Family immigration is one of the most common ways of coming and legally staying in the U.S.A. for an unlimited period of time. According to the U.S. immigration law there are two groups of the family immigration: (1) immediate relatives of U.S. citizens and (2) other relatives of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents.
- Immediate relatives of U.S. citizens (IR). This immigration group includes the following categories:
- Spouses of U.S. citizens
- Unmarried children under 21 years
- Orphans adopted by U.S. citizens
- Parents of those U.S. citizens who are 21 years of age or older
The number of immigrants in this group is not limited and there is no waiting time (except the time necessary to process the application documents) for the U.S. citizens’ immediate relatives.
- Other relatives of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents. The number of immigrants in this group is limited. Each immigration preference category has its annual numerical quota. There is also waiting time for this kind of immigrants, because the number of submitted applications exceeds the annual quota. The waiting time depends on the family preference category and the country where the immigrants are coming from. The four family preference categories are as follows:
- Family 1st Preference: Unmarried sons and daughters (age 21 or older) of U.S. citizens (23,400)
- Family 2nd Preference has two subcategories (114,200 total):
- Spouses and unmarried children under 21 years of U.S. lawful permanent residents (over ¾ of all visas in this preference category)
- Unmarried sons and daughters 21 years of age and older of U.S. lawful permanent residents (the rest of visas in this preference category)
- Family 3rd Preference: Married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens, as well as their spouses and unmarried children under 21 years (23,400)
- Family 4th Preference: Brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens, as well as their spouses and unmarried children under 21 years of age. The sponsoring U.S. citizens should be at least 21 years (65,000).