Family-Based Green Cards: Everything You Need to Know

7 months ago

Family-Based Green Cards: Everything You Need to Know

If you are a citizen or lawful permanent resident of the United States, you may sponsor members of your immediate family to apply for a green card or immigrant visa. Applying for a family-based green card for parents is one of the most popular ways to accomplish this. The family-based green card permits a foreign parent who is not a citizen or permanent resident of the United States to come and stay in the nation as a permanent resident. This blog post will go over the processes, advantages, and requirements for parents wishing to apply for a green card based on family.


Introduction to Family-Based Green Card


  • Understanding Family-Based Green Cards

With a Family Sponsored Green Card, an applicant can immigrate to the US and live with their immediate family. Parents, siblings, spouses, and kids are considered close relatives; grandparents and cousins, on the other hand, do not meet this requirement.

The amount of visas that can be awarded each year may vary depending on the type of Family Based Green Card. The processing of visas is done chronologically if they have an annual cap or limit. Your application will therefore be considered if you submitted it before the year's cap is met. If not, you'll have to wait till your turn comes around or the following year.


  • Importance and Benefits of Family-Based Green Cards

In terms of immigration, family-based green cards are quite significant since they allow families that are divided by distance to come together again. The advantages are not limited to residency; they also include the chance for family members to live, work, and further their education in the US. A US driver's license, limited-stay visa travel, and the ability to petition for US citizenship after some time if all regulations are followed are all permitted. The priority given to family unity in the U.S. immigration system is evidenced by this sought-after path.


  • Who is Eligible for Family-Based Green Cards?

Determining eligibility is a pivotal step in the Family-Based Green Card application process. Eligibility is primarily based on familial relationships, encompassing immediate relatives such as spouses, unmarried children under 21, and parents of U.S. citizens. Understanding the nuances of eligibility criteria is essential for a successful application, ensuring that the familial bond meets the stringent requirements set forth by the immigration authorities.

Types of Family-Based Green Cards

Depending on the status of the member of your family who resides in the US, there are numerous kinds of family Green Cards.


A. Immediate Relatives Visa

  • IR1 - Spouse of A US Citizen: The IR1 visa caters to spouses of U.S. citizens, providing a streamlined process for those seeking to join their American partners. This category recognizes the fundamental role that marital bonds play in fostering family unity, offering a direct pathway to permanent residency.
  • IR2 - Unmarried Children Under 21 Years Old of A US Citizen: For unmarried children under 21 years old, the IR2 visa facilitates the prompt reunification of families. This category acknowledges the significance of maintaining family cohesion, ensuring that dependent children can accompany their U.S. citizen parents on the journey to residency.
  • IR3 - Children Adopted Abroad By A US Citizen: The IR3 visa addresses the unique circumstances of internationally adopted children by U.S. citizens. This category recognizes the importance of providing a loving home for adopted children, streamlining the process for their integration into their new family and country.
  • IR4 - Children to Be Adopted Within the US by A US Citizen: Catering to prospective adoptive parents, the IR4 visa facilitates the adoption process for children to be adopted within the U.S. by U.S. citizens. This category reflects the commitment to ensuring a smooth transition for children into their adoptive families.
  • IR5 - Green Card for Parents of US Citizens Who Are At Least 21 Years Old: The IR5 visa acknowledges the importance of familial bonds across generations. This category allows U.S. citizens who are at least 21 years old to sponsor their parents for a Green Card, promoting family unity and support.


B. Family Preference Categories

  • F1 - Unmarried Sons and Daughters of U.S. Citizens: The F1 category addresses the aspirations of unmarried sons and daughters of U.S. citizens. By providing a pathway to permanent residency, this category emphasizes the commitment to family unity, allowing adult children to join their U.S. citizen parents in the pursuit of a new life.
  • F2A - Spouses and Children of Permanent Residents: Designed to accommodate the immediate family members of permanent residents, the F2A category caters to spouses and children. This inclusive category recognizes the importance of family cohesion, ensuring that the spouses and children of permanent residents can navigate the immigration process together.
  • F2B - Unmarried Sons and Daughters of Permanent Residents: Unmarried sons and daughters of permanent residents find their pathway to permanent residency through the F2B category. This classification acknowledges the significance of familial bonds, offering a route for adult children to reunite with their permanent resident parents.
  • F3 - Married Sons and Daughters of U.S. Citizens: The F3 category addresses the unique circumstances of married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens. This classification recognizes the enduring bonds of married children, providing a means for families to be together in the United States.
  • F4 - Siblings of U.S. Citizens: The F4 category stands as a testament to the value placed on sibling relationships. U.S. citizens can sponsor their siblings for permanent residency, fostering family unity across borders and generations.


Family Preference Visas have Annual Limits

Visa Types Limits
F-1 Visa 23,400
F-2 Visa 114,200
F-3 Visa 23,400
F-4 Visa 65,00


C. Special Categories

  • VAWA Self-Petitioners (Protection for Abused Immigrants): The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) provides a vital lifeline for individuals who have suffered abuse at the hands of a U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse. VAWA Self-Petitioners can break free from abusive situations and seek independent immigration status, emphasizing the U.S. commitment to protecting victims of domestic violence.
  • Widows/Widowers of U.S. Citizens: Widows and widowers of U.S. citizens find a unique pathway to permanent residency through this special category. This designation acknowledges the challenges faced by those who have lost their U.S. citizen spouses, offering a means to secure their immigration status and continue their lives in the United States.
  • Special Immigrant Juveniles: Special Immigrant Juveniles (SIJ) status addresses the unique needs of immigrant children who have faced abuse, neglect, or abandonment. This category provides a safeguard for vulnerable children, ensuring that they can obtain permanent residency in the U.S. and establish a stable and secure environment.


Benefits of a Family-Based Green Card

Securing a Family-Based Green Card extends far beyond mere legal residency, opening up a myriad of opportunities and privileges for individuals and their families.

  • Legal Permanent Residency: The cornerstone benefit of a Family-Based Green Card is the attainment of legal permanent residency in the United States. This provides a stable and secure foundation for individuals seeking to build their lives in the country.
  • Eligibility for Government Benefits: With legal permanent residency, individuals gain access to various government benefits, including social services, healthcare, and other support systems designed to enhance the quality of life for residents.
  • Work Eligibility: A Family-Based Green Card opens the door to numerous employment opportunities. Holders are eligible to work in the U.S. without the need for additional work visas, providing the freedom to pursue diverse career paths.
  • Travel: Green Card holders enjoy the flexibility to travel in and out of the United States. This freedom allows individuals to maintain connections with their home countries while establishing roots in the U.S.
  • Petition for Family Members: Family unity remains a central theme, as Green Card holders can sponsor their eligible family members for their own Green Cards, fostering a sense of togetherness and continuity.
  • Eligibility for Citizenship: Over time, Green Card holders become eligible to apply for U.S. citizenship, further solidifying their integration into American society.
  • Protection from Deportation: Holding a Family-Based Green Card provides a layer of protection from deportation, offering a sense of security and stability in one's residency status.
  • Better Job Opportunities: The ability to work without restrictions opens doors to better job opportunities, career growth, and increased earning potential.
  • Education: Green Card holders have access to educational opportunities, including attending schools and universities at in-state tuition rates, enhancing their potential for personal and professional development.
  • Investment Opportunities: Permanent residents can explore various investment opportunities, contributing to economic growth and prosperity both for themselves and the broader community.


Family-Based Green Card Application Process


  • Filing the Petition: Form I-130

The Petition for Alien Relative, Form I-130, must be filed to start the process. Usually completed by a sponsoring U.S. citizen or permanent resident on behalf of the intended immigrant family member, this form establishes the qualifying familial relationship. For the petition to be processed, payment of the fee is also required.

After that, the petition will be processed in a few months by the Department of Homeland Security. Upon completion of processing, the petitioner will receive notification of their status. If the petition is rejected, USCIS will notify you of the reasons for the decision. The petition will subsequently be sent to the National Visa Center (NVC) if it is granted. The primary point of contact for the Family-Based Green Card will then be the NVC.

The applicant in the foreign nation will get a packet from the NVC containing instructions and information. The application from the US Embassy or Consulate abroad will be initiated using the case number and invoice ID number that is included in the package.


  • Adjustment of Status 

Only some immigrants who are currently residents of the United States are eligible to follow the adjustment of status path. This is often restricted to close family members of American citizens who are lawfully present in the country with a valid nonimmigrant visa. For instance, a Colombian international student marries a United States citizen. As long as the Colombian spouse's student visa is still valid, they can instantly change their status. Alternatively, Chinese parents of a U.S. citizen on a tourist visa may decide to move to the country permanently while seeing their son. The parent has the option to become a permanent resident (holder of a green card).


Adjustment of Status Forms

A set of forms for an adjustment of status application is submitted simultaneously to US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Put another way, the aforementioned forms are sent in a single box together:

  • Form I-485, Application to Adjust Status
  • Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative
  • Form I-130A, Supplemental Information for Spouse Beneficiary (if a relative is a spouse)
  • Form I-864, Affidavit of Support
  • Form I-693, Report of Medical Examination and Vaccination Record
  • Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization (optional)
  • Form I-131, Application for Travel Document (optional)

To speed up the process, most applicants choose to concurrently file the forms (file both at the same time), even though the visa petition (Form I-130) may be filed first. Form I-130 is prepared by the petitioner, and Form I-485 is prepared by the applicant for a green card. The petitioner's qualifying relationship with the new immigrant is established by Form I-130. Additionally, it asks that the immigrant be given a reserved green card. A request to convert an applicant's temporary nonimmigrant visa to a permanent immigrant visa (green card) is made to USCIS via Form I-485.


  • Consular Processing

Either foreign nationals or residents of the United States may take the consular processing route. By using this route to obtain a green card, an applicant applies for a family-based green card at an American embassy or consulate abroad.

Because of the backlog, a family preference applicant will typically employ consular processing. For instance, a Colombian international student and a permanent resident of the United States get married. If the green card is not yet available, the international student must depart the country when their visa expires. The foreign spouse must apply through the American consulates in Colombia after waiting outside the country for the green card to become available.  

Alternatively, a Chinese brother of a citizen of the United States may decide to move permanently after spending time in the country on a tourist visa. The brother may have to go back to China after his tourist visa expires. If you stay past the expiration period, you will probably lose your chance to get a green card and face serious immigration issues down the road.


Consular Processing Forms

Similar forms are needed for consular processing (as opposed to adjustment of status). However, the forms are submitted at different points during the procedure. Among the forms are:

  • Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative
  • Form I-130A, Supplemental Information for Spouse Beneficiary (if a relative is a spouse)
  • Form DS-260, Application for Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration
  • Form I-864, Affidavit of Support

The Form I-130 (and Form I-130A, if appropriate) must first be completed and filed by the citizen or permanent resident of the United States. The petitioner's qualifying relationship with the intended immigrant is established by this visa petition. The immigrant can file the DS-260 (immigrant visa application), affidavit of support, and other documents at the local U.S. embassy or consular offices after USCIS authorizes the petition and the immigrant visa becomes available.

  • Medical Examinations

Citizens and immigrants of the United States of America are required to meet specific medical and immunization standards. The required vaccinations and medical examinations must be completed by anyone wishing to come to the US. The NVC package, which was sent to the applicant following the petition's approval, will outline the necessary medical procedures and vaccinations. A licensed physician who will sign the documents must complete the examinations and fill out the paperwork. When you deliver your supporting file to the NVC, these documents will be attached to it.


  • Interviews

Every immigrant who applies to the US must show up for an interview at the US Embassy or Consulate. Before setting up the interview, the NVC will confirm that you have sent in all required paperwork. You have to show up for the interview at the appointed time and date, and you have to respond to the interviewer's questions.


  • Get the NVC packet and head to the United States

The person is free to come to the US if their application for a family-based Green Card is granted. When they first arrive in the US, they will get a package from the Embassy along with a stamp on their passport indicating the approval of their visa. Under no circumstances may this package be opened. The only people authorized to open it and determine whether or not the applicant is permitted entrance into the country are US immigration officials at any US port of entry.


  • Common RFEs (Requests for Evidence) and How to Handle Them

  • Addressing Insufficient Documentation: RFEs often arise due to incomplete or insufficient documentation. To address this, carefully review the RFE notice to identify the specific documents requested. Thoroughly compile the necessary evidence, ensuring that it aligns with the USCIS guidelines. Take note of any deadlines provided in the RFE notice and submit the requested documents promptly.
  • Providing Clarifications and Additional Proof: Sometimes, USCIS may seek clarifications or additional proof regarding specific aspects of the application. Approach this request with diligence. Craft a detailed response, clearly addressing the concerns raised in the RFE. Supplement your response with any missing information or additional documentation required. Transparency and completeness in your response contribute to a smoother adjudication process.
  • Seeking Professional Assistance: In complex RFE situations, seeking professional assistance from an immigration attorney can be invaluable. An experienced attorney can review the RFE, assess the specific requirements, and guide you in preparing a comprehensive and persuasive response. Their expertise can be particularly beneficial in addressing nuanced legal issues and ensuring that your response aligns with USCIS expectations.


Family-Based Green Card Sponsorship and Affidavit of Support


A. U.S. Citizen or Permanent Resident as Sponsor


  • Sponsorship Responsibilities and Eligibility Criteria

As a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, sponsoring a family member involves assuming responsibility for their financial support. To be an eligible sponsor, U.S. citizens must be at least 21 years old and meet specific domicile requirements. Permanent residents must be able to establish their residence in the U.S. Sponsors commit to providing financial support to the sponsored family member(s) and ensuring they do not become a public charge.


  • Required Documents and Financial Obligations: 

The sponsorship process necessitates the submission of key documents, including Form I-864 (Affidavit of Support). This form serves as a legal contract affirming the sponsor's commitment to financially support the immigrant family member. Sponsors are required to demonstrate sufficient income or assets to meet the minimum financial requirements set by the U.S. government, ensuring the sponsored individual has adequate financial support upon arrival.


  • Joint Sponsors and Household Size Considerations 

In cases where the primary sponsor does not meet the income requirements, joint sponsors can step in to provide additional support. Joint sponsors must also meet eligibility criteria and submit their Form I-864. Understanding how household size affects income requirements is crucial. The sponsor's household includes dependents and anyone claimed as a dependent on their tax returns, influencing the minimum income needed to support the sponsored family member.

B. Affidavit of Support


  • Purpose and Importance of Affidavit

The Affidavit of Support is a legally binding document that underscores the sponsor's commitment to providing financial support to the intending immigrant family member. Its primary purpose is to demonstrate that the sponsored individual will not become a public charge, alleviating concerns about potential reliance on government assistance programs. The Affidavit of Support serves as a reassurance to U.S. immigration authorities regarding the financial capabilities of the sponsor.


  • Ensuring Financial Capabilities and Resources

Sponsors must showcase their ability to financially support the intending immigrant at a level above the designated poverty guidelines. This involves providing evidence of income, assets, or a combination of both. Understanding the minimum income requirements and how they vary based on household size is crucial. Additionally, sponsors need to ensure that their financial capabilities align with the obligations outlined in the Affidavit of Support.


  • Affidavit of Support Process and Documentation

The Affidavit of Support process involves completing Form I-864 accurately and submitting it along with supporting documentation. This documentation typically includes proof of income through tax returns, W-2s, and recent pay stubs. Sponsors may also need to provide evidence of assets, such as bank statements and property valuations. It's imperative to ensure that all information is up-to-date and aligns with the most recent guidelines.


C. Exceptions and Considerations


  • Age, Income, and Health-Related Factors

Age, income, and health-related considerations can influence the sponsor's ability to meet the financial obligations outlined in the Affidavit of Support. For example, retirees may face unique challenges, and sponsors with limited income may need to explore alternative means to demonstrate financial capability. Understanding how these factors intersect with the sponsorship process is crucial for sponsors seeking to support their family members' immigration endeavors.


  • Alternative Means of Meeting Financial Obligations

In situations where sponsors do not meet the minimum income requirements, alternative means of meeting financial obligations can be explored. This may include using the income of a household member or combining income with assets. Understanding the flexibility provided by U.S. immigration authorities and exploring alternative avenues can help sponsors navigate potential challenges.


  • Public Charge Rule and Its Impact

The public charge rule assesses whether an intending immigrant is likely to become dependent on certain government assistance programs. Sponsors play a key role in alleviating concerns related to public charges by demonstrating financial capability. Understanding the impact of the public charge rule on the Family-Based Green Card application process is crucial, as sponsors aim to provide reassurance to immigration authorities about the self-sufficiency of the intending immigrant.

Family-Based Green Card Possible Challenges and Solutions


A. Visa Retrogression and Priority Date Backlogs


  • Understanding Visa Bulletin and Priority Dates

The Visa Bulletin, published monthly by the U.S. Department of State, provides crucial information about visa availability for Family-Based Green Card applicants. Priority dates, assigned based on the filing of the immigrant petition, determine when an individual can proceed with the final stages of the application process. It's vital for applicants to regularly check the Visa Bulletin to stay informed about their priority date status.


  • Strategies for Dealing with Retrogression

When there is a greater demand than there is supply for a specific type of visa, this is known as visa retrogression. In such cases, priority dates may retrogress, causing delays in the processing of applications. Strategies for dealing with retrogression include staying informed about visa availability, understanding the impact on the overall application timeline, and preparing for potential delays in adjusting status or consular processing.


  • Seeking Legal Assistance and Staying Informed

Visa retrogression can significantly impact the timing of Family-Based Green Card applications. Seeking legal assistance from an experienced immigration attorney is advisable, as they can guide navigating retrogression-related challenges. Additionally, staying informed about changes in immigration policies, processing times, and visa availability is crucial for making informed decisions throughout the application process.


B. Derivative Benefits and Retaining Priority Dates


  • Derivative Beneficiaries and Their Rights

Derivative beneficiaries refer to certain family members who may derive immigration benefits from the principal applicant's approved petition. In Family Preference Categories, spouses and unmarried children under 21 are typically eligible for derivative benefits. Understanding the rights of derivative beneficiaries is essential, as they share in the immigration benefits extended to the principal applicant, ensuring family unity throughout the process.


  • Retaining Priority Dates for Family Preference Categories

Priority date retention is a valuable benefit in Family Preference Categories. If the primary beneficiary experiences a change in marital status or the sponsoring family member upgrades their immigration status (e.g., from permanent resident to U.S. citizen), the priority date established by the initial petition can often be retained. This can significantly impact the timing of subsequent stages in the application process, optimizing the family's immigration journey.


  • Maximizing the Benefits of Approved Petitions

Approved petitions hold significant value, and maximizing their benefits involves strategic planning. Whether it's understanding the eligibility of derivative beneficiaries, retaining priority dates, or exploring alternative avenues within the immigration system, sponsors and intending immigrants can work collaboratively to ensure that the approved petition opens doors to the broadest range of opportunities.


C. Potential Waivers and Overcoming Inadmissibility


  • Grounds of Inadmissibility and Possible Waivers

Grounds of inadmissibility encompass a range of factors that may affect an individual's eligibility for a Family-Based Green Card. These factors include health-related issues, criminal history, immigration violations, and more. However, in many cases, waivers are available to overcome these grounds. Understanding the specific grounds for inadmissibility and exploring potential waivers is essential for sponsors and intending immigrants facing such challenges.


  • Requirements and Processes for Waivers

Waivers serve as a remedy for certain inadmissibility issues, providing an opportunity for individuals to address and overcome obstacles in the immigration process. Each type of waiver has specific requirements and processes. Whether it's a waiver for health-related issues, criminal convictions, or immigration violations, navigating the requirements and procedural steps is crucial. Seeking legal advice is often recommended to ensure a thorough and accurate approach to the waiver process.


  • Navigating Complex Immigration Issues

The immigration system is complex, and individuals facing inadmissibility issues may encounter nuanced challenges. Navigating these complexities requires a strategic and informed approach. Seeking legal assistance from an experienced immigration attorney is advisable, as they can provide tailored guidance, assess the specific issues at hand, and develop a comprehensive strategy for overcoming inadmissibility challenges.


Family-Based Green Card Costs

Government costs for a family-based green card can differ greatly. For instance, it should be anticipated that the status path adjustment will cost roughly $1,760 at the time this article is written. The consular procedure can cost more than $1,200 and is typically a little less expensive. 

The payments shown above, however, do not cover any additional costs you might have throughout the procedure. Required immunizations and medical exams may have extra costs. Translations, photocopying fees, fees for getting the necessary documents (passport, police record, birth certificate, etc.) for your immigrant visa application, and travel expenditures to the U.S. embassy or consulate for your visa interview are possible additional costs.

Furthermore, legal costs could be high. It is highly recommended to retain the services of an expert immigration lawyer if the petitioner or beneficiary of the green card has ever had an arrest record or prior immigration infractions.



In conclusion, pursuing a Family-Based Green Card is a commendable and transformative journey, marked by hope and the promise of a united future. Families undertaking this endeavor are encouraged to approach challenges with resilience, recognizing each hurdle as an opportunity to strengthen familial bonds. While the path may present complexities, seeking professional advice from an immigration attorney is emphasized as a crucial call to action.

Their expertise can navigate the intricate immigration landscape, providing tailored guidance and ensuring precision at every step. Staying informed about evolving policies and procedures is also emphasized, empowering families to make informed decisions and shape a brighter future in the United States.


You May Be Interested



  • What is the difference between family-based and employment-based green cards?

Family-based green cards are sponsored by a family member, typically a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, to reunite with close relatives. Employment-based green cards, on the other hand, are sponsored by employers for foreign workers based on their skills or employment qualifications. The key distinction lies in the relationship driving the sponsorship.


  • Can stepchildren be included in family-sponsored petitions?

Yes, stepchildren can be included in family-sponsored petitions. They are generally eligible for derivative benefits if the marriage creating the stepchild relationship occurred before the stepchild turned 18. This allows for the inclusion of stepchildren in petitions filed on behalf of their biological or adoptive parent.


  • How does the waiting period vary across different family preference categories?

The waiting period varies based on the family preference category. Immediate relatives (such as spouses, parents, and unmarried children under 21 of U.S. citizens) typically experience shorter waiting times, while family preference categories like siblings of U.S. citizens may face longer waiting periods due to visa availability limits. The Visa Bulletin provides updates on priority dates and waiting times.


  • What monetary responsibilities does a sponsor have?

Sponsors undertaking the responsibility of supporting a family member's immigration through a Family-Based Green Card must submit an Affidavit of Support (Form I-864). This legal contract affirms the sponsor's commitment to providing financial support to prevent the sponsored individual from becoming a public charge. The sponsor must demonstrate the ability to meet certain income requirements based on household size.


  • Are there age restrictions for sponsoring parents?

There are no specific age restrictions for sponsoring parents for a Family-Based Green Card. U.S. citizens can sponsor parents regardless of their age. However, sponsors must meet other eligibility criteria and fulfill financial obligations outlined in the sponsorship process. Permanent residents do not have the same privilege, as they can only sponsor unmarried children and spouses.


  • How long does it often take for parents to receive a family-based green card?

A family-based green card can be processed in a variety of ways, but in general, the approval procedure for a green card takes between 12 and 30 months after the Form I-130 application is filed.


  • What is the price of applying for a green card based on family?

As of April 2023, the cost of applying for a family-based green card for parents is $1,760; however, this amount is shortly to increase to well to $2,800. Travel charges, lawyer fees, and medical exam fees are examples of additional costs.


  • What other relatives are you able to sponsor for immigration?

Citizens and permanent residents of the United States may also sponsor their siblings, spouses, and children.


  • What is the significance of a priority date, and what is it?

The date the USCIS received Form I-130 is known as a priority date. The length of time it will take USCIS to process the immigration petition is determined by the priority date. A U.S. citizen's spouse or parent is considered an immediate family, and they are eligible to apply for a green card without having to wait for a priority date.


  • What is the typical time frame for receiving a priority date?

Obtaining a priority date may take two to more than twenty years, depending on the circumstances.


  • Do my parents need to be approved for a family-based green card through a medical examination?

Yes, a medical examination is required of all immigrants (even parents) to make sure they do not have a contagious illness that could endanger public health. The U.S. government mandates that all immigrants receive the COVID immunization.


  • What financial conditions must parents meet to apply for a family member's green card?

To sustain themselves and their parents, sponsors must show that their salary satisfies a minimum requirement. They will have to provide comprehensive proof of their pay as well as an affidavit of support to USCIS.