One of the principal goals of the INA (Immigration and Nationality Act) is family reunification and this is evident in the preference given to close family members of US Citizens and permanent residents. Many forms of relief from removal are only given to close relatives of US Citizens and permanent residents. In addition, when a family member is “sponsored” by a qualifying relative, they would be eligible for a “green card” (become a lawful permanent resident or LPR) and can work and reside permanently in the United States and eventually attain citizenship.
While this category on the surface appears to be relatively straightforward, family sponsored immigration can quickly become confusing, especially when dealing with adoption, certain qualifying relationships, exemptions, and affidavit of support issues.
Generally, a petitioner (the one sponsoring another family member) would file an I-130 with the USCIS if they reside in the United States. However, if the petitioner resides outside of the United States, they would file with the consular office having jurisdiction over the petitioner’s residence. Also, if the beneficiary (the family member being “sponsored”) is currently present in the United States and an immigrant visa is immediately available, the beneficiary may be able to adjust his her status and can file the petition simultaneously.
Annually, there is a cap of 480,000 family-sponsored immigrant visas, with a minimum level of 226,000 set under the Immigration and Nationality Act. The overall cap can be enhanced from any unused employment-based visas from the previous fiscal year.
Two groups of family based immigrant visa categories, including immediate relatives and family preference categories, are provided under the provisions of United States immigration law.
Immediate Relative Immigrant Visas (Unlimited): These visa types are based on a close family relationship with a United States (U.S.) citizen described as an Immediate Relative (IR). The number of immigrants in these categories is not limited each fiscal year.
Immediate relative visa types include:
IR-1: Spouse of a U.S. Citizen
IR-2: Unmarried Child Under 21 Years of Age of a U.S. Citizen
IR-3: Orphan adopted abroad by a U.S. Citizen
IR-4: Orphan to be adopted in the U.S. by a U.S. citizen
IR-5: Parent of a U.S. Citizen who is at least 21 years old
Family Preference Immigrant Visas (Limited): These visa types are for specific, more distant, family relationships with a U.S. citizen and some specified relationships with a Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR). There are numerical limitations on family preference immigrants, shown at the end of each category. The family preference categories are:
Family First Preference (F1): Unmarried sons and daughters of U.S. citizens, and their minor children, if any. (23,400)
Family Second Preference (F2): Spouses, minor children, and unmarried sons and daughters (age 21 and over) of LPRs. At least seventy-seven percent of all visas available for this category will go to the spouses and children; the remainder is allocated to unmarried sons and daughters. (114,200)
Family Third Preference (F3): Married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens, and their spouses and minor children. (23,400)
Family Fourth Preference (F4): Brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens, and their spouses and minor children, provided the U.S. citizens are at least 21 years of age. (65,000)
Note: Grandparents, aunts, uncles, in-laws, and cousins cannot sponsor a relative for immigration.
If you have a loved one you would like to sponsor for immigration to the United States, contact this office to learn more about the different types of family-sponsored immigration and whether a relative qualifies for this benefit.