What is Family-Based Immigration

Immediate Family Members

US Immigration law promotes family unity by allowing US citizens and lawful permanent residents to petition certain family members to immigrate and
permanently stay in the US.  Family-based immigration is one of the most common ways for individuals to apply for immigration benefits. If your family members want to stay in the U.S. permanently, they need green cards.

Family-based immigration can be confusing and complex. Our immigration lawyer can work with you to help you understand the process, explain your options., and help you with the application process.

Six main factors influence how long it takes to get a family-based green card:

  1. Whether the sponsor is a US citizen or lawful permanent resident
  2. The type of familial relationship between the sponsor and the relative
  3. Country of citizenship of the relative immigrant
  4. Where the relative immigrant is applying for a green card – from within or outside the U.S.
  5. The proper submission of forms and information to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)
  6. USCIS backlogs

Type of Family Relationship

There are two major groups of family-based immigrants: Immediate Relatives and family preference relatives. When a U.S. citizen or permanent resident petitions (sponsors) a family member, the immigrant falls into one of these two categories. The categories define eligibility requirements and the priority that the immigrant will receive in obtaining a green card.

If you want to sponsor a relative to live permanently in the US in the immediate relative category, you must be a U.S. citizen and have one of the following types of familial relationships to your relative:

  1. Spouse of a U.S. Citizen – please see our Marriage Immigration blog here
  2. Unmarried children under the age of 21 of a US citizen, including adopted children
  3. Parent of a US citizen who is 21 years old or older

Advantages for Immediate Relatives

Immediate relatives may enjoy some advantages over preference relatives:

  • There is no cap or limit on the number of visas available to immediate relatives. This means you can file petitions for each of your immediate relatives, and they won’t have to wait for a visa to become available to apply for the green card.
  • As long as your immediate relative has entered the U.S. legally, they are exempt from certain ineligibilities, such as accepting employment without authorization, overstaying their visas, or not being in a lawful immigration status at the time they apply for their green card. Any one of these ineligibilities can prevent approval of a green card for other categories of immigrants.
  • The USCIS processing times may be shorter for immediate relatives. You can check estimated processing times by going to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services processing times page at https://egov.uscis.gov/processing-times/  and selecting form I-130 to start.


  • You must be a U.S. citizen to petition for an immediate family member and file Form I-130 for each relative.
  • You must prove your relationship with the immediate family member with documentation. When filing Form I-130, you must provide an official birth certificate to establish biological relationships or an official marriage certificate to establish a marital relationship. Spouses must also prove that the marriage is bona fide (not entered into primarily for getting a green card).
  • As a U.S. citizen, you file the I-130 to start the process, but the immediate relative is responsible for applying for the green card. The relative can apply in one of two ways:
    • Consular processing: obtaining an immigrant visa (green card) from outside the U.S. at a U.S. embassy or consulate. This is the only option if the family member is physically outside the United States. This is done by filing form DS-260 with the US embassy or consulate.
    • Adjustment of status: the process where a non-immigrant (e.g., student, tourist, etc.) adjusts status to a permanent resident from inside the United States. In other words, if the immediate relative is already in the U.S. on a temporary visa, they may “adjust status” to permanent resident even if their temporary visa is no longer valid. This is done by filing Form I-485 with USCIS and can be filed at the same time (concurrently) as Form I-130. You must also prepare and submit Form I-864, Affidavit of Support, promising that you can financially support your relative so that they do not need to rely on the U.S. government for financial support. To qualify, you must show an income of at least 125% of the federal poverty guidelines. For example, in 2023, your annual gross income would be at least $37,50 for a family of four. If your income does not meet the requirements, additional sponsors or a joint sponsor may be needed.

MyImmigration is Here to Help

We help you quickly and easily prepare the correct forms and give you peace of mind that everything is done smoothly and accurately. For more information about obtaining immigration for immediate relatives, you can schedule a consultation here.

You can get started with your applications by clicking here.