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Categories for Family-Based Green Cards

The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) allows for the immigration of foreigners to the United States based on a relationship to a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident.

If you are a U.S. Citizen, you may petition for the following relatives, as long as you can prove your relationships:

  1. Husband or wife;
  2. Unmarried child under 21 years old;
  3. Unmarried son or daughter over 21 years old;
  4. Married son or daughter of any age;
  5. Brother(s) or sister(s), if you are at least 21 years old.
  6. Mother of father, if you are at least 21 years old;

If you are a lawful permanent resident (green card holder), you may petition for the following relatives, as long as you can prove your relationship:

  • Husband or wife;
  • Unmarried child under 21 years of age;
  • Unmarried son or daughter over 21 years of age.

Lawful permanent residents may not sponsor their parents, married sons/daughters, or brothers/sisters to live permanently in the U.S.

A sponsored relative must obtain an immigrant visa number based on their preference category. Family-based immigration is divided into two basic categories: unlimited, which has no numeric limit on it; and limited, which has an annual numeric limit.

Immediate relatives of U.S. citizens – Unlimited categories

Preference categories – Limited Categories

Additional Categories for Family-Based Green Cards

The following persons may also be able to get a green card:

  • A battered child or spouse of a U.S. citizen (VAWA)
  • Those who entered the U.S. with a K visa as the fiance(e) (K-1 visa) or an accompanying child (K-2 visa) of a U.S. citizen
  • V non-immigrant status holder
  • Widow(er) of a U.S. citizen or permanent resident
  • Those born to a foreign diplomat in the U.S.

Ineligibility for Family-Based Green Card

You may not file for a person in the following categories:

  1. An adoptive parent or adopted child, if the adoption took place after the child’s 16th birthday, or if the child has not been in the legal custody of the parent(s) and living with them for at least two years.

  2. The biological parent(s), if the United States citizen son or daughter gained permanent residence through adoption.

  3. A stepparent or stepchild, if the marriage that created the relationship took place after the child’s 18th birthday.

  4. A husband or wife, if they were not both physically present at the marriage ceremony, and the marriage was not consummated.

  5. A husband or wife, if you gained lawful permanent resident status by virtue of a prior marriage to a United States citizen or lawful permanent resident unless:
    1. a period of five years has elapsed since you became a lawful permanent resident; or

    2. you can establish by clear and convincing evidence that the prior marriage (through which you gained your immigrant status) was not entered into for the purpose of evading any provision of the immigration laws; or

    3. your prior marriage (through which you gained your immigrant status) was terminated by the death of your former spouse.
  6. A husband or wife, if he or she was in exclusion, deportation, removal, rescission, or judicial proceedings regarding his or her right to remain in the United States or while a decision in any of these proceedings was before any court on judicial review when the marriage took place, unless any of the following conditions apply:
    • Such spouse has resided outside the United States for a two-year period after the date of the marriage.

    • There is clear and convincing evidence that the marriage is legally valid where it took place; and that both of you got married in good faith and not for the purpose of procuring the admission of your spouse as an immigrant, and that no fee or any other consideration (other than appropriate attorney fees) was given for your filing of this petition.

  7. A husband or wife, if it has been legally determined that such an alien has attempted or conspired to enter into a marriage for the purpose of evading the immigration laws.

  8. A grandparent, grandchild, nephew, niece, uncle, aunt, cousin, or in-law.

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