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One of the most common ways to gain lawful permanent residence in the United States is as the family member of another permanent resident or U.S. citizen. However, this only applies under certain circumstances, and only for certain family members.

At Pelton + Balducci, it’s our job to help clients figure out the best immigration options for themselves and their family members. Read on for our explanation on who is eligible for a green card, and how the process works.

Who qualifies for a green card as a family member

There are three categories that an individual might fall under, depending on who the resident applicant is:

  • “Immediate relatives” of US citizens
  • Other relatives of citizens or green card holders who fall within the family-sponsored “preference categories”
  • “Derivative” family members of someone in a preference category 

Here’s the breakdown on who exactly falls under these categories:

  • Immediate relatives of US citizens can immigrate to the US in unlimited numbers throughout the year. These include:
      • Spouses of US citizens
      • Unmarried children of US citizens who are under 21
      • Parents of US citizens if the child is 21 or over
  • Preference category family members will probably have to wait in line, often for years, depending on which preference category they fall under.
    • Family first preference (“F1”): unmarried “sons or daughters” (i.e., children 21 or older) of a US citizen;
    • Family second preference (“F2”): The second preference is divided into two sub categories:
      1. spouses and unmarried children (under 21) of green card holders; and 
      2. unmarried children of green card holders who are 21 or older
    • Family third preference: married children of a US citizen
    • Family fourth preference. Sisters and brothers of US citizens, where the citizen is 21 or older
  • Accompanying relatives of someone in a preference category. Any spouse or child (under 21-years-old) of someone who is eligible for a green card through the “preference categories” is also eligible to apply to accompany them as a lawful permanent resident.

If you have a question about whether you or a family member qualifies under one of these categories, contact an experienced immigration attorney as soon as possible.

How to apply for a green card for a family member

Family petitions generally require the following steps:

  • Completing form I-130 on behalf of your family member
  • Providing proof of your citizenship or permanent resident status
  • Submitting evidence of the qualifying relationship such as a birth certificate, marriage certificate, divorce decree, etc
  • With marriage-based immigration cases, additional forms and documents are required to prove that the marriage did not happen for the primary purpose of obtaining the green card. You must document that the purpose of the marriage is to build a life together. Additional documentation of all family relationships is often a good idea.

An experienced immigration attorney will provide valuable guidance in completing the process correctly, ensuring the maximum benefit from the process, preserving your family member’s eligibility throughout the process, and protecting you from any unnecessary setbacks.

Contact a Louisiana immigration lawyer

Our team of immigration attorneys at Pelton + Balducci have over 30 years of combined experience helping clients and their family apply for lawful permanent residence in the U.S. immigration system. We’re dedicated to helping you build the life that you and your family need in the U.S. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation and talk about your case

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