Immediate Relatives include the spouses, children (unmarried and under 21), and parents of U.S. Citizens. Visas are always available for immediate relatives, and there is no waiting period or per country limitations for these family members.


Preference relatives are not immediate relatives, and visas for these individuals are subject to annual numerical and country specific limits. This means that preference relatives often must wait a certain amount of time (which can be significant for certain categories and countries) for a visa to become available. The specific preference categories are:

  • First Preference: Unmarried, adult (21 and older) sons and daughters of U.S. Citizens.
  • Second Preference: (2A): Spouses and children (unmarried and under 21) of U.S. lawful permanent residents.
  • Second Preference: (2B): Unmarried, adult (21 and older) sons and daughters of U.S. lawful permanent residents.
  • Third Preference: Married sons and daughters (age does not matter) of U.S. Citizens. Fourth Preference: Brothers and Sisters of U.S. Citizens.


U.S. Citizens are eligible to petition for a foreign fiancé(e) to come to the U.S. to marry under certain circumstances. After arriving in the U.S., the U.S. Citizen and the fiancé(e) will have 90 days in which hold their marriage ceremony. Following the marriage ceremony, the foreign spouse will be eligible to seek lawful permanent resident status.


In family-based cases the process is initiated by filing a relative petition with USCIS. If the case is approved, and the foreign family member is in the U.S. (and is either an immediate family member or is in lawful status) and a visa number is available, then, under most situations, the family member can apply for adjustment of status. If the family member is outside of the U.S., the case will first be transferred to the National Visa Center (“NVC”) at the appropriate time for further processing. Once this processing is complete, the NVC will forward the case to the appropriate U.S. Consulate. This process is known as “consular processing.”


There are certain circumstances – criminal convictions, manner of entry, immigration history, unlawful presence, etc. – that will directly impact family-based immigration cases. In some instances, these circumstances may render an individual “inadmissible” to the U.S. for a certain period of time. In these situations, the family member will need to obtain a waiver to excuse the inadmissibility before the individual will be able to obtain a green card or immigrant visa to come to the U.S. The process for family-based immigration can vary greatly for each individual case, and as a result, it is often important to seek qualified representation to assist in the family-based immigration process. If you have any questions, or would like to discuss your family-based immigration issue, please contact the family-based immigration attorneys at Zeidan & Associates, LLC at 614-459-2830.

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