Green Card for Immediate Relatives of a U.S. Citizen

Green Card for family


To encourage family unity, immigration law permits U.S. citizens to petition for certain relatives who qualify to come and live permanently in the United States. Authorized immediate relatives include the U.S. citizen’s:

  • Spouse
  • Unmarried child under the age of 21
  • Parent (if the U.S. citizen is over the age of 21)

All Immediate relatives are considered special and do not have to wait in line for a visa number to become available for them to immigrate because there are an unlimited number of visas for their particular categories. This is different than the spouse of a Lawful Permanent Resident and other members of the family that fall into the priority program.

For other qualified relatives that a U.S. citizen may petition for, see our Green Card for Family Member page.

How to Get a Green Card While Inside the United States

One Step Process

Only certain relatives of a U.S. citizen are qualified to request a green card (permanent residence) while inside the United States. An immediate relative relationship permits you to submit on Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, to become a permanent resident at the same time that your U.S. citizen petitioner files Form I-130 Petition for Alien Relative. For more information on filing for permanent residence in one step, see Filing both the Petition and Application Concurrently page.

Two Step Process

You always have the choice to file your I-485 application any time after your petitioner files a Form I-130, for you. Of course if the I-130 is denied, you I-485 will also be denied. You normally need to submit a copy of Form I-797, Notice of Action, with your Form I-485, that shows the Form I-130 petition is either pending or approved.

• Step A – Your U.S. citizen immediate relative files the Form I-130 on your behalf and it must be either pending or approved.

• Step B – After you receive the Notice of Action (Form I-797), indicating that the Form I-130 has either been received by USCIS or approved, then you may file Form I-485. Don’t forget to must include a copy of the Form I-130 receipt or approval notice (the Form I-797) when you file your I-485 application package. Also, you must include a copy of the Form I-130 receipt or approval notice (the Form I-797). For more information on filing for permanent residence, see our Adjustment of Status page.

How to Get a Green Card While Outside the United States

If you are an immediate relative of a U.S. citizen and currently residing outside the United States you can become a permanent resident through the visa processing system at the U.S. Consulate. Consular Visa processing is when USCIS and the Department of State work together to issue a visa on an approved Form I-130 petition. This can only happen when a visa is available., however, for immediate relatives there is always sufficient visas available. Once you are granted a permanent visa at the consulate you may travel to the U.S. on the visa. Once admitted at a U.S. port of entry, you will officially convert to a permanent resident. To find out more about Consular Visa Processing for immediate relatives of U.S. citizens, see the “Green Card Processes & Procedures page.” The Department of State notifies applicants when they are eligible to apply for an immigrant visa. If you fail to apply for an immigrant visa within one year following notice from the Department of State, your petition may be terminated.

Things you should remember:

• Turning 21 years of age. When an immediate relative child of a U.S. citizen reaches the 21 years of age, he or she usually will become a “first preference” (F1) category son or daughter (over 21 years of age) of a U.S. citizen. The child will no longer have a visa immediately available. This modification may result in a substantial wait in adjustment of status or visa processing because he or she will now need to wait for an immigrant visa to become available. For more information, see our Visa Availability & Priority Dates page.

• Getting Married. If an immediate relative child under age 21 gets married, he or she is no longer considered an “immediate relative” and the visa application will be converted to a “third preference” (F3) category married son or daughter of a U.S. citizen and a visa normally would not be immediately available. You are required to notify USCIS of any change in your marital status after the Form I-130 was filed and prior to becoming a permanent resident or obtaining an immigrant visa

• Child Status Protection Act. A recent change in the law may help certain children from aging out. The Child Status Protection Act (CSPA) in some instances allows a child to retain the classification of “child” even if you have reached age 21. Generally, your age is “frozen” as of the date your U.S. citizen parent files Form I-130 for you. To decide if the CSPA applies to you, see the Child Status Protection Act page.