Family Based Immigration

An individual may become a legal permanent resident through a spouse, family member or even fiancé.  A family based petition is a multi-step process.  First, a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident relative must prove there is a qualifying relationship between themselves and the immigrant relative.  Second, once a relationship has been established the immigrant may file for an adjustment of status to become a legal permanent resident.  

Immediate Relatives

Visas are immediately available for immediate immigrant relatives.  Immediate relatives include:   

  • Spouses of U.S. citizens

  • Children (unmarried and under 21) of U.S. citizens

  • Parents of U.S. citizens (The petitioning citizen must be 21 or older.)

For immediate family members, the petition for an immigrant relative and the adjustment of status can be filed simultaneously.  

Preference Categories

A family petition can also be done for those who are not immediate family members.  However, non-immediate family members must wait for a visa to become available.  Depending on the relationship, the relative will fall into one of the following preference groups:

First Preference: unmarried sons and daughters of U.S. citizens. This category refers to the adult children of U.S. citizens or those who have reached the age of 21 years prior to issuance of the immigrant visa;

Second Preference: a) spouses and children under the age of 21 of U.S. permanent residents; b) unmarried sons and daughters over the age of 21 of U. S. permanent residents;

Third Preference: married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens;

Fourth Preference: brothers and sisters of adult U.S. citizens.

Once a visa becomes available the family members may apply to adjust status.  For current visa wait times, please see the visa bulletin at:


A fiancé may qualify for a K-1 visa if the United States citizen can show the following:

  • Intent to marry within 90 days of your fiancé entering the United States.

  • Both the US citizen and the immigrant fiancé are both legally able to marry and any previous marriages have been legally terminated by divorce, death, or annulment.

  • You met each other, in person, at least once within 2 years of filing your petition, with limited exceptions.