Frequently Asked Questions About Family Visas

Countless immigrant families from nations across the globe have found themselves bogged down by the complex U.S. immigration system, all to help bring their family members to the United States. We understand how confusing the family immigration process can be, and our South Carolina immigration team answers the most common questions regarding the process below.

Which Family Members Can I Sponsor For a Visa?

Before getting started on the application process, it is important to understand who these visas are intended for. To make things even more confusing, there are also different rules based on whether the sponsor is a U.S. citizen or a Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR).
United States citizens can petition to sponsor anyone in their immediate family. This includes their:

  • Spouse
  • Children under the age of 21
  • Parents, if the sponsor is age 21 or older
  • Siblings

Lawful Permanent Residents (Green Card holders) are only able to sponsor their spouse or unmarried child for a visa and are not permitted to sponsor other relatives.

There is also a preference system for family members that fall outside the categories mentioned above.

What is the Preference System?

There are 5 “preferences” that allow several other categories of relatives to obtain a green card:

  • First preference (F1): reserved for unmarried children, over the age of 21, of U.S. citizens
  • Second preference (F2A): reserved for spouses and children, unmarried and under the age of 21, of Lawful Permanent Residents
  • Second preference (F2B): reserved for unmarried children, over the age of 21, of Lawful Permanent Residents
  • Third preference (F3): reserved for married children of U.S. citizens
  • Fourth preference (F4): reserved for siblings of U.S. citizens, over the age of 21

How Long is the Process?

The timeline to sponsor your family member for a green card can take anywhere from months to years. This can depend on factors such as:

  • How long it takes to gather the proper documentation
  • Who you wish to sponsor
  • How backlogged the various number of U.S. government offices are

If you are the immediate relative of the individual you are sponsoring, visas are immediately available, and the wait is solely controlled by you, your relative, and government agencies.

If your relative falls under a preference category, there are typically long waitlists. Since these visas are limited in quantity every year, it can take anywhere from no time at all to even up to 24 years depending on the preference category.

How Many Family Visas are Given Out Each Year?

There are two main types of visas that can be petitioned for available to U.S. citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents.

  • Immediate family visas - are reserved for close relatives of U.S. citizens, and these visas are not limited to a certain number per year.
  • Family preference visas - are available for more distant relatives of U.S.citizens and certain specified relatives of Lawful Permanent Residents. These visas are limited to a certain number, and the amount given cannot exceed a total of 480,000 each fiscal year.

What Applications Do I Need to Fill Out?

To petition for a family member to receive a green card, you must begin by filing Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative. This form simply establishes the familial relationship that exists between you and your relative you wish to petition for.

Sometimes the I-130 can be filed together with an application for permanent residence, officially known as Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status.

Contact Our Immigration Team Today

We understand how difficult and complex the United States Immigration system can be. Our seasoned team at Colón Law Firm is committed to putting you on a path to success from beginning to end.

If you or a loved one need assistance in the green card process, find out more about how we can help you by contacting us today through our website or give us a call at (864) 697-2870 to schedule a consultation!