The greatest number of green cards, by far, have historically gone to people with sponsoring relatives already in the U.S. Under current law, you may get a green card if you have a husband, wife, parent, child (who is over 21 years old), brother or sister who is a U.S. citizen. U.S. citizen step- parents and stepchildren, adopted children, half-brothers and half-sisters also count as sponsoring relatives. In addition, you may get a green card if you have a husband, wife or parent who is not a U.S. citizen but who holds a green card.
It is important to understand that your American relative must invite you to come to the U.S. and be willing to cooperate in the immigration process, including acting as your financial sponsor. It is also important to consider that some of the family categories, especially brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens, have very long waits under the green card quota system. In some cases, these waits may be for many years. If you fall into a family category where there is a long wait, you may want to look at the possibilities in employment categories, or even the lottery, because those methods can take less time. It is okay to submit green card petitions in more than one category.
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, specifically the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).
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 fiscal year 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 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.