Family Based Preference Category Visa Petitions

Immigrating with a Family Preference Visa Petition

Annually, the US government allots a minimum of 226,000 family-based immigrant visas. Family based immigrant visas are split into two categories, immediate relative and family preference. Immediate relative petitions are not counted towards the 226,000 family-based visa cap. Rather, the 226,000 visa cap only applies to family preference visas. Family preference visas are split into four different categories, with each category having a different allotment number.

What is a Family Preference Immigrant Visa?

Family preference immigrant visas are used when an immigrant is a distant relative of someone who is either an LPR (Lawful Permanent Resident) or a U.S. citizen. The following illustrates what the four different preferences are and the number allotted to each preference.

  • Family First Preference (F1): 23,000 out of the 226,000 family based immigrant visas are reserved for F1. To be an F1, you must be an unmarried son or daughter of a U.S. citizen, and must be a minor.
    • Minor child means, “an unmarried person under twenty-one years of age”.- INA § 101(a)
  • Family Second Preference (F2): 114,200 out of 226,000 visas are allotted to F2 petitioners. F2 is for spouses, minor children, and unmarried sons and daughters (who are over 21 years of age) of LPRs.
  • Family Third Preference (F3): 23,400 out of the 226,000 visas are allotted to F3 petitioners. F3 is for married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens, and their spouses and minor children.
  • Family Fourth Preference (F4): 65,000 out of the 226,000 visas are allotted to F4 petitioners. F4 is for the brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens, and their spouses and minor children. The U.S. citizens must be at least 21 years of age.

Who Qualifies?

In order to qualify for a family preference visa, you must be related to the U.S. citizen or LPR, and must be either their minor child or spouse. Family preference visas cannot be used for grandparents, aunts, uncles, in-laws, and cousins.

If the number of applicants for a particular category exceeds the allotted number, there will be an immigration wait. The way preference visas are given is based on when you filed the visa and what your priority date is. A visa cannot be issued until the applicant’s priority date is reached. What this means is that applicants may have to wait several years before they can get a family preference visa.

Applying for Family Preference Visa

The first step to filing a family based preference visa is to have a sponsoring relative file a Petition for Alien Relative, Form I-130 with the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The U.S. citizen filing must be 21 years old or older if they are filing for a sibling or parent; however, if you are filing for anyone else, there is no age restriction. If you are not a U.S. citizen, rather an LPR you must be at least 18 years old and have a residence in the United States before you can sign an Affidavit of Support, Form I-864 or I-864 EZ.

After USCIS approves the petition, it is sent to the National Visa Center where your petition is assigned a case number. Upon your priority date coming up, you will be directed to complete From DS-261. Once this is done, you will be prompted to pay the appropriate fees and submit necessary visa documents, including the Affidavit of Support, application forms, civil documents, etc.

Interesting Fact

If you upgraded your spouse’s F2 petition but did not file a separate petition for your minor child while you were an LPR then you need to do so now.  Reason being, a child is not included in an immediate relative (IR) petition. If you had filed an F2 originally, you would not have to worry about this because with an F2 petition, a child is included.

If your child is born abroad after you became a U.S. citizen, they may qualify as a U.S. citizen themselves. Upon your child applying for a U.S. passport, the consular officer will decide whether or not your child can have a U.S. passport. If the consular decides your child is not allowed to be a U.S. citizen, then your child may apply for an immigrant visa if they wish to live in the U.S.

Why you need an attorney

To discuss the difference between the different family based preference levels and petitions with an experienced immigration attorney from the American Visa Law Group, feel free click the contact us tab and fill out the inquiry form or call us at 510-500-1155.