This category includes spouses and unmarried minor children of U.S. citizens (USC); parents of citizens when the citizen is at least twenty-one years of age; and certain widows and widowers of citizens.

There is no numerical restriction on the number of immediate relatives permitted to immigrate each year to the United States. Under the Immigration Marriage Fraud Amendments of 1986, when an alien spouse of a citizen or permanent resident is admitted to permanent residence at any time prior to the second anniversary of the couple’s marriage, the alien will be granted residence subject to review and possible loss of residence after two years if the marriage is not still intact.

Spouses and children of aliens who obtained green card as immediate relatives of citizens cannot immigrate as derivative immigrants. They must apply separately on their own under a different category. For example, a minor child of a parent who is being sponsored by a USC daughter could be sponsored separately by the parent after she obtains her green card or be sponsored directly as the sibling of the USC.

Family Sponsored Immigrants

Other Family-Sponsored Preference Categories

A limited number of visas are available each year in each of the family-sponsored preference categories. As a result, there may be no waiting period or a waiting period of up to ten or more years before a visa number becomes available, depending on the category and the country of citizenship of the beneficiary. Each month, the U.S. Department of State publishes a Visa Bulletin showing the current priority date for each of the family-sponsored categories. The “priority date” is the date indicated on the immigrant applicant’s visa petition approval notice, reflecting the date the petition was accepted for processing.

The first family-sponsored preference category is set aside for unmarried sons and daughters of citizens who are twenty-one years of age or older. The second family-sponsored preference category is reserved for spouses and unmarried sons and daughters of permanent residents. The third family-sponsored preference is married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens, over or under the age of twenty-one. The fourth family-sponsored category is brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens when the citizen is at least twenty-one. Waiting periods for a visa of ten years or more are typical in this category. Spouses and children of an alien qualified for immigration in one of the four family-sponsored preferences can also immigrate in that preference as “derivative immigrants”.

Immigrant Visas


Adjustment of Status

Consular Processing


National Interest Waivers