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For Individuals 

Permanent Visas

Permanent Visas - Family

Permanent Visas - Family

Family-based immigration is available to parents, children, spouses, and siblings of U.S. citizens and to spouses and certain children of lawful permanent residents (green card holders) of the United States.

Immediate relatives of U.S. citizens do not have a limit on the number of visas that the government issues. Immediate relatives are spouses, parents, and children under 21. The other family relationships do not have unlimited visas and are subject to yearly numerical limitations. In other words, there is a very long wait for most of these beneficiaries, and the wait time varies depending on the category. You must show that the qualifying relationship exists, so supporting documentation for parent-child or sibling relationships mainly involves either birth or marriage certificates, or both, depending on the relationship you wish to establish. However, sometimes an immigration agency will require DNA tests.


For a spousal petition, both people must be free to marry and same-sex marriages are included. That means all divorces and annulments must have been done exactly as required by the laws of the country where the divorce or annulment was done. If your divorce is found not to be in compliance, your application will be denied. In addition, your marriage must be recognized by the laws in the country in which it was done. Many countries do not recognize church-only marriages as valid. Marriage cases can be challenging, as this category is most subject to abuse, so providing strong bona fides and supporting evidence is very important.


Only U.S. citizens can petition for their parents.


Only U.S. citizens can petition for their siblings and there is an extremely long wait for a visa to be available.


If you want to bring your fiancé to the U.S. to marry him or her and sponsor that person to stay here, you can file for a K-1 visa, which allows the fiancé of a U.S. citizen to enter the United States for a period of up to 90 days in order to marry the U.S. citizen. You can also bring children under 21 years old on a K-2 visa.

*Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) Filings  

If you are a man or women who is being abused by your petitioning relative (except for fiancés) you can request status independently of your abusive U.S. citizen (USC) or permanent resident(LPR/green card) family member by filing your own petition. With only limited exceptions, immigration officers cannot disclose information about you and cannot make determinations regarding you by relying solely on information provided to them by the abusive USC or LPR or your family members.


If you are a U.S. citizen you can petition for your children at any age and marital status. However, unlimited visa are available only if they are under 21 years of age. If they are over 21 there is a long wait for a visa to be available. Permeant residents (green card holders) can only petition for their children that are unmarried. There is a long wait for those unmarried children over 21.  Petitions for stepchildren, orphans, adopted children, and legitimated children can become extremely complicated so these will need very specific supporting evidence.

Children are defined as follows:

  • A child born in wedlock;
  • A stepchild (provided the child had not reached the age of 18 at the time of the marriage that created the stepchild relationship);
  • A child born out of wedlock, with respect to the natural mother in any circumstances, and with respect to the natural father only if the father can demonstrate a bona fide parent-child relationship;
  • A child whose relationship to his or her petitioning father has been legitimated under the laws of the father's country or the country of the child's residence by the age of 16;
  • An adopted child, only in certain circumstances;
  • An orphan.

The Child Protection Act (CSPA)

Congress recognized that many children were aging out due to large USCIS processing backlogs, so it enacted this provision in 2002. This allows some people to remain classified as a child beyond he or her 21st birthday. However, CSPA does not change the requirement that you must be unmarried in order to remain eligible for classification as a child. CSPA applies only to the following people: Immediate relatives; Family-sponsored preference principal applicants and derivative applicants; Violence Against Women Act(VAWA) self-petitioners and derivative applicants; Employment-based preference derivative applicants; Diversity Immigrant Visa (DV) derivative applicants; Derivative refugees; and Derivative asylees.

For children in this classification, their age is frozen on the date the Form I-130 or Form I-360 is filed as long as you stay unmarried.