To promote family unity, immigration law allows permanent residents of the United States (green card holders) to petition for certain eligible relatives to come and live permanently in the United States. A permanent resident may petition for his/her spouse and unmarried child(ren) of any age to immigrate to the United States. Congress has limited the number of relatives who may immigrate under these categories each year so there is generally a waiting period before an immigrant visa number becomes available. If your family relationship qualifies you as an eligible relative of a U.S. permanent resident, then you are in what is called a “family preference category.”
This page discusses the steps required to get a green card for relatives of a permanent resident (in a Family 2nd Preference category).
Get a Green Card While Inside the United States
If you are currently in the United States and are one of the specified categories of relatives of a permanent resident, you may be able to become a permanent resident in two steps.
- Step One – Your permanent resident relative must file Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, for you and it must be approved. You must wait for your priority date in your immigrant visa category to become current. Your priority date is the date when the Form I-130 is properly filed (with correct fee and signature) on your behalf by your U.S. permanent resident relative. For more information on priority dates, see the “Visa Availability & Priority Dates” link to the left under “Green Card Processes & Procedures.”
- Step Two – Once the priority date in your visa category is current, you may file for adjustment of status with Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status. Adjustment of status is the process you go through to become a permanent resident. For more information, see the “Adjustment of Status” link to the left under “Green Card Processes & Procedures.”
Get a Green Card While Outside the United States
If you are currently outside the United States and are one of the specified eligible categories of relatives of a permanent resident, you can become a permanent resident through consular processing. Consular processing is when we work with the U.S. Department of State to issue a visa on an approved Form I-130 petition when a visa is available. In this process the Department of State will issue you a visa. If approved, you may then travel on the visa and will officially become a permanent resident when admitted at a U.S. port of entry. For more information on consular processing for preference category relatives of permanent residents, see the links to the left under “Green Card Processes & Procedures.”
Things to keep in mind:
- Turning 21 years of age. If you are an unmarried child of a permanent resident, turning 21 years of age may delay the process of becoming a permanent resident or obtaining an immigrant visa. You will no longer qualify as an “Unmarried Child of a Lawful Permanent Resident” (F2A) and will convert to the category of an “Unmarried Son or Daughter of a Lawful Permanent Resident (F2B).” This change in categories may result in a significant delay in your immigrant visa becoming available. For more information on priority dates, see the “Visa Availability & Priority Dates” link to the left under “Green Card Processes & Procedures.”
- The Child Status Protection Act (CSPA). In certain cases, the CSPA may allow you to retain the classification of “child” even if you have reached age 21. To determine if the Child Status Protection Act (CSPA) applies to you, see the “Child Status Protection Act” link to the left under “Green Card Processes & Procedures.”
- Getting Married. If you are the unmarried son or daughter of a permanent resident, and you get married prior to becoming a permanent resident, you no longer qualify for permanent residence through your permanent resident family member. There is no visa category for a married child of a permanent resident. Note: You must notify USCIS of any change in your marital status after Form I-130 has been filed for you and prior to becoming a permanent resident or obtaining an immigrant visa.
- Permanent Resident Relative Becomes a U.S. citizen. If the permanent resident relative that petitioned for you becomes a U.S. Citizen, your preference category would change and a visa may be available sooner. This is because you would now be getting a green card as a relative of a U.S. citizen. For more information on getting a green card through a U.S. citizen relative, see the “Green Card for a Family Member of a U.S. Citizen” and “Green Card for an Immediate Relative of a U.S. Citizen” links to the left under “Green Card Through Family.”