Immediate Relatives of U.S. Citizens for Family-Based Green Cards – Unlimited Categories

Immediate Relatives of U.S. Citizens for Family-Based Green Cards - Unlimited Categories

Immediate Relatives of U.S. Citizens (IR): Unmarried children under the age of 21, the spouse or widow(er) of a U.S. citizen, and the parent of a U.S. citizen who is 21 or older.

Because there is no numerical limit on the amount of visas that can be issued in these categories each year, qualified applicants do not have to spend time waiting for their priority date to become current (immigrant visa number to become available) once the petition is approved by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).


A fraudulent marriage to a U.S. citizen, i.e., marriage merely to obtain a green card, is illegal. Only the couple can know the actual intention behind their marriage. There are many situations that can lead to suspicion by the USCIS, such as a couple not living together, having only met recently, not knowing a common language to talk to each other, coming from extremely different backgrounds, etc. There are many things, on the other hand, that would tend to prove a bona fide marriage exists, such as children conceived during the marriage, staying in the same house, shared finances, joint property ownership, etc.

Marriage to the U.S. citizen must itself be valid, i.e., the husband and wife were each legally able to get married. For example, if either person had been previously married, a legally valid divorce must have since taken place. The actual ceremony must also, in the jurisdiction where it was performed, be legally recognized. The husband and wife should additionally be of legal age to get married.

The marriage must actually still exist; a former marriage to a U.S. citizen does not qualify to apply for a green card. While a marriage can remain in existence despite the physical separation of the couple, more serious arrangements such as the execution of a legal separation agreement, do tend to generate substantial obstacles to immigration. It is also important to remember that if the marriage took place within two years of getting permanent residence, it is done so on a “conditional” basis only. This means that if within two years after permanent resident status is obtained, the marriage terminates or is discovered to have been a “sham”, the grant of permanent residence will be revoked. In every other respect, the “conditional” permanent resident is identical to all others. He or she may work, travel, and enjoy the full measure of benefits available to all lawful permanent residents.

IR-1 – Spouses of a U.S. citizen
CR-1 – Spouses of a U.S. citizen (conditional status)
IW-1 – Certain spouses of deceased U.S. citizens. A petition must be filed within two years of the death of the U.S. citizen
K-1 – Fiance(e) and minor children of a U.S. citizen
K-3 – Certain spouses and minor children of U.S. citizens


Any child who is under the age of 21 and not married is covered under this category. As long as that child is the sponsoring U.S. citizen’s child, it does not matter whether the child was born while the sponsor was married to the partner or not. If the child was born while the sponsoring parent was married to the partner, the sponsoring parent can be either the mother or the father. If the child was born while the sponsoring parent was NOT married to the partner and the sponsoring parent was the mother, that will qualify. But if the sponsoring parent was the father, it will qualify only if evidence exists that the father is financially supporting and/or living with the child, has legal custody of the child, and before the child’s 18th birthday has “legitimized” the child through the manner prescribed by the law.

Stepchildren, adopted children, and “eligible orphans” are also eligible for immigration in certain instances.

An immigrant visa may only be processed for a child if he or she has no claim to a U.S. citizenship.

If you are filing for your spouse, have children immigrating with your spouse, are a U.S. citizen, and going to get a K3/K4 visa for your spouse/children, you should submit separate visa petitions for those children. To do so, you must qualify as the child’s parent or stepparent. You can only be their stepparent if your marriage took place before the child’s 18th birthday. In such cases, filing separate petitions for children is not to get a K4 visa (which they can get based on your spouse’s K3 visa), but to eventually apply for adjustment of status in the United States.

Children of U.S. citizens each need to have their own petitions.

IR-2 – Unmarried child of a U.S. Citizen under 21 years of age
CR-2 – Unmarried child of a U.S. Citizen under 21 years of age (conditional status)
IR-3 – Orphan adopted abroad by a U.S. Citizen
IR-4 – Orphan to be adopted in the U.S. by a U.S. citizen
IW-2 – Child of an IW-1
K-2 – Child of a K-1
K-4 – Child of a K-2


If the U.S. citizen child is 21 years of age or above, he/she can sponsor his/her parents for immigration, and the citizen must be the “child” of the parent seeking permanent residence, as described above.

A separate petition needs to be filed for each parent.

If parents of the U.S. citizen sponsor have minor children abroad, those children (your siblings) cannot be sponsored on the same petition. You will have to apply for your siblings under the F4 category. Alternatively, once your parents receive a green card, they can apply for a green card for children abroad under the F2-B category.

IR-5 – Parent of U.S. citizen

Returning Residents

This category is NOT for the immediate relatives of U.S. citizens, but is listed here because it has no annual quota.

This category includes immigrants who have lived in the United States previously as lawful permanent residents and are returning to live in the U.S. after a temporary visit of more than one year abroad.

All other categories other than those described above are limited categories; this means that they have numerical limits on how many people can immigrate each year under that category.

SB-1 – Lawful permanent residents who want to return to the U.S. after staying abroad more than one year or beyond the expiration of their re-entry permits

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