Citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents (“green card” holders) of the United States may petition for certain relatives to immigrate to the United States by filing Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative.
U.S. Citizens may petition for the following beneficiaries:
- Immediate relatives:
- Children (unmarried and under 21 years old); and
- Parents (if the Petitioner is over 21).
- Other family members:
- Sons and daughters (married and/or older than 21); and
- Siblings (if the Petitioner is over 21)
Lawful Permanent Residents may petition for the following beneficiaries:
- Unmarried children under 21; and
- Unmarried son or daughter of any age.
For immediate relatives of U.S. citizens, visas are always available, which means that the Beneficiary does not need to wait for a visa. For all other relatives, preference categories determine how long the family member must wait for a visa to become available. Visas for these categories are subject to annual numerical limits.
An approved Form I-130 merely establishes that a qualifying family relationship exists; it does not grant any benefit to the beneficiary other than securing a priority date for visa processing. In order for the beneficiary to become a Lawful Permanent Resident, Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, must also be approved. If the Beneficiary is in the U.S. legally, he or she may be able to file this application together with the I-130 Petition. Otherwise, a beneficiary of an approved immigrant petition who has an immigrant visa number immediately available may apply at a U.S. Department of State consulate abroad for an immigrant visa in order to come to the United States and be admitted as a permanent resident. This path is referred to as “consular processing.”