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Understanding the two types of family immigration visas

On Behalf of | Jan 8, 2020 | Firm News

No matter where you come from originally, families belong together. If you are a U.S. citizen or a Lawful Permanent Resident, you may be able to bring family members still living abroad to live alongside you in the United States. 

U.S. immigration law, specifically, the Immigration and Nationality Act, provides two different groups of family-based immigrant visas: family preference visas and immediate relative visas. The type of visa you need depends partly on your status as either a citizen or an LPR and partly on the closeness of your relationship with the family member. 

Family preference visas 

These are available to siblings and grown children of U.S. citizens, as well as their spouses and minor children. Spouses and minor children of LPRs, as well as unmarried children under the age of 21, may also qualify for family preference visas. 

Family preference visas are different from immediate family visas in that there are limits to the number of family preference visas that the United States government will issue in a single year. The family preference group divides further into categories, each available to a specific type of family member and each with its own limit on the available number of visas. 

Immediate relative visas 

As implied by the name, these visas are available to close family members of U.S. citizens. Like family preference visas, there are different categories of immediate relative visas. However, unlike family preference visas, there is no limit on the number of immediate relative visas that the government may issue per year. 

If you are at least 21 years old and a U.S. citizen, you may be able to obtain an immediate relative visa for a parent or spouse. An unmarried child under the age of 21 may be eligible for an immediate relative visa, as well. 

As the sponsoring relative, the responsibility for filing a petition for a family immigration visa falls upon you. Therefore, it is important to determine which type of visa is appropriate.