US Family-Based Visas

Moving to the US? We offer advice and support on family-based visas and green cards.

US Family & Marriage Visa Categories

US family-based immigrant visa categories are divided in two groups: family-based visas that are “immediately” available for spouses, children under 21, and parents of US citizens, and family-based preference categories for those who are related to Lawful Permanent Residents (“green card” holders) and adult children or siblings of US citizens. Those applying under a preference category must wait for a visa number to become available to them which results in a backlog that sometimes results in many years waiting. Although the “immediate” visa category give the impression that it is a quick process to obtain a visa, depending on where the US citizen lives, it could take more than a year to sponsor an immediate family member.

Immediate Relative US Visa Categories

There is an unlimited number of Immediate Relative immigrant visas available which means a US visa is immediately available to those relatives listed below.

    • Spouse of a US Citizen
    • Unmarried Child under the age of 21 of a US Citizen
    • Orphaned Child Adopted by a US Citizen
    • Orphaned Child to be Adopted in the US by a US Citizen
    • Parent of a US Citizen who is at least 21 years old

The first step in applying for an immigrant visa for an immediate relative is for the US citizen to file a Petition for Alien Relative with the US Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS). Where the petition is filed depends largely on where the US citizen relative is currently living.

Family Preference Immigrant Visa Categories

In addition to the Immediate Relative immigrant visa categories, there are the Family Preference Immigrant Visas which are listed below. There are a limited number of these visas available which means that certain family members cannot apply for an immigrant visa until an immigrant visa number becomes available to them. This happens once the priority date, otherwise known as the date the Petition for Alien Relative was received by USCIS, becomes current. Every month the US Department of State releases the current priority dates for all the immigrant visa categories on its website.

    • Family First Preference: Unmarried sons and daughters of US Citizens, and their minor children, if any
    • Family Second Preference: Spouses, minor children, and unmarried sons and daughters (aged 21 and over) of Lawful Permanent Residents (aka green card holders)
    • Family Third Preference: Married sons and daughters of US Citizens, and their spouses and minor children
    • Family Fourth Preference: Brothers and sisters of US Citizens, and their spouses and minor children, provided the US Citizens are at least 21 years of age.

Many factors are involved with determining how best to proceed with a US family-based visa. For more information on the eligible relationships and processing times please visit the Janice Flynn & Associates blog. To speak to one of our lawyers about your specific circumstances, please contact Janice Flynn & Associates at +44 (0)20 7092 6830. After an initial discussion, we will most likely ask that you book a consultation with us so that we can determine how to maximize the likelihood of a speedy and successful visa application.