Renee J. Tello Legal Blog

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Five Ways to Obtain a Green Card through a Family Relationship

One of the most coveted U.S. immigration benefits is obtaining an I-551 permanent resident card or green card. Individuals with a green card are permitted to work and live in the United States permanently provided they abide by U.S. laws. One pathway to obtain U.S. permanent residence is through a familial relationship with a green card holder or U.S. citizen.  To follow are five different categories of family relationships that can lead to permanent residence:

1. Immediate Relatives
Foreign nationals who are the children, spouses or parents of a U.S. citizen are considered “immediate relatives.”  However, under immigration regulations to qualify as a child, one must be unmarried and under the age of 21 at the time of filing the application.  “Immediate relatives” are not subject to the long wait times that other green card applicants face, since they are not subject to the numerical limitations as the family preference categories.
2. Unmarried, adult sons and daughters of U.S. citizens
Persons who are adult (i.e. over the age of 21) sons or daughters of U.S. citizens fall under the first preference family category.  Preference categories include family relationships that are not classified as “Immediate Relatives” and thus are subject have annual numerical limits. An immigrant visa becomes available for an applicant when the priority date (the date the Form I-130 was filed) becomes current.  The distinction between the first preference category and the immediate relative is that the child has reached the age of 21 prior to the filing of the application for permanent residence.
3. Spouses and unmarried children of permanent residents/green card holders
Relatives of green card holders can also gain permanent residence through that relationship. Spouses and unmarried children of green card holders who are under the age of 21 fall under preference category 2A; while unmarried adult (over 21) sons and daughters of green card holders fall under the preference category 2B.
If the permanent resident obtains U.S. citizenship while the green card application is pending, the application can be upgraded to the relevant category as determined by the beneficiary’s relationship to the sponsor.
4. Married Children of U.S. citizens
Unfortunately, married children of U.S. citizens fall all the way to the third preference category.  In this category the age of the beneficiary (i.e. the foreign relative) does not matter, if they are married, they fall under this category.
5. Brothers and sisters of adult U.S. citizens
U.S. citizens over the age of 21 can sponsor their siblings for a green card provided they can demonstrate that they have one or two of the same parents.
Generally, to qualify for a green card under any of these categories the sponsor must provide evidence of their relationship to the beneficiary in the form of a marriage or birth certificate.  Also, it is important to note that the processing times vary greatly and generally gets progressively longer with each of the higher categories.  
For specific guidance on whether you qualify for a green card, contact us today.  


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