Those who have recently become U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents may be thinking about how to bring the rest of their families to the States. There are several steps in the process, including obtaining immigrant visas or green cards.
However, not all family members will be immediately eligible for immigration. Spouses, children, parents and other relatives have different limitations. Additionally, U.S. citizens have more options than lawful permanent residents do.
Immediate relatives are spouses, children and parents. There are no limitations on the number of visas one can get for immediate relatives, which is particularly important if they have a larger immediate family. Children cannot have spouses and must be under 21 years of age to be eligible for an immediate relative visa, and the citizen must be at least 21 years of age to bring their parents.
All other family members would get family preference visas. The government limits the number of visas issued under this category, requiring citizens and lawful permanent residents to prioritize certain family members. Unfortunately, there is a large backlog of visa applications, so it could take years or even decades to receive approval just for one visa.
Citizens versus lawful permanent residents
U.S. citizens can request immigrant visas for their spouse, children, parents, siblings and other extended relatives. Lawful permanent residents, however, can only petition for their spouses and children. The children must also not have spouses.
Knowing the options for bringing families to the U.S. can help the families of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents decide on a realistic future.