Green Card for Family of U.S. Citizens    

This page describes how you (a U.S. citizen) may petition for certain family members to receive either a green card, a fiancee visa or a K-3/K-4 Visa  based on your relationship. (If your relative wishes to naturalize or obtain proof of citizenship, see "Citizenship" to the right.)


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Table: Relatives for Whom You (U.S. Citizen) May Petition 


Type of Relative for Whom You May Petition

Immigration Benefit

Related Forms

  • Spouse
  • Children (unmarried and under 21)
  • Sons and daughters (married and/or 21 or over)
  • Parents, if you are 21 or over
  • Siblings, if you are 21 or over

Green Card (Permanent Residence)

  • Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative
  • Form I-864, Affidavit of Support
  • Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status
  • A fiancé(e) residing outside the United States and children of fiancé(e) under 21

Fiancé(e) Visa

  • Form I-129F, Petition for Alien Fiancé(e)
  • Spouse
  • Children of spouse (unmarried and under 21)

K-3/K-4 Nonimmigrant Visa

  • Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative
  • Form I-129F, Petition for Alien Fiancé(e)


What follows is a description of the application process for family-based green cards (permanent residence). For more information on fiancé(e) visas and K-3/K-4 nonimmigrant visas, see the corresponding links under "Family of U.S. Citizens" on the upper-left.

Application Process: Green Card (Permanent Residence)

To petition for a family member to receive a green card (permanent residence), you must submit the following with your Form I-130:

  • Proof of your U.S. citizenship
  • Evidence of the qualifying relationship (birth certificate, marriage certificate, divorce decree, etc.) 
  • Proof of any legal name change for you or the beneficiary

Spouses of deceased U.S. permanent residents (widows and widowers) may also be eligible to become permanent residents. See the “Widow(er)” page.

Immediate Relatives

The term “immediate relative(s)” is used to define certain immigrant relatives of U.S. citizens.  

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 relatives of U.S. citizens, visas are always available, which means that your family member does not need to wait in line for a visa. Immediate relatives who are in the United States can file Form I-485 at the same time as Form I-130. For more information on how your relative can apply to adjust status (get a green card) while he or she is in the United States, see the “Green Card” link to the right.

    Preference Categories

    Preference categories include family relationships that are not immediate relatives and have annual numerical limits. A visa becomes available to a preference category based on the priority date (the date the Form I-130 was filed). The following are preference categories: 

    • First preference: Unmarried, adult sons and daughters of U.S. citizens (adult means 21 or older.)
    • Second Preference (2A): Spouses of green card holders, unmarried children (under 21) of permanent residents
    • Second Preference (2B):  Unmarried adult sons and daughters of permanent residents
    • Third Preference: Married sons and daughters (any age) of U.S. citizens
    • Fourth Preference: Brothers and sisters of adult U.S. citizens

    For current wait times, see the “Visa Bulletin” and “Processing Times” links to the right. For more information on priority dates, see the “Visa Availability and Priority Dates” to the right. For more specific information on how to help individual members of your family, see the corresponding link under “Family of U.S. Citizens” to the left. 

    What Happens Next?

    • If your relative is already in the United States, he or she may apply to adjust status to become a green card holder (permanent resident) after a visa number becomes available using Form I-485. 
    • If your relative is outside the United States, your petition will be sent to the National Visa Center (NVC). The NVC will forward your petition to the appropriate U.S. consulate when a visa becomes available and your relative will be notified about how to proceed. This process is referred to as “Consular Processing.” 
    • Your family member’s preference category will determine how long he or she will have to wait for an immigrant visa number. Once you have filed a petition, you can check its progress on “Check My Case Status”, in the links to the right. For visa availability information, see the “Visa Bulletin” link to the right.

    For more information on becoming a green card holder, see the “Adjustment of Status” (for processing within the United States) and “Consular Processing” (for processing overseas) links to the right. For more information on green cards, see the “Green Card” link to the right.

    NOTE: A visa petition (Form I-130 or Form I-129F) is only used to demonstrate a qualifying relationship. An approved petition DOES NOT grant any benefit, it simply creates a place in line for visa processing.

    Members of the Military

    If you or a member of your family is in the U.S. military, special conditions may apply. \

    Find out about the Preference System.

    Find out how the Visa Bulletin and Priority Date Affects this type of case.

    Find out about the 3/10 year bar for those that were illegal in the U.S. and leaves for visa processing.

    Find out about "Adjustment of Status."

    Find out about how Section 245(i) adjustment helps if the applicant is illegal.

    Find out about the National Visa Center.