Basic Information about Immigration Based on a Family Relationship

The Application Process of Immigration Based on a Family Relationship:


imagesPermanent resident status, symbolized to many people by the so-called “green card” (which is actually pink or light blue, depending on the edition), confers on foreign nationals the right to live and work in the United States without time limitations. Although there are several other bases for obtaining permanent residence, e.g., the diversity immigration program created by the 1990 Act, the two most common are through close family ties to U.S.Citizens or other permanent residents, or through employment in the United States, usually based on a job of-fer from a U.S. employer.

With regard to both means for obtaining permanent residence, Congress has designated those groups to whom it gives preference in immigrating to the United States. The following family-based groups have been designated by Congress as groups eligible for permanent residence:

  • Immediate relatives of U.S. citizens (immigrants eligible for immediate relative status)
  • Other close family members of U.S. citizens (immigrants eligible for classification in the first, third, and fourth family-based preferences)
  • Spouses and unmarried sons and daughters of permanent residents (immigrants eligible for classification in the second family-based preference)

With regard to all other family-based groups, only a limited number of immigrant visas are available within the annual cap for each foreign state and within each preference category.

  • The State Department’s Visa Office keeps track of assignments of immigrant visas within the preferences, and by country, to assure that the numerical limit placed on each category and for each country are not exceeded.
  • An immigrant visa is assigned based on the alien’s “priority date.”
  • For persons seeking immigration through close family relationships, the priority date accorded the alien is the date the immigrant visa petition is filed with the Immigration Service.

The Application Process

The procedure for obtaining permanent residence involves two steps. First, the U.S. citizen or permanent resident relative must sponsor the noncitizen for permanent residence. The relative files a petition with the Immigration Service to have the alien, who is the “beneficiary” of the petition, classified as a person qualified to immigrate. In some cases, principally with regard to spouses of deceased citizens and battered spouses and children eligible for self-petition benefits, a sponsor is not required. In these cases, the foreign national may file a petition on his or her own behalf.

  • The permanent residence petition filed with the Immigration Service to have the alien classified as a qualified immigrant is not the final step to obtain permanent resident status but is rather a necessary preliminary step.
  • Once the alien is found qualified within one of the groups to which Congress has given preference for immigration, he or she can then apply for permanent residence status.
  • This application is often made at a U.S. consulate outside of the United States.
  • In most circumstances in which the alien is already in the United States, however, the application can be made here to “adjust status” to that of a permanent resident.

Family Members of prospective Immigrants

Family members of individuals eligible for immediate relative status cannot immigrate unless each of them also qualifies as an immediate relative (e.g., based on their relationship to the U.S. citizen sponsor). No derivative status may be accorded to family members of foreign nationals eligible for immediate relative classification. Because eligibility for immediate relative classification must be established on an individual basis, a separate petition must be filed on behalf of each family member.

There are two exceptions to the general rule:

1.       The children of an individual who qualifies for immediate relative status as the spouse of a deceased citizen are entitled to derivative classification.

2.       The children of an individual eligible for self-petition benefits as the battered spouse of a citizen are also entitled to derivative classification.

If the exceptions do not apply, and the family member does not qualify as an immediate relative (e.g., based on his or her relationship to the U.S. sponsor), he or she may later qualify for immigration once permanent residence is obtained by the immediate relative immigrant (e.g., as a second preference child of a permanent resident).

Conditional residence granted to certain family-based immigrants

Some aliens-those who are spouses of U.S. citizens or permanent residents-might not obtain a final grant of permanent residence even when they have been admitted to the United States with an immigrant visa or receive approval of an adjustment of status application. Certain spouses of citizens or residents are granted permanent residence conditionally, dependent on their remaining married for two years after the grant of residence. Residence granted on a conditional basis applies only when the marriage was entered into within two years prior to the grant of residence.

A United States Permanent Resident Card, also known as a Green card, is a proof of permanent resident status of an alien or outsider in the United States of America. Visit for best services. Wani & Associates, P.C is known for its accessibility to its clients. Whenever you call, you talk to an attorney not a legal assistant or a secretary. You talk to an attorney throughout the process of your case in person, telephonically, or via e-mail.