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Understanding Family-Based Preference Categories

Understanding Family-Based Preference Categories

PUBLISHED ON: December 10

U.S. immigration law allows certain foreign-born individuals who are family members of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents to apply and become lawful permanent residents (Green Card holders) if their family relationship meets the criteria provided under the law to obtain that status. Common classes of relatives who have preference over all others in becoming lawful permanent residents are spouses, minor children, or parents of a U.S. citizen.

All other family members who are eligible to apply for a Green Card are grouped in various “preference immigrant” categories as follows:

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

Eligibility for Adjustment of Status

If you are a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident and have a qualifying relative as above, you can petition for them to become lawful permanent residents. However, filing the petition is only part of the process.

If the petition is approved, then your relative would have the opportunity to apply for their Green Card, but where they apply and how they get it depends on where they are at the time the petition is approved or when they are applying.

If the relative is in the United States, then they will apply here under what is known as adjustment of status. To do so, they must meet the following eligibility requirements to adjust status to obtain a family preference-based Green Card:

  • Have a properly filed Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status and must be physically present in the U.S. when you file the form
  • Show proof you legally entered the United States through a port of entry where you went through the inspection process
  • Demonstrate that you are eligible to obtain an immigrant visa
  • Your turn has come to apply for an immigrant visa under the priority system where everyone must await their turn to apply, based on their relationship with the U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident relative who petitions for them.
  • Proof that the relationship to the relative and family member who petitioned for you exists as required under the law
  • You are not barred from obtaining immigration benefits
  • You are not inadmissible to the United States as a lawful permanent resident, or if you are, you are eligible for a waiver of inadmissibility or another form of relief
  • You deserve the favorable exercise of discretion in granting you lawful permanent resident status

Speak with a Chicago Family Immigration Attorney

If you or your relative meet all these requirements, then chances are you are on the way to becoming a lawful permanent resident, but it is a complex process that requires the help of an immigration attorney to help you navigate. Contact Sverdloff Law Group today and schedule a consultation to get you on the path to getting what you need.


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