Family Preference Green Card

If you are related to a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident (LPR), you probably know that you could be eligible for an immigrant visa to live and work in the U.S. as a lawful permanent resident with a green card. You may also know that the process of applying for a green card is complicated. Mistakes could not only cause your application to be rejected but could also make officials more likely to deny your application in the future.

There is a reason so many green card applicants choose to work with the experienced immigration lawyers at Luis F. Hess, PLLC. We have the knowledge to help you demonstrate your qualifications thoroughly and will guide through each step in the process to avoid mistakes and get results.

Priority of Family Visa Applications

If you are what officials call an “immediate relative” of a U.S. citizen, then you are eligible for a green card without waiting for a visa to become available. Spouses, minor children, and parents of U.S. citizens fit into this category.

Certain other family members who don’t meet the qualifications to be considered immediate relatives are also able to receive a green card in “family preference” categories. There are five preference categories and they are ranked in priority. Because the number of visas available for immigrants in these categories is limited and subject to annual quotas, it is important to document your eligibility for the highest available preference category to shorten your wait time. Applicants in lower preference categories may have to wait years for a visa to become available, particularly if they are applying from a country with a large number of applicants.

The Family Preference Relationships

The family preference categories include relatives of both U.S. citizens and green card holders. Showing a relationship to a U.S. citizen gives you higher preference, so if you apply based on a relationship with a green card holder who later becomes a citizen, make sure to inform your immigration attorney so they can adjust the information on file with immigration officials.

Family preference categories are:

  • First preference (F1) – Unmarried adult children of U.S. citizens (unmarried children under age 21 can apply as immediate relatives)
  • Second preference (F2A) – Spouses and unmarried minor (under age 21) children of green card holders
  • Second preference (F2B) – Unmarried adult children of green card holders
  • Third preference (F3) – Married children of U.S. citizens (and their spouses and children)
  • Fourth preference (F4) – Siblings of adult U.S. citizens (and their spouses and children)

Although both married and unmarried children of green card holders are in the second preference category, the majority of visas in that category are reserved for spouses and unmarried children, so it is effectively a separate category. Unfortunately, married children and siblings of green card holders are not eligible for family preference visas—the sponsoring family member must be a U.S. citizen.

Application Process for Family Preference Visas

There are two primary stages in the process of applying for a family-based immigrant visa with a green card. First, the U.S. citizen or green card holder must file a Form I-130 Petition for Alien Relative with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The agency may take considerable time to process the petition and supporting documentation, and if anything is missing or questionable, the petition could be set aside, leading to considerable delays.

Once that stage in the process is complete, the next step depends on the location of the visa applicant. If they are inside the U.S., they can apply for an adjustment of status with USCIS. Applicants outside the U.S. apply for a visa through the U.S. State Department through a procedure known as consular processing. An immigration attorney could review your situation to determine which process would be quicker based on circumstances and current processing times.

Find Out How a Green Card Lawyer Could Help

At the law office of Luis F. Hess, PLLC, we understand how important it is to get your family preference green card with as little delay as possible. We strive to do everything within our power to help you succeed. Talk to us today to learn how we could help in the visa process.