Immigration Solutions for Families and Couples

Applicants for permanent residency based on their relationship to a US Citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident (green card holder) are divided into different categories. Which category you are placed into determines how long you will have to wait for a green card to become available for you.

Immediate Relatives

Immediate relatives of U.S. citizens are exempt from quotas and can generally process their applications quickly. Immediate relatives include spouses and minor children of U.S. citizens and parents of U.S. citizens who are over 21 years of age. Spouses of U.S. citizens are granted a two-year conditional green card, unless the marriage has been in existence for at least two years at the time the applicant is admitted as a resident. Conditional permanent residents must apply to remove the conditional nature of the green card during the 90-day window prior to the expiration of the conditional green card.

There are also five family-sponsored categories that are subject to numerical limits, which often create long waiting lines. The waiting lines can be longer for applicants born in India, Mexico, the Philippines, and mainland China.

First Preference - Unmarried Children of US Citizens

The first preference is for unmarried sons and daughters of U.S. citizens regardless of age. There is generally a waiting line of approximately six years for first preference immigrants.

Second Preference - Immediate Relatives of LPRs

The second preference includes two sub-categories: one for spouses and minor children of permanent residents; and the other for unmarried adult sons and daughters of permanent residents. The first sub-category presently has a waiting line of approximately five years. There are no benefits granted to applicants waiting for a visa to become available. Because of the very limited number of visas allocated, and the large number of applicants, adult unmarried sons and daughters of permanent residents have to wait even longer to obtain permanent resident status. Caution should be exercised before filing a second preference petition for unmarried adult sons and daughters. They will generally not be able to legally immigrate for at least eleven years, and even longer—sixteen years—if they were born in Mexico.

Third Preference -- Married Children of US Citizens

The third preference category is for married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens. This category has a waiting line of approximately eight years, and approximately sixteen and seventeen years, respectively, for applicants born in Mexico and the Philippines.

Fourth Preference -- Brothers and Sisters of US Citizens

The fourth preference is for brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens who are 21 years of age or over. This category is backlogged over eleven years and is moving slowly. It is possible that it could take anywhere from 15 to 21 years to immigrate through a U.S. citizen sibling.

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