Family Preference Visa – Green Card for Family Preference Immigrants
If you’re a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident, you may be able to petition the United States government for a family preference visa for some of your relatives.
These visas enable your relatives to come to the U.S. to obtain permanent residency – and as permanent residents, your family members will be able to live and work wherever they’d like in the United States.
This guide explains the family preference categories that may apply to your relatives.
Family Preference Visa Information: Getting Green Cards for Family Preference Immigrants
There are five categories of family preference visas available to some relatives of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents. These visas are subject to annual caps, which means that your family members must wait for a space to open for them before they can be approved to come to the U.S. and gain permanent residency.
These are the family preference categories:
- First preference (F1)
- Second preference (F2A)
- Second preference (F2B)
- Third preference (F3)
- Fourth preference (F4)
Close family members of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents, such as spouses and children, don’t need to use family preference visas. They’re considered immediate family members and may qualify for green cards without waiting for a spot on the family preference list.
Explore the family preference categories in the following sections.
F1 Family Preference Visas and Green Cards
First preference visas and green cards are available to the unmarried sons and daughters of U.S. citizens, but only if the sons and daughters are age 21 or older. Married sons and daughters are not eligible for F1 family preference visas – and neither are those who are under the age of 21.
F2A Visas and Green Cards for Relatives of Lawful Permanent Residents
F2A visas are available to the spouses and children of lawful permanent residents. Spouses can be any age, but children must be unmarried and under 21 years of age to qualify for F2A visas. Children who are unmarried and over the age of 21 only qualify for F2B visas.
F2B Visas for Children of LPRs
F2B visas are for the unmarried sons and daughters of lawful permanent residents, but only when the sons and daughters are age 21 or older. (Unmarried sons and daughters who are under the age of 21 are only eligible for F2A visas.)
F3 Visas for Married Children of U.S. Citizens
F3 visas are only available to the married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens. Age doesn’t matter with an F3 visa – it applies to any married child of a United States citizen.
F4 Visas for Siblings of U.S. Citizens
F4 visas are for the brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens. The brothers and sisters can be any age, but the U.S. citizen must be 21 years old or older in order for their siblings to qualify.
What is a Priority Date on a Family Preference Visa Application?
Because there is a limit on the number of family preference visas available each year, family-based immigrant visas are given out in the order in which applications were received. For example, someone who filed for a visa under a first preference visa three years ago will get one before someone who applied this year. The filing date (the date on which the Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, was properly filed with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services) is called a priority date.
Can You Adjust Status to Get a Family Preference Green Card?
If you’re currently in the United States, you may be eligible to adjust your immigration status to get a family preference green card. Naturally, you’ll need a qualifying family member – a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident with whom you share a qualifying relationship – and you must also:
- File Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status
- Have been inspected and admitted or inspected and paroled into the United States
- Be physically present in the U.S. when you file your Form I-485
- Be eligible to receive an immigrant visa
- Have an immigrant visa immediately available to you
- Not be barred from adjustment of status
- Be admissible to the U.S. for lawful permanent residence (or eligible for a waiver of inadmissibility or something similar)
- Have positive factors in your case that outweigh negative factors
What if Your Relative is Inadmissible to the United States?
Not everyone qualifies to come to the United States. In fact, some people are considered inadmissible. Sometimes the U.S. government rejects applicants due to:
- Health-related grounds
- Criminal grounds
- Security grounds
- Association with unfavorable or terrorist organizations
- Prior illegal entry to the U.S., previous immigration violations or prior removal from the U.S.
- Failure to provide adequate documentation
In some cases, family members of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents can ask for a waiver of inadmissibility. That means the U.S. government is willing to waive the requirements for admissibility for some people, which enables them to apply for (and often receive) a family preference visa – and ultimately, a family-based green card.
How Do You Apply for a Family Preference Visa?
If a visa is immediately available to you as a family preference immigrant, and if you’re currently in the United States, you can file a Form I-485 with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. You don’t need a visa because you’re already in the U.S. on one; you can fast-forward and apply for a green card, which gives you lawful permanent residency in the United States. You can file while your Form I-130 (which your relative must file on your behalf) is still processing or pending, or you can file both at the same time. You can also file after your Form I-130 is approved by USCIS.
If you’re currently outside the United States, your relative must petition the government for you by using Form I-130. After your relative files this form, the date on the form becomes your priority date (see the earlier section, “What is a Priority Date on a Family Preference Visa Application?” for more information). When your priority date comes up in the Visa Bulletin, that means a visa is available to you.
For most people, the best way to apply for a family preference visa is to work with an immigration attorney who’s experienced in adjustment of status, initial I-130 petitions and I-485 petitions. Because U.S. immigration law can be confusing – and because it’s subject to change at any time, with little or no notice, it’s often best to work with an attorney who keeps up with immigration law requirements and changes. Your attorney can help you and your family member fill out and file the appropriate paperwork with USCIS, keep you updated on the status of your case, and answer your questions every step of the way.
Do You Need to Talk to an Immigration Attorney About Getting a Family Preference Visa?
If you need to talk to an attorney about getting a family preference visa for a qualifying family member – or if you’re not sure whether your relative qualifies for an immediate visa – we may be able to help. Call our office to schedule a free consultation with an experienced professional who can give you the answers you need right now.