U.S. citizens may sponsor their spouses, children, parents and brothers/sisters for permanent residence. Legal Permanent Residents (green card holders) may sponsor their spouses and children under age 21. There are different wait times for each category, depending on the status of the sponsor and the type of family relationship. This section reviews the immediate relative and preference categories. Additional information can be found on the USCIS website.

Immediate Relatives

Immediate Relatives are the spouses, children and parents of US citizens. In order for parents to petition for a child, the child must be unmarried and under the age of 21. Children may petition for their parents if the petitioning son or daughter is at least 21 years of age. There is no backlog in this category, although there may be processing delays. This category may also include widows of US citizens under certain conditions. Individuals interested in sponsoring a qualifying family member should contact either a reputable immigration lawyer or the local USCIS Office having jurisdiction over their place of residence for further information.

As indicated above, US citizens may sponsor their foreign national spouses for lawful permanent residence. This requires submitting the appropriate forms and supporting documentation to the USCIS Service Center having jurisdiction over the couple’s place of residence, or to a US consulate abroad, and attending a visa interview with an USCIS or consular examiner. If the couple has been married less than two years when the visa application is submitted, the foreign national will only be granted a two-year period of “conditional residence” status. An I-751 application to remove the conditions on this status must then be submitted to the USCIS, and the couple may be required to attend a second interview to establish the validity of their marital relationship.

Family Preference Categories

The following family relationships may also be the basis of a petition for permanent residence:

  • First Preference: A US citizen may sponsor an unmarried son or daughter 21 years of age and older for lawful permanent residence.
  • Second Preference: Lawful permanent residents may sponsor their spouses and unmarried children (under the age of 21) for permanent residence in the Second Preference 2A category. Second Preference 2B is for lawful permanent residents to sponsor their unmarried sons and daughters who are 21 years of age or older.
  • Third Preference: US citizens may sponsor their married sons and daughters for lawful permanent residence.
  • Fourth Preference: Adult US citizens may sponsor their brothers and sisters for lawful permanent residence.

Individuals should refer to the Department of State’s Visa Bulletin to check current availability. All of the above-listed categories require submission of the appropriate petition and application forms and proof of a qualifying family relationship. In some cases additional documentation may be required, particularly when birth records are incomplete or do not list the appropriate parent. Individuals should consult a local USCIS Office or a reputable immigration lawyer regarding the necessary procedures for sponsorship and documentation of a qualifying family relationship.