Other Family Based Immigration (Non-Spousal)

Other Family Based Immigr…

In addition to spouses, United States immigration law allows some non-spousal family members of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents to immigrate to the U.S. These family members are subject to the family preference categories. The law favors immediate relatives over family members in the preference categories.

U.S. Green Cards for "Immediate Relatives"

For our clients, the manner in which U.S. law categorizes certain family members as immediate relatives over others can be a confusing and unnatural thing to learn about. A foreign spouse, unmarried child under 21 years and a parent are all considered immediate relatives of a U.S. citizen. A foreign spouse, unmarried child under 21 years and a parent of a lawful permanent resident are not immediate relatives. Similarly, a sibling is never an immediate relative of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident.

The importance of immediate relative over others is significant because an immediate relative does not have to wait for a green card number to become available. Congress placed an annual limit on the number of green cards that can be issued in any given year. Immediate relatives are not subject to the annual limitation, which is a huge benefit. Therefore, if an immediate relative’s application for lawful permanent resident status would be approvable, they have instant access to the green card. Family members who cannot be classified as immediate relatives must wait for a green card number to become available, which in many cases can mean a waiting period of a decade or more.

Family Preference Categories

Family preference categories are divided into four branches:

First (F1)

Unmarried sons and daughters (age 21 or more) of a U.S. citizen



Spouse and unmarried child (under 21 years old) of an LPR (green card holder)

Unmarried sons and daughters (age 21 or more) of an LPR (green card holder)

Third (F3)

Married sons and daughters of a U.S. citizen

Fourth (F4)

Brothers and sisters of a U.S. citizen (U.S. citizen must be 21 years old or more)

Generally, the F2A category has the shortest waiting period. Immigration through the other preference categories can take north of a decade.

Speak with an Immigration Attorney

Sunil C. Patel Immigration Law has extensive experience in family based immigration. Founding attorney Sunil Patel, himself a first-generation immigrant, knows the challenges families face when immigrating to the U.S. — he is committed to honest, cost-effective immigration advice and services in every case. Schedule a consultation with attorney Sunil.