Family-Based Permanent Visas

Family relationships form the foundation for permanent resident status. Adult U.S. Citizens and permanent residents may apply on behalf of their spouses, parents, children and adult sons and daughters. In addition, U.S. citizens may also apply on behalf of their parents, brothers and sisters and married adult children.

The family-based immigration process requires the U.S. citizen or permanent resident to file a petition on behalf of the relative. This is the first of two steps in the family-based procedure.

The sponsored relative must then file an application for adjustment of status with the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services or an Application for Immigrant Visa with the U.S. Consulate General in their home country. The sponsored relative may not file the application unless a visa is available.

Visas are always available for spouses, minor children and parents of U.S. citizens. Relatives of U.S. permanent residents as well as siblings and adult children, and married children of U.S. citizens must wait for a priority number to become current before applying for permanent residence. The law recognizes various preference categories for these individuals:



Unmarried Sons and Daughters of Adult Citizens



Spouses and Children, and Unmarried Sons and Daughters of Permanent Residents


2A: Spouses and Children


2B: Unmarried Sons and Daughters (21 years of age or older)



Married Sons and Daughters of Adult Citizens



Brothers and Sisters of Adult Citizens

Eligible spouses and children of immigrants in these four categories derive green cards through spouses and parents. Children who reach their 21st birthday before a visa is available "age out" and can only obtain a green card based on a separate petition.

Each month the Department of State provides an update on priority dates in the Visa Bulletin.


Pathways to Permanent Residence




Diversity Visa Lottery