U.S. immigration law allows United States citizens and lawful permanent residents to sponsor certain relatives for permanent residence in the United States. The law separates the visa types for these relatives into two distinct groups. The first group is for “Immediate Relative” visas, and these visas are “unlimited.” This means that there is no limit on the number of immigrants who can enter the U.S. on these visas each year.
Immediate relatives include the following individuals:
- The spouse of a U.S. citizen
- The parent of an adult U.S. citizen. An adult is defined as an individual who is 21 years of age or older
- The unmarried children of a U.S. citizen
- An orphan who was adopted abroad by a U.S. citizen
- An orphan who’s adoption by a U.S. citizen is pending
The second group of visas is the “Family Preference Immigrant” visa, and these visas are “limited” or “capped” at a certain number. The family preference categories are as follows:
- Family First Preference (F1): The unmarried sons and daughters of U.S. citizens, and their minor children if applicable
- Family Second Preference (F2): The spouses, minor children, and adult unmarried sons and daughters of lawful permanent residents
- Family Third Preference (F3): The married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens, and their spouses and minor children
- Family Fourth Preference (F4): The brothers and sisters of adult U.S. citizens, and their spouses and minor children
Also, grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins, and in-laws cannot sponsor a relative for immigration.
In addition to the total number of Family Preference Immigrant visas being limited each year, there are also limitations within each preference category on the number of visas that are available to relatives from each foreign country. Because of this, there is always a large backlog for Family Preference Immigrant visas. Indeed in some categories the waiting period can be several years.
During a backlog, the available visas will be issued in the order in which the visa petitions were filed. The filing date is also known as the applicant’s priority date. Thus, it is important to file your petition on behalf of a family member as soon as possible in order to “get in line.’’ The Visa Bulletin which is maintained on the Department of State’s website, has the latest priority dates.
If your visa petition is denied you will receive a denial letter that will include instructions on how to appeal the denial.
Immigration Attorney Jose C. Campos, Esq. has significant experience in immigration matters and can assist you with your application for any visa. Please contact us to receive more information or to schedule an appointment.