Family Immigration Petitions

Keep your family together

If you are a U.S. citizen or a Lawful Permanent Resident of the United States (LPR, often referred to as a green card holder), you may submit an immigrant petition for family members to come to the U.S. as permanent residents. Who you can petition to bring and how long it takes depends on your citizenship status and your relationship to the family member. Only certain family members are eligible for green card sponsorship. There are no special green card categories for grandparents, aunts, uncles, in-laws or cousins even for sponsors who are U.S. citizens.

The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) provides for two different types of immigrant visas.

  • Immediate relative immigrant visas are for the close family members of U.S. citizens. There is no limit on the number that may be issued. This category of application receives the highest priority.
  • Family preference visas are for certain family members of U.S citizens or green card holders.
    • Some types of relationships are given priority over others. There are fiscal year numerical limitations imposed on each category of family preference as well as limitations on the number of applicants from any one country. This means if there are a larger number of petitions from the family member’s country, the wait will be longer than that for an applicant from another country. For example, there are usually a high volume of applicants from Mexico and the Philippines, so these visas may take years longer to be granted.
    • Waits for family preference visas can take many years no matter what. If the number of applicants is greater than the number of visas permitted for the category, an applicant is put on a list in chronological order of the date their petition was filed known as a priority date.
    • The length of time it may take to get a visa varies. It is impossible to say how long an applicant will have to wait. Time estimates given in this article are based on the length of time people at the front of the line have been waiting.
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Ghazi Law Group, APLC

Family Members of U.S. Citizen: Who Can Come and How Long Does It Take?

Immediate Relatives of U.S. Citizens

Immediate relatives of U.S. citizens can get green cards much faster than other classifications of relatives because there are no numerical limits or visa availability issues. However, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and the State Department must process each immigrant petition, and this can take several months.

Here are the green card categories for immediate relatives:

  • Spouse of a U.S. citizen (IR-1 visa)
  • Minor, unmarried children of a U.S citizen (IR-2 visa)
  • Orphan adopted abroad by a U.S. citizen (IR-3 visa)
  • Orphan to be adopted in the U.S. by a U.S. citizen (IR-4 visa)
  • Parents of a U.S. citizen who is at least 21 years old (IR-5 visa)

Family Member Preference for U.S. Citizens

Family members of U.S. citizens who fall into green card categories but are not considered to be immediate relatives for purposes of an immigration petition are:

  • First Preference (F1): Unmarried children who are at least 21 years of age and their minor children.
    • Those in the F1 categorization typically wait seven years.
    • The process can take 22 years for family members from Mexico and 12 years for those from the Philippines.
  • Third Preference (F3): Married adult children and their spouses and minor children
    • The process typically takes 12 years.
    • The process can take 23 years for family members from Mexico and the Philippines.
  • Fourth Preference (F4): Brothers and sisters 21 years old or above and their spouses and minor children
    • The process usually takes 14 years.
    • It can take 21 years for family members from Mexico and 24 years if they are from the Philippines.

Family Members of Green Card Holders: Who Can Come and How Long Does It Take?

There is no immediate relative category for Legal Permanent Residents, and the green card categories of relatives they may sponsor are more limited than those of U.S. citizens. A green card holder may file an immigration petition for a Family Second Preference (F2) visa for a spouse, minor children and unmarried sons and daughters who are age of 21 or above. At least 77% of F2 visas go to spouses and minor children. The rest go to unmarried adult sons and daughters.

  • The process usually takes two years for spouses and minor children (2A).
  • It can take seven years for adult children (2B) from most countries.
  • It can take 22 years for adult children from Mexico and 12 years for adult children from the Philippines.

Remember, these wait times are only estimates based on current history.

How to Apply

The U.S. citizen or green card holder sponsor must file a Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative in order to begin the process of bringing their family member to the United States as an immigrant. There are several requirements for filing a family immigrant petition, which may include age, residency and other requirements.

If U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) approves the petition, they forward it to the National Visa Center (NVC) for yet more processing. In the case of an immediate relative of a U.S. citizen, the NVC will then send paperwork to the green card sponsor, which will include documentation for proof of financial ability to sponsor the family member. The NVC then sends the case to the U.S. consulate in the immigrant’s country to issue the visa.

A preference case, as we have already seen, takes much longer than an immediate relative case, because the would-be immigrant must wait until a visa becomes available due to the limitations already discussed. After a visa becomes available and the immigrant petition is approved, the immigrant must submit an application for permanent residence. The immigrant will need to complete various forms, get a medical examination and be interviewed in person before their visa will be issued.

Help for Family Member Green Cards

We have barely been able to touch on what you must do to get a green card for a family member in this article. It is a complicated process, and a misstep can result in your family member being rejected. If you would like to discuss green card sponsorship of a family member, call Ghazi Law Group at (818) 839-6644 or email us at to schedule a consultation. Our Studio City - Sherman Oaks immigration attorneys serve people from Sherman Oaks, Encino, Woodland Hills, Studio City and other areas of Los Angeles County who need immigration help.


Ghazi Law Group, APLC
15250 Ventura Blvd, Suite 420
Sherman Oaks, CA 91403

Phone: (818) 839-6644
Se Habla Español: (888) 747-0973
Fax: (818) 839-6649