Family-Based Immigration

Family-Based Immigration

Family-based immigration is the most common form of obtaining lawful U.S. permanent residency, which is more commonly known as a “green card.” Family members of United States citizens and lawful permanent residents (LPRs) may obtain legal permanent residence in the United States. Filing for permanent residency also allows one to obtain an employment authorization document (EAD), commonly referred to as a “work permit,” which authorizes lawful employment in the United States pending a decision on the green card application. In general, a person who wishes to immigrate to the United States must have a petition approved by the USCIS before applying for an immigrant visa. For family-based visas, the petition is filed either by a U.S. citizen or U.S. lawful permanent resident relative.

Family Preference Immigrant Visa

Family preference immigrant visas are used when an immigrant is a distant relative of someone who is either an LPR (Lawful Permanent Resident) or a U.S. citizen. The following illustrates what the four different preferences are and the number allotted to each preference.

  • Family First Preference (F1): 23,000 out of the 226,000 family based immigrant visas are reserved for F1. To be an F1, you must be an unmarried son or daughter of a U.S. citizen, and must be a minor. Minor child means, “an unmarried person under twenty-one years of age”.- INA § 101(a)
  • Family Second Preference (F2): 114,200 out of 226,000 visas are allotted to F2 petitioners. F2 is for spouses, minor children, and unmarried sons and daughters (who are over 21 years of age) of LPRs.
  • Family Third Preference (F3): 23,400 out of the 226,000 visas are allotted to F3 petitioners. F3 is for married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens, and their spouses and minor children.
  • Family Fourth Preference (F4): 65,000 out of the 226,000 visas are allotted to F4 petitioners. F4 is for the brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens, and their spouses and minor children. The U.S. citizens must be at least 21 years of age.


In order to qualify for a family preference visa, you must be related to the U.S. citizen or LPR, and must be either their minor child or spouse. Family preference visas cannot be used for grandparents, aunts, uncles, in-laws, and cousins. If the number of applicants for a particular category exceeds the allotted number, there will be an immigration wait. The way preference visas are given is based on when you filed the visa and what your priority date is. A visa cannot be issued until the applicant’s priority date is reached. What this means is that applicants may have to wait several years before they can get a family preference visa.

Application Procedure

The first step to filing a family based preference visa is to have a sponsoring relative file a Petition for Alien Relative, Form I-130 with the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The U.S. citizen filing must be 21 years old or older if they are filing for a sibling or parent; however, if you are filing for anyone else, there is no age restriction. If you are not a U.S. citizen, rather an LPR you must be at least 18 years old and have a residence in the United States before you can sign an Affidavit of Support, Form I-864 or I-864 EZ. After USCIS approves the petition, it is sent to the National Visa Center where your petition is assigned a case number. Upon your priority date coming up, you will be directed to complete From DS-261. Once this is done, you will be prompted to pay the appropriate fees and submit necessary visa documents, including the Affidavit of Support, application forms, civil documents, etc.

Interesting Fact

If you upgraded your spouse’s F2 petition but did not file a separate petition for your minor child while you were an LPR then you need to do so now. Reason being, a child is not included in an immediate relative (IR) petition. If you had filed an F2 originally, you would not have to worry about this because with an F2 petition, a child is included. If your child is born abroad after you became a U.S. citizen, they may qualify as a U.S. citizen themselves. Upon your child applying for a U.S. passport, the consular officer will decide whether or not your child can have a U.S. passport. If the consular decides your child is not allowed to be a U.S. citizen, then your child may apply for an immigrant visa if they wish to live in the U.S.

How We Can Help Obtain Your Family Based Immigration

At Rai & Associates, we help family members petition for other family members to permanently reside in the United States. Our work includes assisting with fiance visas, representing the family members of people who have been granted asylum, and the spouses, children and parents, of people who have relocated to the U.S. Our San Francisco, California, law firm often files petitions with United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Once USCIS has approved a petition, the approved petition can be sent to the National Visa Center. We work with consulates and clients all over the world and are knowledgeable about how to present the best possible case. We also help prepare our clients for interviews abroad. Knowing what to expect in an interview can help you feel more relaxed. It may also help you avoid common pitfalls that may cause delays in your processing time. Our attorneys are also experienced in presenting waivers to USCIS and consular offices abroad. If your family members need a waiver for prior deportation, crimes, fraud, unlawful presence, or health-related grounds, we can help you. You can always start this process by sending us your resume either by e-mail to or by fax to +1 415-693-9135.

Our Family Based Immigration attorneys experience benefits you in several key areas. We:

  • Clarify options and potential scenarios surrounding your case.
  • Assist you in collecting the proper information and documentation.
  • Correctly classify the application and ensure requirements are met.
  • Prepare and submit all USCIS and Department of Labor (DOL) forms and documentation.
  • Communicate with the DOL and USCIS throughout the process.
  • Monitor the entire family based immigration application process.

Family Based Immigration Attorney Experience & Responsiveness that Makes a Difference. Our Family Based Immigration Attorney Pledge:

  • 100% commitment to processing your Family Based Immigration quickly & successfully.
  • Strong Family Based Immigration attorney experience & knowledge.
  • Open Family Based Immigration Attorney communication & responsiveness is among our top priority.
  • Highest level of Family Based Immigration Attorney service at an affordable FLAT rate.
  • Some Family Based Immigration applications can be submitted in as little as 1-2 weeks.
  • To discuss your case call: (415)-693-9131 or Mail Us.
Something very important you may want to know

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. 1
    Who can be a Sponsor?

    A USC or LPR can be the Sponsor of a family based immigration petition. However, the Sponsor has to meet some requirements and legal obligations. The Sponsor has to execute a legally binding affidavit of support for the Beneficiary, in which the Sponsor guarantees to maintain the standard of living of the intending immigrant at a level not lower than 125% of the national poverty level. This obligation continues until the Beneficiary has become a U.S. citizen or has worked in the United States for 40 qualifying quarters.

  2. 2
    My wife and I are aliens working in the U.S. My 1-year-old son was born in the U.S. and is a U.S. citizen. Can he file an immigration petition for us now?

    No, he cannot file immigration petition for you based on your parent-child relationship until he reaches the age of 21.

  3. 3
    I am a permanent resident. May I file an immigration petition on behalf of my parents?

    No, you cannot. As a lawful permanent resident, you are not eligible to petition to bring your parents to live and work permanently in the United States.

  4. 4
    Who can be a Beneficiary?

    First of all, “immediate relatives” of a USC, including parents, spouses, widows, and children of a USC (children who are unmarried and under 21 years of age, and, in the case of a parent of a USC, the petitioning son or daughter being at least 21 years of age) can immigrate to the United States without being subject to any numerical restrictions. They can apply for the permanent resident status without any waiting time. The rest of the Beneficiaries are divided into several groups called Preferences. Each Preference is given a numerical quota per year to limit the number of immigrants admitted into the United States. Please see the section on Visa Bulletin for more information. The four Preferences are as follows:

    • 1st Preference: applies to unmarried sons and daughters of U.S. citizens
    • 2nd Preference: applies to spouses and unmarried sons and daughters of lawful permanent residents
    • 3rd Preference: applies to married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens
    • 4th Preference: siblings of U.S. citizens

  5. 5
    How does U.S immigration law define ``Siblings``?

    A sibling is a brother, sister, stepbrother, stepsister, or adopted brother or sister. For the necessary sibling relationship to exist, each person must have been a child of at least one of the same parents. The siblings need not share the same biological parents as long as both became “children” at the appropriate time, like, before the age of 16 in cases of adoption, and before the age of 18 for stepchildren.

  6. 6
    I am a U.S. citizen, and I am over 18. May I apply for immigration for my alien sister?

    No, you cannot. As a USC, you are eligible for filing for the immigration of your sister when you are at least 21 years old.

  7. 7
    My father is a U.S. citizen, and he is filing for permanent residence for me. I am married with one son and one daughter. Should my father file separate petitions for my wife, son and daughter?

    No. Your father need not file separate immigration petitions for your spouse, son and daughter. Your spouse and children will be included in the immigration petition your father is filing for you.

  8. 8
    What evidence of assets may I submit?

    Evidence of assets includes almost all tangible or intangible properties. Usually they are: (A) bank statements covering the last 12 months; (B) stocks, bonds, and other securities; (C) personal property; or (D) real estate.


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