To obtain a family based Green Card, you must have a relative “sponsor” who is already a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident in the United States.  Your sponsor must be able to prove that he or she has enough financial resources to support you in the United States in case you are unable to support yourself after you arrive.

There are many categories of family-based Green Cards, depending on the relationship between the sponsor and the prospective immigrant.  These categories fall broadly into two groups.  In addition, there are other groups of individuals or non-immigrant visa holders that may be eligible for permanent residence based on special family situations; these options should be considered on a case-by-case basis.

Family based Green Cards for Immediate Relatives

The first main group consists of Green Cards for immediate relatives of U.S. citizens only.  Immediate relatives consist of spouses, children, and parents as follows:

  • Spouse*
  • Unmarried child under 21 years of age
  • Orphan adopted abroad or to be adopted in the U.S.
  • Parent of an adult U.S. citizen

There are various legal and practical limitations that apply to each of the categories above, so it is important to consider the specific circumstances of a prospective immigrant’s case to determine eligibility.

* Please note that lawfully married same-sex spouses and their minor children are now entitled to the same immigration benefits as opposite-sex couples.  For more information regarding this important change in U.S. immigration policy, please see my blog post here.

There is no limit on the number of Immediate Relative Immigrant Visas that may be granted each year.

Family Preference Green Cards

The second main group of family-based Green Cards is allocated for other, more distant family relationships with U.S. citizens.  In some cases, lawful permanent residents of the United States may also be eligible to sponsor their relatives for these Green Cards.  Only a limited number of Family Preference Immigrant Visas are granted each year, allocated according to four “preference categories” as follows:

Preference CategoryWho May Sponsor?Prospective Immigrant(s)Annual Limit
First Family PreferenceU.S. citizensUnmarried sons and daughters, along with their minor children23,400
Second Family PreferenceLawful permanent residentsSpouses, minor children, and unmarried adult sons and daughters114,200 (mostly to spouses and minor children)
Third Family PreferenceU.S. citizensMarried sons and daughters, along with their spouses and minor children23,400
Fourth Family PreferenceAdult U.S. citizensBrothers and sisters, along with their spouses and minor children65,000

Please note that there are legal and practical limitations on these categories, so it is necessary to assess the specific circumstances of each case to determine eligibility.

Due to the limits on the number of Family Preference Green Cards that become available each year, some categories of prospective applicants will face significant wait times—sometimes several years—before they become eligible to file their immigrant visa application.  Eligibility is determined based on a prospective applicant’s “priority date.”  The “priority date” is typically determined based upon the date when the sponsoring relative’s petition was properly filed with the U.S. Customs and Immigration Service (USCIS).  This means that the sooner an applicant’s relative submits his or her petition, the sooner the applicant will become eligible to immigrate.

Should you have any questions or if you would like to schedule a consultation, please contact me by submitting the form or by calling me at (248) 900-3399.  I accept clients from across the U.S. and around the world.  My law office is conveniently located in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan for in-person meetings.  For phone consultation, you can reach me from any part of the United States or abroad.