Bring Your Loved Ones to the U.S. with a Family-Based Visa

Nothing is harder than being separated from the ones you love. Some of the most meaningful work we do at Zavala Immigration involves reuniting families. Immigration attorney Eliud Zavala has helped countless individuals successfully obtain permanent residence in the U.S. through family-based petitions.

If you are a lawful permanent resident (green card holder) or U.S. citizen who wants to petition a family relative for an immigrant visa, you need to file an I-130 visa petition for Alien Relative with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) offices. But before starting this family-based immigration process, it’s important to define which relatives are eligible based on your immigration status.

As a green card holder or lawful permanent resident, you can petition for the following family members

  • spouse
  • unmarried child(ren)

As a U.S. citizen, you can petition for your

  • Spouse
  • Fiancé
  • Unmarried children under 21
  • Married children over 21
  • Parents (if you are 21 or over)
  • Brother/Sister (if you are 21 or over)

Immediate Relatives vs. Family Preference Visa Categories

Under the provisions of United States immigration law, specifically the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), there are two groups of family-based immigrant visa categories: immediate relatives and family preference. Immediate relatives are considered close family relationships as follows:

  • IR-1: Spouse of a U.S. Citizen
  • IR-2: Unmarried Child Under 21 Years of Age of a U.S. Citizen
  • IR-3: Orphan adopted abroad by a U.S. Citizen
  • IR-4: Orphan to be adopted in the U.S. by a U.S. citizen
  • IR-5: Parent of a U.S. Citizen who is at least 21 years old

Immediate relatives are given special priority and are not subject to annual immigration visa quotas, which means they generally do not have to endure a long waiting period to file for a green card. Family preference relatives apply to those family members who are not immediate relatives. Unfortunately, there are annual limits on the number of Family Preference Visas that can be approved.

Your family member’s preference category will determine how long they will have to wait for an immigrant visa number:

  • First Preference (F1): Unmarried children of U.S. citizens (adult means 21 or older.)
  • Second Preference (F2A): Spouses of Green Card holders, unmarried children (under 21) of permanent residents
  • Second Preference (F2B): Unmarried adult children of permanent residents
  • Third Preference (F3): Married children of any age
  • Fourth Preference (F4): Siblings of U.S. citizens

K3 Spouse Visa

If you have a foreign national spouse that you wish to bring to the U.S., one option is for them to apply for a K-3 visa. A K3 visa allows your spouse to come to the U.S. while the visa is pending. Upon entry, he/she can apply to adjust their status to a lawful permanent residence. The K3 must be filed and issued by a US consulate in the country where the marriage took place.

K1 Fiancé(e) visa

If you are a U.S. citizen engaged to a non-citizen who is living abroad, there are options available to help them obtain permanent residence here in the U.S.

  • Apply for a Fiancé visa (K-1)  — this allows your fiancé to enter the U.S. for 90 days, during which time you must get married
    • This method requires you to file a Form I-129F Petition for Alien Fiancé(e)
    • After you marry, your spouse can apply for permanent residence by filing a Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or to Adjust Status
    • If your fiance works, they can apply for permission to work with a Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization