Helping relatives come to the United States

On behalf of Cynthia Ceballos of Ceballos Legal Consulting LLC on Tuesday, August 14, 2018.

Family members are some of the most important connections in a person's life. Spending time and sharing experiences with family are opportunities to cherish when possible, but not everyone can do so with family living far away.

For those people living in the U.S. but with family in other countries, it's a challenge to wonder how life could be with family closer and potentially in a safer environment. U.S. citizens have options to help facilitate legally bringing family members into the country. It's important to know which family members you may be able to help and what the government requires of both you and the relatives seeking entry into the country.

Relatives you may petition for entry

The U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services break down family relations into preferred categories. Immediate family members get priority over more distant relatives, but processes exist for many relationships in seeking entry into the U.S. The two broad categories of relatives include immediate relatives and family preference relatives.

Immediate relatives for whom a U.S. may petition green card permanent residence include:

  • Spouses
  • Parents of citizens over age 21
  • Children who are unmarried and under 21

These immediate relatives may always petition for visas, regardless of the status of the finite number of green cards allotted each year. This essentially means these immediate relatives won't wait in the general line of those petitioning for green card status, avoiding potentially long wait periods.

Family preference categories

Preference categories include relatives who don't fit in the immediate family category. These are the categories for which the government allots a specific number of visas each year and they follow a priority based on the preference and filing date of a Form I-130.

  • First Preference: Adults sons and daughters over age 21 who are unmarried
  • Second Preference: Spouses and unmarried children under age 21 of permanent residents - as opposed to U.S. citizens
  • Third Preference: Married offspring of U.S. citizens, no matter the age
  • Fourth Preference: Siblings of U.S. citizens

Each case takes its own timeline for processing, but petitioners can check estimated wait times and the status of applications online.

When it comes to trying to bring family members to the U.S., it's important that you utilize the best resources available. Immigration laws and policies continue to fluctuate, but a skilled immigration law expert can help guide your case and provide valued insight throughout this process.