GREEN CARD THROUGH RELATIVE
United States immigration laws have traditionally favored family reunification.
As a result, family relationships are one of the most common ways foreign
nationals are able to obtain a U.S. green card. This section will briefly
explain why some people have to wait longer than other people to get a
green card, the qualifying relationships for a green card, and the general
procedure of setting up the green card interview in the United States
Why do some people wait longer than others?
The US Immigration laws create two categories of family members: immediate
relatives and family- based preference relatives. Immediate relatives
are not subjected to quotas, and therefore their cases are always current.
Preference relatives, on the other hand, are subjected to quotas, and
are assigned a "priority date," which is the date your family
sponsor filed your petition with the Immigraiton and Natualization Service.
People with priority dates cannot obtain a green card until their priority
date is current.
It is impossible to predict exactly how long it will take before a priority
date is current. It is kind of like having a ticket to see a movie, but
you do not know how many people are ahead of you in the line, how many
people the movie theater holds, and how long the movie lasts. To monitor
the movement of priority dates you may call the State Department Visa
Information line at (202) 663- 1541 or refer to the Visa
Bulletin . This information is updated monthly.
Who qualifies as an immediate relative?
The term "immediate relative" means the following:
- children of a US citizen
- the spouse of a US citizen
- the parents of a US citzen who is at least 21 years of age
- the widow or widower alien (and each child of the alien) who:
- was the spouse of a US citizen for at least 2 years at
the time of the citizen's death
- was not legally separated from the US citizen at the
time of the citizen's death
- has filed a new widow/widower petition within 2 years
of the US citizen's death, and
- has not remarried
The term "child" generally means an unmarried person under
21 years of age who is
- a child born in wedlock
- a stepchild, whether or not born out of wedlock, provided the child
- not reached the age of 18 years at the time the marriage creating
the status of stepchild occurred;
- a child adopted while under the age of 16 years if the child has been
in the legal custody of , and has resided with, the adopting parent
or parents for at least 2 years,
- a child, under the age of 16 at the time a petition is filed in his
behalf to accord a classification as an immediate relative who is an
Who qualifies as a preference relative?
Preference relatives include the following:
- First preference: Unmarried sons and daughters of US citizens. Once
a child becomes 21 years of age the law converts that person into a
son or daughter.
- Second preference:
- Spouses and Children of Legal Permanent Residents
- Unmarried Sons and Daughters (21 years of age or older)
of Legal Permanent Residents
- Third preference: Married Sons and Daughters of US citizens
- Fourth preference: Brothers and Sisters of Adult Citizens. An adult
COMMON QUESTIONS REGARDING QUALIFYING RELATIONSHIPS
My husband, who currently has a green card, filed a relative petition for
me a few years ago. What happens to that approved petition if he becomes
a US citizen before my priority date becomes current?
Your status would automatically be converted to immediate relative. There
is usually no need to re-file the relative petition. You can immediately
go to the step of setting up the green card interview.
What if I am a battered spouse or child and my qualifying relative will
not sponsor me?
On September 13, 1994 Congress passed a law that allows battered spouses
and children to sponsor themselves for a green card if they are living
in the United States. The intent of the law is to limit the ability of
an abusive citizen or green card holder to use the US Immigration laws
to perpetuate further violence against a spouse or child residing in the
US. For additional information click here.
Who does not qualify as an immediate relative or preference relative?
PROCEDURE IF IN THE UNITED STATES
Grandparents, grandchildren, nephews, nieces, uncles, aunts, cousins,
an in-laws do not qualify as either immediate relatives or preference
If the relative who wants the green card is in the United States, and is
- an immediate relative or
- a preference relative with a current priority date,
he or she may be eligible to apply to the US Immigration and Naturalization
Serive for a green card interview through a process called "adjustment
of status." The laws regarding adjustment of status have recently
changed. To determine whether or not you may be eligible for adjustment
of status it is recommended that you contact an US Immigration attorney.
Applicants who apply for adjustment of status are eligible to apply for
work permission and international travel permission ("advance parole")
while their case is being processed. In Los Angeles it is currently taking
approximately 15 to 17 months for green card interviews.
For LOS ANGELES DISTRICT handouts related to adjustment of status, click
PROCEDURE IF OUTSIDE THE UNITED STATES
step 1. INS PROCESSING
The first step in setting up a green card interview at a U.S. embassy
or consulate overseas is to have a green card relative petition (INS Form
I-130) approved by the INS. If the person sponsoring the alien for the
green card (the petitioner) lives in the United States he/she must mail
it to the INS regional service centers responsible for that area. If the
petitioner lives in Japan he/she may submit it at the embassy or consulate
responsible for the location he/she lives. The embassy/consulate will
forward the INS petition to the INS.
step 2. NATIONAL VISA CENTER
After a green card petition is approved by the INS it is forwarded
to the National
Visa Center (NVC) in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. The NVC processes
all approved immigrant visa petitions and holds on to them until the
appliants priority date is about to become current. When an applicant's
case is about to become current (a visa is likely to be available within
the year) the case is forwarded to the appropriate U.S. embassy or consulate
overseas. At the same time the NVC will send the green card applicant
"Packet 3." Packet 3 consists of both forms and document checklists.
Most of Packet 3 can be downloaded from the NVC home page under "FORMS."
The instructions included in Packet 3 are reproduced here.
step 3. US EMBASSY/CONSULATE
After a green card applicant returns to the embassy/consulate the signed
statement indicating that he/she has all of the required documents indicated
in Packet 3, the embassy/consulate will send the green card applicant
"Packet 4." Packet 4 includes a green card appointment (usually
within a couple months) and information about obtaining a medical exam
prior to the appointment.
Usually an immigrant visa (green card visa) will be issued the same day
as the interview. That visa will be valid for 6 months. It is important
that the green card applicant travel to the United States prior to the
expiration of this visa. Entering the United States will "trigger"
the INS to send you a plastic green card. At the airport the INS will
stamp a temporary green card valid for one year into your passport. The
temporary green card affords the legal permanent resident all of the privileges
(such as employment and travel) as the plastic green card.