U.S. Citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents are able to petition certain relatives for Lawful Permanent Residence (i.e. to obtain a green card). The relatives that may be petitioned are called “qualifying relatives.”
There are six categories of qualifying relatives:
- Spouses and minor children of U.S. Citizens;
- Unmarried, adult sons and daughters of U.S. Citizens;
- Spouses and minor children of Lawful Permanent Residents;
- Unmarried, adult sons and daughters of Lawful Permanent Residents;
- Married sons and daughters of U.S. Citizens; and
- Brothers and sisters of adult U.S. Citizens.
If you are petitioning one of the relatives in the first category above (an “immediate relative”), there is no wait time for a visa to become available. However, for the other categories, family visa petitions are subject to “quotas.” This means that there is only a certain number of visas available per year for each of the above categories, and an immigrant is not able to obtain a green card until such a visa is available. Because the number of visas is limited, a person who files a petition may have to wait several years before a visa becomes available. Additionally, there are “per-country limits” which limit the amount of visas that are available to any one country per year. For countries with traditionally high rates of immigration, such as China, Mexico, India, and the Philippines, this means that the wait time for visas can be even longer.
Fortunately, for the first category of qualifying relatives, there are no quotas. This means that visas are always immediately available for spouses and minor children of U.S. citizens