Obtaining A Green Card For An Immediate Family Member

Much has been written in recent years about an American immigration problem, with some vocal elements advocating closing the borders. Most of this anger is directed at illegal immigrants, although some of the negativity is aimed at immigration in general. Fortunately for those of you who are permanent citizens with relatives abroad, family petitions for immigration are still a viable way of getting your family to the United States. The green card process, although still fraught with red tape, is easier for spouses, parents, and children of residents than for other family members.

Immediate Family

The family members who have the easiest path to a green card are:

  • A spouse

  • An unmarried child under 21

  • A parent of U.S. citizens over 21

Unlike siblings or other relatives, immediate family members have "immigration priority" and do not have to wait for a visa number. This type of visa in unlimited, so the process is much faster than for other visa types.


Your relative may be able to apply for permanent residence while in the United States. In this instance, you will file Form I-130 while your relative files Form 1-485, steps that are made much easier with the advice of an immigration attorney.

If the immediate relatives are outside the United States, they may go through consular processing. This procedure entails the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services working with the State Department to get the Form I-130 petition approved and a visa issued.


Once children turn 21, the entire process for a green card changes. They receive "first preference" status, and while they can still file family petitions, they will have to wait for a visa number. This event slows down the process considerably, so for the sake of expediency, completing the process before a child turns 21 is recommended. In some cases, however, a child's age is frozen at the time the forms are filed, but this circumstance falls under the Child Status Protection Act and does not apply to everyone.

If children under 21 get married, they lose their higher immigration status and become "third preference," meaning the process becomes longer and more difficult. You should advise your children that taking such a step will definitely delay their receiving a green card.

Despite public rumblings about immigration, the path to a green card for immediate relatives is not too difficult to navigate. These family petitions take precedence over others and do not require waiting for a visa number. As a result, you should be able to get your spouse, parent, and under-21 child here without undue stress.

For more information on family petitions, contact a professional like those at Tesoroni & Leroy.