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As one of the most common forms of obtaining lawful permanent residency, family-based immigration can seem relatively straightforward. Unfortunately, the application process and other steps can be anything but simple.
While families historically obtained favored status under immigration laws in the U.S., it can still be challenging to obtain entry. The Immigration and Nationality Act does allow for close relatives of U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents to immigrate to the U.S. if their petition is approved. How quickly this happens can depend on a number of factors, such as the status of the sponsor, the country the family member is located in, and whether or not they are an immediate family member.
Immediate Relatives vs. Other Relatives
If the person seeking entry is an immediate relative, the petitioner must be a U.S. citizen.
Eligible family members include:
- Spouse of U.S. citizens
- Unmarried minor children of U.S. citizens
- Parents of U.S. citizens over age 21
If a family member doesn't fall into this category, they will face serious time restrictions and number limitations. It is also important to understand that there are different preference categories. For example, first preference would go to unmarried children of a U.S. citizen, while spouses and children of lawful permanent residents would get second preference. Third preference is given to married children of U.S. citizens, with the waiting period being over seven years for most countries (except for Mexico and the Philippines). Lastly, fourth preference is given to siblings of U.S. citizens, with nearly a 12-year delay for all countries.
Those who are immediate relatives of a petitioner who is a citizen, not a legal private resident, have advantages over the preference categories mentioned.