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Family of Green Card Holders (Permanent Residents)

As a green card holder (permanent resident), you may petition for certain family members to immigrate to the United States as permanent residents.

You May Petition For The Following Family Members:

  • Spouse (husband or wife) 
  • Unmarried children under 21 
  • Unmarried son or daughter of any age

Application Process

To obtain a green card for your family member, you must:

  • File Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative
  • Provide proof of your status to demonstrate that you are a permanent resident.
  • Submit evidence of the qualifying relationship such as a birth certificate, marriage certificate, divorce decree, etc. See the form instructions for specific documents required.
  • Submit proof of any legal name change for you or your family member (the beneficiary).

See the instructions for Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, for detailed instructions.

If you or a member of your family is in the U.S. military special conditions may apply to your situation. For information and additional resources, see the “Information for Members of the Military and their Families” link to the right.

Preference Categories

When petitioning for your relative, the following preference categories apply: 

  • First preference: Unmarried, adult sons and daughters of U.S. citizens. (Adult means 21 or older)
  • Second Preference (2A): Spouses of green card holders, unmarried children (under 21) of permanent residents
  • Second Preference (2B):  Unmarried adult sons and daughters of permanent residents
  • Third Preference: Married sons and daughters (any age) of U.S. citizens
  • Fourth Preference: Brothers and sisters of adult U.S. citizens

A visa becomes available to a preference category according to the priority date (the date the I-130 was properly filed). For more information on priority dates, see the “Visa Availability and Priority Dates” link to the right.

What Happens Next?

  • If your relative is already in the United States legally, he or she may apply to adjust status to become a permanent resident after a visa number becomes available using Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status. 
  • If your relative is outside the United States, your petition will be sent to the National Visa Center (NVC). The NVC will forward your petition to the appropriate U.S. consulate when a visa becomes available and your relative will be notified about how to proceed. This process is referred to as “Consular Processing.”
  • Your family member’s preference category will determine how long he or she will have to wait for an immigrant visa number. Once you have filed a petition, you can check its progress on “Check My Case Status” in the links to the right. For visa availability information, see the “Visa Bulletin” link to the right.

For more information on becoming a permanent resident, see the “Adjustment of Status” (for processing within the United States) and “Consular Processing” (for processing overseas) links to the right. For more information on green cards, see the “Green Card” link to the right. For more information on each benefit type and the steps to take to help your relative immigrate, see the links to the left.

Note: A visa petition (Form I-130) is only used to demonstrate a qualifying relationship. An approved petition DOES NOT grant any benefit except to create a place in line for visa processing. For more information on green cards, see the “Green Card” link to the right. For more information on relatives and green cards, see the "Family of Green Card Holders (Permanent Residents)" link to the left.

Last Reviewed/Updated: 04/01/2011