unmarried and under 21 years of age, and, in the case of a parent of a USC, the petitioning son or daughter being at least 21 years of age) can immigrate to the United States without being subject to any numerical restrictions. They can apply for the permanent resident status without any waiting time. The rest of the Beneficiaries are divided into several groups called Preferences. Each Preference is given a numerical quota per year to limit the number of immigrants admitted into the United States. Please see the section on Visa Bulletin for more information.

    The four Preferences are as follows:

    1st Preference applies to unmarried sons and daughters of U.S. citizens
    2nd Preference applies to spouses and unmarried sons and daughters of lawful permanent residents
    3rd Preference applies to married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens
    4th Preference: siblings of U.S. citizens

      What documents are typically required for a family-based immigration petition?

      Depending on the relationship between the Sponsor and the Beneficiary, these are the typical documents required: certificate of naturalization, birth certificate, marriage license, adoption paper, and/or a divorce decree. In most cases, the Sponsor needs to provide employment verification and W-2 forms for recent years. Other information required of the Beneficiary includes the passport, visa, I-94, photos, and medical examination report.

        What is a fiancé visa?

        A fiancé(e) visa is a special nonimmigrant visa, K-1, issued to an alien who seeks to enter the United States to marry a U.S. citizen. First of all, the U.S. citizen Sponsor has to file a petition with the USCIS. Once approved, the alien fiancé will apply for a K-1 visa at a U.S. consulate overseas. On a K-1 visa, the alien has to marry the U.S. citizen Sponsor within 90 days after the alien enters the United States.