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Green cards for Family Members

Updated: Oct 20, 2022

Whether you are a US Citizen or a Legal Permanent Resident, immigration laws allow you to request a green card for certain family members. Do you know who qualifies and who does not?

In this article, we will explore the different types of family preferences and who qualifies for a green card.

There are four (actually five) types of family-sponsored preferences. They are:

Family-Preference 1 (F1): Unmarried Sons and Daughters of US Citizens

Unmarried sons and daughters of US Citizens who are under the age of 21 can obtain a green card under the first family category. The current wait time is six years according to the October 2022 Visa Bulletin issued by the US Department of State. However, the wait time can be even longer for Mexican nationals, for example, who currently must wait twenty-one years. The first step to obtain a green card under this category is to file form I-130 and wait for its approval. Once the first step is done, the applicant must then wait for the category to be considered current to request the green card or an immigrant visa for family members who are outside the US. Every year, there are 23,400 green cards available for this category plus any numbers not required for category F4.

Family Preference 2A (F2A): Spouses and Children of Permanent Residents

Spouses and children (unmarried and under the age of 21) of Legal Permanent Residents can also receive a green card to live and work legally in the US. The good news for this category is that it is current and there is no wait time. For categories that are current, concurrent filing is available which allows for the petitioner (the US citizen) and/or the applicant (the foreign family member) to file all forms at the same time and expedite the process from beginning to end. Over 110,000 green cards are issued every year for this category and this number may exceed 226,000 green cards depending how many other numbers are not used for other categories.

Family-Preference 2B (F2B): Unmarried Sons and Daughters (20 Years of Age or Older) of Permanent Residents

Unmarried sons and daughters of Legal Permanent Residents also qualify to receive a green card through their LPR parents but must wait between four (all countries but Mexico and Philippines) and twenty-one years (Mexico). Green cards issued under category F2B account for 23% of the F2 preference.

Family-Preference 3 (F3): Married Sons and Daughters of U.S. Citizens

US Citizens can have their married sons and daughters join them in the US under the F3 preference. The current wait time varies between thirteen and over twenty years. The cap for this preference is 23,400 green cards per year plus whatever numbers are not used for categories F1 and F2.

Family -Preference 4 (F4): Brothers and Sisters of Adult U.S. Citizens

The last preference allows US citizens to have their siblings become LPRs to legally live and work in the US. With a quota of 65,000 cases per year, plus any numbers not required under category F3, this preference currently has the longest wait averaging fifteen years.

When is my case current?

For F2A preferences, all cases are current and can be filed at any time. However, this is the exception. All other family preferences must wait a few years to be considered current. The first step is to file I-130, Petition for Alien Relative. This form recognizes the relationship between the US citizen or Legal Permanent Resident and the family member who wishes to immigrate to the US. Once this form is approved, the foreign national (the applicant) is then eligible to request a green card. The applicant must then wait for his or her case to become current. The date that determines whether a case is current or not is the priority date contained in the receipt notice or form I-797C. A green card request can be filed with the National Visa Center if the priority date is after the date for filing family-sponsored visa applications identified under Section (B) in the Visa Bulletin but before the final actions are identified in Section (A).

If you have an ongoing case and would like to know when your priority date is current, visit to check the status of family-sponsored preferences.

If you are a US citizen or LPR and have a family member that you would like to petition for or you are a foreign national whose relative would like to petition for you, give us a call today at 384-334-4030 or schedule a consultation online at to speak with one of our attorneys or paralegals. We offer consultations in English, Portuguese and Spanish.


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