Who Is Eligible for a Family-Based Green Card?

Home > Blog > Who Is Eligible for a Family-Based Green Card?

Who Is Eligible for a Family-Based Green Card?

One of the goals of U.S. immigration law is to unite U.S. citizens and green card holders with their families who are outside the United States. However, not all family members qualify to be united under this law. Rather, the law sets strict guidelines for which specific family relations are eligible to obtain a green card. The law also has limitations on how many green cards can be given each year which affects some of these relatives. At Kriezelman Burton & Associates, we have experienced family immigration lawyers who assist clients in the Chicago area in obtaining green cards for their relatives.

Family immigration is divided into two broad categories, and these are the “immediate relatives” and “preference” categories.

Immediate Relatives of U.S. Citizens

US immigration law limits the number of green cards that can be given each year, but for certain relatives of US citizens, there is no limit as to how many green cards can be given to them in any given year. These are the relatives referred to as “immediate relatives.” The biggest advantage of being an immediate relative is one does not have to deal with long waiting times to obtain a green card as in all other categories.

To be classified as an immediate relative, one must be:

  • Spouses of U.S. citizens, including recent widows and widowers and same-sex couples whose marriage is legal in the state or country where it took place
  • Unmarried individuals under the age of 21 with at least one U.S. citizen parent
  • Parents of U.S. citizens, if the U.S. citizen child is over the age of 21
  • Stepparent/stepchildren, if the marriage creating the stepparent/stepchild relationship took place before the child’s 18th birthday, and
  • Parents and children related through adoption if the adoption took place before the child reached the age of 16. 

Preference Relatives of U.S. Citizens and Permanent Residents

Relatives who do not fall under the immediate relative category may be classified and obtain green cards under the “preference” category. A major drawback in this category is there is a limited number of green cards available under this category; therefore, a relative who is eligible to obtain a visa under this category would have to wait for a long time, sometimes years, before they can be given a green card.

Exactly how long they wait depends on how they are related to the US citizen or green card holder sponsoring them. Here are the options available:

  • Family first preference (F1). Unmarried individuals of any age who have at least one U.S. citizen parent
  • Family second preference(2A): Spouses of green card holders and unmarried children who are under the age of 21; 2B: unmarried daughters and sons of green card holders who are over the age of 21
  • Family third preference(F3). Married individuals of any age who have at least one U.S. citizen parent.
  • Family fourth preference(F4). Brothers and Sisters of U.S. citizens if the citizen is over 21 years old.

If you are in the Chicago area and wish to have a qualifying family member come to join you or otherwise get a green card based on your relationship, contact us today to schedule an appointment to confidentially discuss your case. We are based in Chicago but serve clients in Indiana, Wisconsin, and Michigan.