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Green Card for Family Preference Immigrants

ALERT:  On July 29, 2020, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York (SDNY) in State of New York, et al. v. DHS, et al. and Make the Road NY et al. v. Cuccinelli, et al. enjoined the Department of Homeland Security from enforcing, applying, implementing, or treating as effective the Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds Final Rule (84 FR 41292, Aug. 14, 2019, final rule; as amended by 84 FR 52357, Oct. 2, 2019, final rule correction) for any period during which there is a declared national health emergency in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. 

As long as the July 29, 2020, SDNY injunction is in effect, USCIS will apply the 1999 public charge guidance that was in place before the Public Charge Rule was implemented on Feb. 24, 2020 to the adjudication of any application for adjustment of status on or after July 29, 2020. In addition, USCIS will adjudicate any application or petition for extension of nonimmigrant stay or change of nonimmigrant status on or after July 29, 2020, consistent with regulations in place before the Public Charge Rule was implemented; in other words, we will not apply the public benefit condition.

Please see our page on the injunction to learn how it affects you.

U.S. immigration law allows certain aliens who are family members of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents to become lawful permanent residents (get a Green Card) based on specific family relationships. If you are the spouse, minor child or parent of a U.S. citizen, please see the Green Card for Immediate Relatives of U.S. Citizen page for information on how to apply for a Green Card.

Other family members eligible to apply for a Green Card are described in the following family “preference immigrant” categories:

  • First preference (F1) - unmarried sons and daughters (21 years of age and older) of U.S. citizens;
  • Second preference (F2A) - spouses and children (unmarried and under 21 years of age) of lawful permanent residents;
  • Second preference (F2B) - unmarried sons and daughters (21 years of age and older) of lawful permanent residents;
  • Third preference (F3) - married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens; and
  • Fourth preference (F4) - brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens (if the U.S. citizen is 21 years of age and older).

This page provides specific information for aliens in the United States who want to apply for lawful permanent resident status based on a family preference category while in the United States. This is called “adjustment of status.” You should also read the Instructions for Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status (PDF, 539.23 KB) before you apply.

If you are currently outside the United States, see Consular Processing for information about how to apply for a Green Card as a family preference immigrant.

Eligibility for Adjustment of Status

If you are currently in the United States, you must meet the following requirements to be eligible for a Green Card as a family preference immigrant:

  • You properly file Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status;
  • You were inspected and admitted or inspected and paroled into the United States;
  • You are physically present in the United States at the time you file your Form I-485
  • You are eligible to receive an immigrant visa;
  • An immigrant visa is immediately available to you at the time you file your Form I-485 and at the time we make a final decision on your application (For information on visa availability, see Visa Availability and Priority Dates, Adjustment of Status Filing Charts, and the Department of State website to view the Visa Bulletin);
  • The relationship to the family member who filed Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, for you still exists;
  • None of the applicable bars to adjustment of status apply to you;
  • You are admissible to the United States for lawful permanent residence or eligible for a waiver of inadmissibility or other form of relief; and
  • You merit the favorable exercise of our discretion (this means the positive factors in your case outweigh the negative factors).

Inspected and Admitted or Inspected and Paroled

Generally, to be eligible to adjust status, you must be present in the United States after being “inspected and admitted” or “inspected and paroled” by an immigration officer. There are some limited exceptions to this eligibility requirement. For more information, see the USCIS Policy Manual Volume 7, Adjustment of Status, Part B, Chapter 2, Section A, “Inspected and Admitted” or “Inspected and Paroled”.

Eligibility to Receive an Immigrant Visa

You are eligible to receive an immigrant visa if you are the beneficiary of:

  • An approved Form I-130 filed on your behalf;
  • A pending Form I-130 (that is ultimately approved); or
  • A Form I-130 (that is ultimately approved) filed together with your Form I-485.

Bars to Adjustment

You may be barred from adjusting status depending on how you entered the United States or if you committed a particular act or violation of immigration law. You are ineligible to apply for adjustment of status if one or more bars to adjustment listed in section 245(c) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) apply to you. For more information, please see the USCIS Policy Manual Volume 7, Adjustment of Status, Part B, 245(a) Adjustment.

Applying Under INA 245(i)

You may be able to adjust status under INA 245(i) even if you are subject to one or more adjustment bars and are therefore ineligible for adjustment of status under INA 245(a). For more information, see the Instructions for Form I-485 Supplement A, Adjustment of Status Under Section 245(i) (PDF, 278.7 KB)(PDF).

Grounds of Inadmissibility

To qualify for a Green Card, you must be admissible to the United States. Reasons why you may be inadmissible are listed in INA 212(a) and are called grounds of inadmissibility.

In general, we can only approve your Green Card application if none of the grounds of inadmissibility apply to you. As a family preference immigrant, the following ground of inadmissibility does not apply to you:

  • Labor certification and qualifications for certain immigrants (INA 212(a)(5))

If you are inadmissible, the law may allow you to apply for a waiver of inadmissibility or other form of relief. For more information, see Form I-601, Application for Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility and Form I-212, Application for Permission to Reapply for Admission into the United States after Deportation or Removal. If we grant a waiver or other form of relief is granted, we may approve your application for a Green Card if you are otherwise eligible.

Whether a waiver or other form of relief is available depends on the specific inadmissibility ground(s) that applies to you and the category you are adjusting under. Eligibility requirements for waivers and other forms of relief vary. For information on the grounds of inadmissibility and waivers, please see USCIS Policy Manual Volume 8, Admissibility, and Volume 9, Waivers.

How to Apply

If you are currently in the United States, an immigrant visa is immediately available to you as a family preference immigrant, and you meet certain other requirements, you may file Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, to apply for a Green Card without leaving the country. If a visa is immediately available, you may file your Form I-485:

For information on visa availability, see Visa Availability and Priority Dates, Adjustment of Status Filing Charts. You can view the Visa Bulletin on the Department of State's website.

What to Submit (Principal Applicant)

If you are the named beneficiary of a Form I-130, you are called the principal applicant. As the principal applicant, you should submit the following documentation and evidence to apply for a Green Card as a family preference immigrant who is already in the United States:

Note: Certain forms, including Form I-485, have a filing fee. You must submit the correct filing fee for each form, unless you are exempt or eligible for a fee waiver. Please see our Filing Fees and Fee Schedule webpages for more information.

For more information on applying for a Green Card, see the Form I-485 instructions (PDF) (PDF, 539.23 KB) and our forms filing tips webpage.

Family Members

If you are the spouse or unmarried child (under 21 years of age) of a family-based principal applicant, you may apply for a Green Card as a derivative applicant. For more information on derivatives and eligibility for adjustment of status, please see USCIS Policy Manual Volume 7, Part A, Chapter 6, Section C, Subsection C - Derivatives.

Eligibility Criteria for Adjustment as Derivative Applicant

In order to be eligible for a Green Card as a derivative applicant in a family-based preference category, you must meet the following requirements:

  • You properly file your Form I-485:
    • Together with the principal applicant’s Form I-485 (and the principal applicant’s Form I-485 is ultimately approved);
    • While the principal applicant’s Form I-485 is still pending with USCIS (and we ultimately approve their Form I-485);
    • After we approve the principal applicant’s Form I-485, if:
      • They are still a lawful permanent resident, and
      • You were their spouse or child at the time we approved their Form I-485; or
    • After the principal applicant obtained an immigrant visa and was admitted into the United States as a lawful permanent resident, as long as:
      • They are still a lawful permanent resident, and
      • You were their spouse or child at the time they were admitted into the United States;
  • You are currently the principal applicant’s spouse or child;
  • You were inspected and admitted or inspected and paroled into the United States;
  • You are physically present in the United States at the time you file your Form I-485;
  • An immigrant visa is immediately available when you file your Form I-485 and when we make a final decision on your application. (For information on visa availability, see Visa Availability and Priority Dates, Adjustment of Status Filing Charts, and the Department of State website to view the Visa Bulletin.)
  • None of the applicable bars to adjustment of status apply to you;
  • You are admissible to the United States for lawful permanent residence or eligible for a waiver of inadmissibility or other form of relief; and
  • You merit the favorable exercise of our discretion (this means the positive factors in your case outweigh the negative factors.

What Derivative Applicants Should Submit

If you are a derivative applicant (spouse or child), you should submit the following evidence to apply for a Green Card under a family-based preference immigrant category:

Certain forms, including Form I-485, have a filing fee. You must submit the correct filing fee for each form, unless you are exempt or eligible for a fee waiver. Please see our Filing Fees and Fee Schedule for more information.

Employment Authorization and Advance Parole Documents

Generally, when you have a pending Form I-485, you may apply for employment authorization by filing Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization.

You may also apply for an advance parole document by filing Form I-131, Application for Travel Document. An advance parole document authorizes you to appear at a port of entry to seek parole into the United States after temporary travel abroad. If you need to leave the United State temporarily while your Form I-485 is pending, please see the Form I-131 Instructions for more information. Generally, if you have a pending Form I-485 and you leave the United States without an advance parole document, we will consider you to have abandoned your application.

For more information, see our Employment Authorization and Travel Documents webpages.

Legal Reference

For more information, see the following:

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