Family Green Card

The Family Green Card Process

As a Las Vegas  immigration lawyer, I often do consultations with clients who want to bring their relatives to the United States. If you want to sponsor a spouse, parent, child, brother or sister to get a US green card well family based green cards are one of the most popular ways for obtaining a green card. Millions have done it and so can you.

Who qualifies as a green card sponsor?

To sponsor a family member to get a green card you must either be a US citizen or a lawful permanent resident, meaning you have a green card. Whether you can sponsor your family member will also depend on the type of family relationship you have with that relative.

If you are a US citizen, is the person you want to sponsor your immediate relative?

Immigration gives greater important to some family relationships. For issuing green cards, the highest importance is given to immediate relatives of US citizens who are:

  • spouses (wives and husbands) of US citizens,
  • minor children of US citizens and
  • parents of US citizens who are at least twenty-one (21) years old.

family green card

Benefits of immediate relative status

There is no quota on the number of people who can immigrate each year as the immediate relatives of US citizens. Immediate relative status is like the Prepass of the American immigration highway. Immediate relatives can adjust status even if they worked illegally or are no longer in lawful status. Being an immediate relative is the easiest way for your family member to get green card status.

You must petition for your immediate relative

If the person you want to sponsor qualifies as your immediate relative you must file a petition so that immigration will give the person immediate relative status. This petition is done with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) using Form I-130 and supporting documents. This petition must be approved before immigration can approve your family member’s US green card application.

Victims of abuse and widows of U.S. citizens can petition for themselves

In some case, if you are the husband or wife of a U.S. citizen you can petition for USCIS to classify you (and your children) as an immediate relative of a U.S. citizen, if your U.S. citizen spouse abused you or your children. If you are the widow or widower of a U.S. citizen you get to keep immediate-relative status for two years after the death of your U.S. citizen spouse and can file an immigration petition for yourself before the end of the two-year period if you do not remarry.

Family preference immigration

If your family member does not qualify as an immediate relative, you can still sponsor him or her to get a green card under a priority system known as family sponsored preferences. Under the family sponsored preferences both U.S. citizens and permanent residents can sponsor family members. But if you are a permanent resident you cannot sponsor your brother, sister, parent or married child unless you become a U.S. citizen.

Family preference groups

There are four family preferences. The family sponsored preferences and their annual numerical limitations are below.

First: (F1) Unmarried Sons and Daughters of U.S. Citizens: 23,400 plus any numbers not required for fourth preference.

Second: Spouses and Children, and Unmarried Sons and Daughters of Permanent. Residents: 114,200, plus the number (if any) by which the worldwide family preference level exceeds 226,000, plus any unused first preference numbers:

A. (F2A) Spouses and Children of Permanent Residents: 77% of the overall second preference limitation, of which 75% are exempt from the per-country limit;

B. (F2B) Unmarried Sons and Daughters (21 years of age or older) of Permanent Residents: 23% of the overall second preference limitation.

Third: (F3) Married Sons and Daughters of U.S. Citizens: 23,400, plus any numbers not required by first and second preferences.

Fourth: (F4) Brothers and Sisters of Adult U.S. Citizens: 65,000, plus any numbers not required by first three preferences.

Limited number of green cards under the family preference system

The highest family preference immigrants allowed in any one year is 480,000. Increases in immediate-relative visas cut the number of visas available for the four family preference groups until those groups’ share of the family based immigrant visas falls to 226,000.


Family based immigration can get complex and confusing fast. Put the matter into the hands of a competent immigration attorney to make sure that the green card application for your family member is not rejected, denied or delayed. If you are having any kind of problem or concern about immigration for a spouse, child or other family member call us at 702-423-2721 to schedule an appointment with immigration lawyer Gary Goodin.