United States citizens may petition for their spouse, children (minor, adult, married, or unmarried), parents, and siblings. In addition, United States citizens may request a specialized visa to bring their foreign national fiancé and his or her minor children to the United States to apply for lawful permanent resident status.
Lawful Permanent Residents may only file a petition for their spouse, and unmarried children (minor or adult).
The amount of time that a petition remains pending is determined by the relationship between the petitioner and the beneficiary, as well as the availability of immigrant visas within each preference category.
Immigrant Visas for the spouse, minor unmarried children, and parents of a United States citizen are not subject to the family-based preference categories.
Immigrant Visas for the spouses and children of lawful permanent residents, as well as the married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens and their spouses and children, and the brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens and their spouses and children are subject to the family-based preference categories. Family members with a visa petition in the preference categories often wait many years before an immigrant visa becomes available.
Once the family petition becomes current, you must determine whether you are eligible to become a lawful permanent resident without leaving the United States (called “Adjustment of Status”) or whether you must return to your home country to apply at a United States Embassy or Consulate (called “Consular Processing”). You must also carefully consider whether you will need to request a waiver for any grounds of inadmissibility including unlawful presence, fraud, or a criminal conviction.
Some waivers can be filed within the United States, while others must be filed outside of the country at a United States Embassy or Consulate.
There are special rules for members of the military and their families, which provide a path to lawful immigration status despite a prior illegal entry into the United States.
Due to the complexity of immigration law, you should consult an experienced immigration attorney BEFORE applying for lawful permanent residency.