family holding their baby

Individuals may petition for their family members to immigrate to the U.S. The family immigrant visa categories are separated into an “Immediate Relative of a U.S. Citizen,” and “four preference” categories. There is no quota limit on the number of green cards that can be issued to immigrants who are immediate relatives of a U.S. citizen. The four preference categories do have annual quota limits, both on a per country and a per category basis.


  • You may live anywhere in the U.S. and stay as long as you want.
  • You may work at any job, for any company, anywhere in the U.S., or you may choose not to work at all.
  • You may travel in and out of the U.S. whenever you wish.
  • You may apply to become an American citizen after you have held your green card for a certain length of time.
  • In some cases, if you qualify for a green card through relatives, then your spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21 may also get green cards automatically as accompanying relatives.

Immediate Relatives include spouses of U.S. citizens, unmarried people under the age of 21 who have at least one U.S. citizen parent and parents of U.S. citizens, if the U.S. citizen child is over the age of 21. Stepparent and stepchildren qualify as immediate relatives if the marriage creating the parent/child relationship took place before the child’s 18th birthday. Parents and children related through adoption also qualify as immediate relatives, if the adoptions took place before the child reached the age of 16.

In addition, the adopted child must have lived with the adoptive parent or parents for at least two years prior filing the petition for a green card.

Preference Relatives Include the following:

  • Family First Preference: Unmarried people of any age who have at least one U.S. citizen parent.
  • Family Second Preference: Spouses of green card holders and unmarried people of any age, who have at least one parent holding a green card.
  • Family Third Preference: Married people of any age who have at least one U.S. citizen parent.
  • Family Fourth Preference: Sisters and brothers of U.S. citizens.

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