Family-Based Immigration is the process of obtaining a Visa to enter the United States in order to become a legal permanent resident through the use of your family members who are already in the United States. This includes parents, spouses, children (natural or adopted), brothers or sisters.

There are two groups of family-based immigrant visa categories. The first group of Family-Based Immigrant visas is immediate relatives. The second group of Family-Based Immigrant Visas is family preference. These Family-Based Immigrant Visa 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 that can emigrate to the United States using these categories is not limited during 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 and
  • 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 below. Please note that Grandparents, aunts, uncles, in-laws, and cousins cannot sponsor a relative for immigration

The family preference categories are:

  • Family First Preference (F1): Unmarried sons and daughters of U.S. citizens, and their minor children, if any (limited to 23,400 visas)
  • Family Second Preference (F2): Spouses, minor children, and unmarried sons and daughters (age 21 and over) of legal permanent residents. At least seventy-seven percent of all visas available for this category will go to the spouses and children; the remainder is usually allocated to unmarried sons and daughters (limited to 114,200 visas)
  • Family Third Preference (F3): Married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens, their spouses and minor children, if any (limited to 23,400 visas)
  • 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 (limited to 65,000 visas).

Whenever the number of qualified applicants for a category exceeds the available immigrant visas, there will be an immigration backlog. When there is an immigration backlog, the available immigrant visas will be issued in the chronological order based on their filing date or their “priority date.”

Returning Resident Immigrant Visas (SB):

A lawful permanent resident (LPR) who has remained outside the U.S. for longer than twelve months, or beyond the validity period of a re-entry permit, will require a new immigrant visa to enter the U.S. and resume permanent residence. However, a provision exists under U.S. Immigration law for the issuance of a returning resident special immigrant visa to an legal permanent resident who remained outside the U.S. due to circumstances beyond his/her control.