Family-Based Immigration – Immediate Relatives
The U.S. family-based immigration system allows only United States citizens (“USCs”) and Lawful Permanent Residents (“LPRs”) to sponsor certain family members for lawful permanent resident status (aka a green card). In order to sponsor certain family members, there must first be a “qualifying relationship” between the USC or LPR and their foreign national relative(s) since the immigration system does not recognize every familial relationship when it comes to conferring lawful permanent resident status on others.
The “immediate relative” family relationship, which only applies to USCs as sponsors (or petitioners), will be discussed first in this feature article series. Immediate relatives are not subject to numerical limitations, meaning there is no queue or waiting line for these individuals.
Immediate Relatives – Who Are They?
U.S. immigration law defines “immediate relatives” as the children, spouses, and parents of a citizen of the United States, except that, in the case of parents, such citizens shall be at least 21 years of age. (INA § 201(b)(2)(A)(i)). In other words, “immediate relatives” are the spouses, children, and parents of United States citizens according to immigration law.
Requirements for Becoming an “Immediate Relative” of a United States Citizen
Below are the minimal requirements for spouses, children, and parents to be classified as an “immediate relative” of a USC.
Spouses: Foreign nationals married to USCs are “immediate relative” spouses when the marriage is still in existence and was valid at the time it was performed according to the laws of the place where the marriage occurred.
Children: The “immediate relative” designation applies solely to a USC’s child who is unmarried and under the age of 21.
Parents: A parent may be classified as an “immediate relative” provided that their USC child is at least 21 years of age.
How Long Does It Take for “Immediate Relatives” to Get a Green Card?
Immediate relatives are not a part of the family-based preference categories subject to numerical limitations because there are an unlimited number of visas available for them. Therefore, it is possible for an “immediate relative” to become a U.S. lawful permanent resident (or green card holder) in approximately 8 months or more, depending on the situation and the petitioner’s place of residence.
Determining whether a legally valid relationship exists between a Unites States citizen and his or her foreign national relative in order to be classified as an “immediate relative” for immigration purposes is not always as straightforward as one might think. Familial relationships can be quite complex to define, especially according to legal principles. Additionally, processing times frequently change. Therefore, legal counsel should be sought before one embarks upon the process to confer lawful permanent resident status based on an “immediate relative” family relationship.
THIS ARTICLE IS SOLELY FOR INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES. IT SHALL NEITHER BE CONSTRUED AS LEGAL ADVICE NOR DOES IT CREATE AN ATTORNEY-CLIENT RELATIONSHIP. CONSULT WITH A LICENSED AND KNOWLEDGEABLE U.S. IMMIGRATION LAWYER FOR LEGAL ADVICE,