QUALIFYING FOR PERMANENT RESIDENCE BASED ON A FAMILY RELATIONSHIP
The following are the family-based groups that have been designated as eligible for permanent residence:
IMMEDIATE RELATIVES OF U.S. CITIZENS
Persons who qualify as immediate relatives of U.S. citizens are preferred as candidates for immigration and no numerical limitation is placed on the number who may become permanent residents in any one year.
The following three groups qualify as immediate relatives of U.S. citizens:
The marriage must not be a “sham”- one entered into in order to obtain an immigration benefit. The marriage must be legally entered into, both parties were free to marry, all prior divorces were legal, and the marriage formalities are recognized as legal in the jurisdiction where the marriage occurred. The marriage must still legally exist (the parties cannot be divorced or legally separated.)
- The spouse of a citizen whose marriage was created within two years prior to being granted permanent residence is granted residence on a conditional basis. Conditional residence is subject to termination within two years after it is granted if the marriage has terminated by divorce or annulment during that period, or the marriage turns out to be a sham.
Spouses of deceased citizens qualify as immediate relatives if they have been the spouse of the deceased citizen for at least two years and were not legally separated at the time of the citizen’s death. The immediate relative immigrant visa petition must be filed within two years after the date of death and the alien must still be unmarried at that time. Unmarried minor children of the alien spouse may be included in the petition.
Battered spouses of citizens may file their own immediate relative petitions. To qualify, the alien spouse must be a person of “good moral character,” must have entered the marriage in good faith, must have resided in the United States with the citizen spouse, and must have been battered or subjected to “extreme cruelty” by the citizen spouse. Identical benefits are available to battered children of a U.S. citizen.
- To be a “Child,” the alien must be unmarried and under the age of 21 years. Children born out of wedlock to citizen-mothers also qualify. A citizen-father may petition for his child born out of wedlock only if the child was legitimated prior to the age of eighteen and the child is in the “legal custody” of the citizen-father, or the citizen-father has or had a bona fide parent child relationship with the child. Adopted children may quality if the adoption was finalized prior to the child’s 16th birthday and certain procedural requirements with regard to the adoption have occurred. Stepchildren may qualify if the step relationship was established before the child’s 18th birthday. Special rules apply to foreign orphans adopted by U.S. Citizens.
- Parents of U.S. citizens are eligible only if the petitioning citizen child is 21 years of age or older.
OTHER CLOSE FAMILY MEMBERS OF U.S. CITIZENS OR PERMANENT RESIDENTS
- Other groups of family members of citizens or permanent resident aliens can qualify to immigrate to the United States, but are not considered as “preferred” as immediate relatives of citizens. These aliens are subject to a numerical quota limiting the number of immigrant visas available each year. Since only a limited number of visas are available, these groups are divided into “preference” categories, ranking them in the order in which they are preferred for immigration. The higher the preference, the more quickly a visa will be available. Immediate family members of preference aliens (spouses and minor children) can immigrate with them.
achieving your personal and career goals in the United States.
The following categories are the groups given this preference:
Unmarried Sons and Daughters of U.S. Citizens
This group does not qualify as immediate relatives because the sons and daughters are 21 years of age or older.
Spouses and Unmarried Sons and Daughters of Permanent Resident Aliens
This preference is divided into two groups: preference 2A includes spouses and children of permanent residents, and preference 2B unmarried adult sons and daughters of permanent residents.
Married Sons and Daughters of Citizens
This group does not qualify as immediate relatives because the sons and daughters are married (and some of them are also 21 years of age or older).
- Brothers and Sisters of U.S. Citizens
This citizen petitioner must be at least twenty-one years old in order to file for his/her siblings.
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