Jewish Journal

Family-based green cards

by Cedric M. Shen

June 21, 2011 | 6:25 pm

Foreign nationals with relatives who are U.S. citizens may be able to obtain a green card if certain and specific relationships exist.  Different categories of relatives dictate whether, and how soon, you can get a green card.

Immediate relatives

One category is known as “immediate relatives,” which includes:

1) spouses of U.S. citizens;
2) parents of U.S. citizens who are over 21; and
3) children of U.S. citizens who are under 21.

Any foreign national who falls under one of these categories are immediately eligible for a green card without having to wait for a visa to become available.  Assuming that the application process goes smoothly, a foreign national can anticipate receiving a green card within one year of filing the application.

Family preference categories

If you do not fall into one of the “immediate relative” categories, do not despair.  There are other categories known as “family preference categories” which may still allow a relative to petition for a green card on your behalf.  These relationships include:

1) unmarried sons or daughters (over 21) of U.S. citizens;
2) married children of U.S. citizens who are of any age;
3) brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens who are over 21; and
4) spouses or children of U.S. green card holders.

Unfortunately, foreign nationals seeking a green card under a family preference category will have to wait several years before a visa becomes available.  If you are looking to obtain a green card through this route, you may want to explore other options - including marriage to a U.S. citizen, investing in an EB-5 green card, or obtaining a green card through employment.

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Cedric M. Shen is a Los Angeles-based immigration attorney experienced in helping foreign nationals enter the United States. His law practice focuses on employment-based green...

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