Green Card for Family Preference Immigrants

U.S. immigration law allows certain foreign nationals 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 Immediate Relative 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 foreign nationals 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, 544 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, in order to be eligible for a Green Card as a family preference immigrant, you must meet the following requirements:

  • 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;
  • 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

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 on this requirement, see 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

Depending on how you entered the United States or if you committed a particular act or violation of immigration law, you may be barred from adjusting status. 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 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). See the separate Instructions for Form I-485 Supplement A, Adjustment of Status Under Section 245(i) (PDF, 279 KB) for more information.

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, USCIS can only approve your Green Card application if none of the grounds of inadmissibility apply to you.

If you are inadmissible, the law may allow you to apply for a waiver of inadmissibility or other form of relief. 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 a waiver or other form of relief is granted, USCIS 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, and the Department of State website to view the Visa Bulletin.

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:

  • Copy of the Form I-797, Approval or Receipt Notice, for the Form I-130 petition filed on your behalf (unless you are filing your Form I-485 together with the Form I-130);
  • Two passport-style photographs;
  • Copy of your government-issued identity document with photograph;
  • Copy of your birth certificate;
  • Copy of your passport page with nonimmigrant visa (if applicable);
  • Copy of your passport page with your admission  or parole stamp (issued by a U.S. immigration officer) (if applicable);
  • Copy of Form I-94, Arrival/Departure Record, or copy of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) admission or parole stamp on the travel document (if applicable) 

Note: If CBP provided you with an electronic Form I-94 upon your arrival/admission to the United States, you may print out a paper version of the Form I-94 from the CBP website at www.cbp.gov/I94;

  • Proof that you have continuously maintained a lawful status since arriving in the U.S.;
  • Certified police and court records of criminal charges, arrests, or convictions (if applicable);

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 USCIS’ Filing Fees and Fee Schedule for more information.

For more information on applying for a Green Card, see the Instructions for Form I-485 (PDF, 544 KB). Please also see our page on Tips for Filing Forms with USCIS.

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 the principal applicant’s Form I-485 is ultimately approved);
    • After USCIS approves the principal applicant’s Form I-485, as long as:
      • The principal applicant is still a lawful permanent resident, and
      • You were the principal applicant’s spouse or child at the time USCIS approved his or her 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:
      • The principal applicant is still a lawful permanent resident, and
      • You were the principal applicant’s spouse or child at the time he or she was 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;
  • 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

What to Submit (Derivative Applicants)

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:

  • Copy of documentation showing your relationship to the principal applicant, such as a marriage certificate, birth certificate, or adoption decree;
  • Copy of the Form I-797, Approval or Receipt Notice, for the principal applicant’s Form I‑130 (unless you are filing your Form I-485 together with the principal applicant’s Form I‑485);
  • Copy of the Form I-797, Approval or Receipt Notice, for the principal applicant’s Form I‑485 or a copy of the principal applicant’s Green Card (if not filing together with the principal applicant’s Form I-485);
  • Two passport-style photographs;
  • Copy of your government-issued identity document with photograph;
  • Copy of your birth certificate;
  • Copy of your passport page with nonimmigrant visa (if applicable);
  • Copy of your passport page with admission or parole stamp (issued by a U.S. immigration officer) (if applicable);
  • Copy of Form I-94, Arrival/Departure Record or copy of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) admission or parole stamp on the travel document (if applicable) 

Note: If CBP provided you with an electronic Form I-94 upon your arrival/admission to the United States, you may print out a paper version of the Form I-94 from the CBP website at www.cbp.gov/I94;

  • Proof that you have continuously maintained a lawful status since arrival in the U.S.;
  • Certified police and court records of criminal charges, arrests, or convictions (if applicable);

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 USCIS’ 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 a Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization.

You may also apply for an advance parole document by filing a 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 Instructions for Application for Travel Document for more information.  Generally, if you have a pending Form I-485 and you leave the United States without an advance parole document, you will have abandoned your application.

For further information, see our Employment Authorization and Travel Documents pages.

Legal Reference

For more information, see the following:

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