Preference Categories - Limited Categories
These are further broken into several subcategories described below and they have an annual quota. As the number of immigrant visas available to these categories is subject to a numeric annual limit, they have been separated into preferences. As such, the higher the preference category, the shorter the wait for an available visa.

Whenever there are more qualified applicants for a category than there are available numbers, the category will be considered over subscribed, and immigrant visas will be issued in the chronological order in which the petitions were filed until the numerical limit for the category is reached. The filing date of a petition becomes the applicant's priority date. Immigrant visas cannot be issued until an applicant's priority date is reached. In certain heavily over subscribed categories, there may be a waiting period of several years before a priority date is reached. The immediate family members of immigrants qualifying under each of these four preference categories are also permitted to concurrently immigrate, as well.

If the relative's case is not current, NVC can NOT expedite immigrant visa processing, even in the cases of family emergency. Immigrant visa processing is governed by the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952, as amended, which controls visa categories, priority dates and the availability of visa numbers. Immigrant visa numbers are made available strictly in the order of priority dates. There is no provision within the law that would allow NVC to waive numerical limitation in any individual case.

While the cases in the preference categories take a long time, there is no provision for them to live in the U.S. while the visa petition is pending. They may be able to get the dual intent non-immigrant visa such as H or L visa, if they independently qualify. However, it would be much harder to get the visitors visa because it would be very difficult to prove the no intention to immigrate when the immigration petition is pending.

Please see the visa bulletin to see the current waiting time in each category.

When you file for a relative under the categories F1, F2B, F3 or F4; separate petitions are not required for his/her spouse or unmarried children under 21 years of age.

These categories, in order of preference, are as follows:

Family First Preference (F1)
Unmarried adult (21 years or older) sons and daughters of U.S. citizens.

Quota: 23,400/year plus any visas unused in F4 category

They do not qualify for immediate relative(IR) category because they are over 21 years of age. To qualify for this category, they must have met the legal definition of "child" when he or she was under the age of 21, as described in the IR category.

Family Second Preference (F2)
Spouses, minor unmarried children (under 21 years of age), and unmarried sons and daughters (over age 21) of lawful permanent residents.

Quota: 114,200/year plus any visas unused in F1 category

At least seventy-seven percent of all visas available for this category will go to the spouses and children; the remainder will be allocated to unmarried sons and daughters.

Unmarried children or sons/daughters should not get married prior to the green card approval. If they get married after I-130 is filed, the petition is considered invalid. Neither the married child/son/daughter not his/her spouse would be able to get a green card under this category.

The F2 category is further divided into the two sub-categories:

F2A. Spouses and unmarried minor (under 21 years) Children:
77% of the overall second preference limitation, of which 75% are exempt from the per-country limit. If the marriage took place just to get a green card, the green card will not be given or if already given will be terminated. If the marriage took place 2 years before the green card was granted, it will be on conditional basis. Please read more details in IR category about this.

If you were married to your spouse before you became a permanent resident, your spouse may be eligible to receive following-to-join benefits. This means that you would not have to submit a separate Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, for your spouse, and your spouse would not have to wait any extra time for an immigrant visa to become available.

If the marriage is less than 2 years old when you enter the U.S. as a new immigrant based on the petition filed by your U.S. spouse, the green card is conditional and you will have to apply to remove the conditions to get a permanent green card. However, because of long waiting list (usually 3 to 5 years), it is highly unlikely that you actually will be able to get an immigrant visa within 2 years of marriage, you will get a permanent green card initially itself.

If the adopted child has lived with the family (adoptive parents) under legal authority for 2 years, he/she would be regarded as a child under immigration law and may be able to get a green card at the same time parents get a green card. Otherwise, adopted children would also be under this category.

F2B. Unmarried Sons and Daughters (21 years of age or older):
23% of the overall second preference limitation.

Married Son/Daughter:
There is no visa category for married son or daughter of permanent residents. If an unmarried son or daughter of a permanent resident marries before the permanent resident becomes a U.S. citizen, any petition filed for that son or daughter will be automatically revoked.

Family Third Preference (F3)
Married sons and daughters (any age) of U.S. citizens.

Quota: 23,400/year plus any visas not used by F1 and F2 categories.

As always, each son or daughter must have, at some earlier point, met the definition of "child" for immigration law purposes.

Family Fourth Preference (F4)
Brothers and sisters of United States citizens, and their spouses and children, provided the U.S. citizens are at least 21 years of age.

Quota: 65,000 per year.

To qualify under this category, the sponsoring citizen and his or her sibling must both meet (or have met) the definition of "child" in relation to the same parent.

Permanent residents can not petition for their brother(s) or sister(s).


It is not possible to sponsor other relatives such as an uncle/aunt, nephew/niece, cousin, in-laws, grandparents for a family based green card. You may be able to invite them on a temporary visitor visa. It may be possible for them to come on their own through other means such as H1 visa, employment based green card etc. But that is on their own, not based on your relationship with them.