Family-Based Visas

An Introduction to Permanent Immigration

People who have ‘Lawful Permanent Residency’, also known as a ‘Green Card,’ enjoy many benefits, including the freedom to live and work permanently in the U.S.

Permanent immigrants to the U.S. are divided into four general categories. Each of these categories may have its own subcategories:

  • Family-Based Immigration
  • Employment-Based Immigration
  • Diversity Visa Lottery
  • Asylum/Refugees

Family-Based Immigration

Permanent immigration or lawful permanent residency in the U.S. comes with a variety of rights and privileges, including the right to permanently live and work in the U.S.

If you want to immigrate to the U.S. through the family-based category, a U.S. Citizen or a Lawful Permanent Resident relative must sponsor you.

Procedure to Apply for Family-Based Immigration

  • Your sponsor must submit Form I-130 (Petition for Alien Relative) for you to USCIS, along with documentation to prove that:
    • He/She is a Citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident of the U.S.
    • He/She can support you at 125% above the mandated poverty line and fill out an Affidavit of Support.
    • You are related to him/her.
  • Once USCIS receives your visa petition from your sponsor, it will be approved or denied or a Request for Evidence may be issued.
  • USCIS then sends the approved visa petition to the Department of State’s National Visa Center. The Center will notify you when the visa petition is received and again when an immigrant visa number is available. The immigrant visa numbers are allotted on the basis of the Preference Categories (described below). You can check your visa number allotment status in the Department of State’s Visa Bulletin.

Note : You need to contact the National Visa Center only if:

  • You change your address;
  • There is a change in your personal situation or that of your sponsor that may affect the eligibility for an immigrant visa for you – such as attaining the age of 21 years, marriage, divorce, or death of a spouse; or
  • If you are already in the U.S. when an immigrant visa number is allotted to you, you can apply to adjust your status to that of a Lawful Permanent Resident. If you are not in the U.S. when an immigrant visa number becomes available, you must complete the processing of your application at the U.S. Consulate that services the area in which you reside.

Preference Categories

There are several preference categories for allotting immigrant visa numbers based on the status of the sponsor.

  • Immediate Allotment: Immediate relatives of U.S. citizens do not have to wait for an immigrant visa number. Once the application is approved by USCIS, they are allotted a number immediately. Immediate relatives include the sponsor’s – parents, spouse, and unmarried children below the age of 21 years.
  • First Preference: Unmarried adult (above the age of 21 years) sons and daughters of U.S. citizens.
  • Second Preference: Spouses of Lawful Permanent Residents and their unmarried sons and daughters of any age.
  • Third Preference: Married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens.
  • Fourth Preference: Brothers and sisters of adult U.S. citizens.

The list below outlines the type of relatives a U.S. Citizen or a Lawful Permanent Resident can sponsor based on relationship.

A U.S. Citizen can sponsor A Lawful Permanent Resident can sponsor
His/her spouse His/her spouse
Unmarried son/daughter of any age Unmarried son/daughter of any age
Married son/daughter of any age
Parent/Brother/sister, provided the sponsor is at least 21years old

Immigrant Spouse

There are two main pathways for U.S. citizens to bring future spouses to the U.S.: the K-1 Fiance Visa and the Form I-130, Petition for an Alien Relative.

If the marriage takes place abroad, an I-130 petition should be filed after the marriage. This petition should be filed either with USCIS in the U.S., or at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad.

Please contact USCIS or the appropriate foreign service post for details about what specific documents you will need to file an immigrant petition for a new spouse. For more information, read our section on Family-Based Immigration.

K Visas

Under the Legal Immigration Family Equity Act (LIFE Act) and its amendments, the K visa allows the spouse and unmarried children (below the age of 21 years) of a U.S. citizen to enter, live and work in the U.S. as nonimmigrants until they receive Lawful Permanent Resident status. The spouse is given a K-3 visa and the children are given a K-4 visas.

You can receive a K-3 (Spouse) visa if:

  • You have married a U.S. citizen.
  • Your U.S. citizen spouse has filed Form I-130 (Petition for Alien Relative) with USCIS for you.
  • You want to enter the U.S. to wait for the approval of the petition to become a Lawful Permanent Resident.
  • You have forwarded an approved Form I-129F (Petition for Alien Fiancé) to the U.S. Consulate (which issues immigrant visas) in the country where you were married. If you were married in the U.S., the approved petition has to be forwarded to a consulate which has jurisdiction over the area where you reside.

You can receive a K-4 (Child) visa if:

  • You are unmarried and under the age of 21 years.
  • You are the child of a foreign national who is eligible for a K-3 visa.

There are two advantages to having a K-3/K-4 nonimmigrant visa:

  • You are allowed to work in the U.S. while waiting for your Permanent Resident status. However, in order to do this, you must apply for work authorization. To apply for a work permit or EAD, submit Form I-765 (Application for Employment Authorization)

Note: You will not need to apply for a work permit after you have become a Lawful Permanent Resident of the U.S. because you will receive a permanent resident card which allows you to permanently live and work in the U.S. Your valid K-3/K-4 non-immigrant visa allows you to travel outside of and return to the U.S., even if you are still waiting for your Permanent Resident status.

Reunite your family once again when you contact us for assistance with your family visas. We are proud to serve clients from around the globe.