Immediate Relative Categories
Advantage for Immediate Relative Categories
The immediate relative categories have special immigration priority. That's because there are an unlimited number of visas available to immediate relatives. The immigrants in these categories do not have to wait in line for a visa number to become available for them to immigrate. What's more, certain bars to adjustment do not apply to the IR category. This is a significant benefit for an intending immigrant who overstays a visa or works in the U.S. without authorization.
On the other hand, family preference categories do have a wait associated with them. There is a limited number of visas for the preference categories. Therefore, waits can last up to 20 years or more in some cases.
Immediate Relative Categories Available
Spouse of a U.S. citizen
Unmarried child (under 21 years of age) of a U.S. citizen
Orphan adopted abroad by a U.S. citizen
Orphan to be adopted in the United States by a U.S. citizen
Parent of a U.S. citizen (who is at least 21 years old)
Establishing an Immediate Relative Relationship
The family-based immigration process generally begins with the U.S. citizen or permanent resident sponsor filing Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative. The I-130 petition establishes a qualifying relationship and is a request for a visa number.
U.S. citizens may also sponsor a foreign fiancé to come to the United States for the purpose of marriage. The U.S. citizen starts this process by filing Form I-129F, Petition for Alien Fiancé. The foreign fiancé eventually enters the U.S. with a non-immigrant K-1 visa.
Consular processing is the process of obtaining an immigrant visa (green card) from outside the United States at a U.S. embassy or consulate.
Adjustment of Status
Adjustment of status is the process that a nonimmigrant visitor (student, tourist, etc.) uses to change status to a permanent resident from inside the U.S.
Immediate Relative Categories Not in the Visa Bulletin
Some or all of the adjustment bars (INA 245 (c)) do not apply to immediate relatives of U.S. citizens. Generally, foreign nationals must be in a lawful status in order to adjust status to permanent resident. In other words, a visa overstay can result in a denial. Likewise, unauthorized employment in the U.S. is a bar to adjustment. If the foreign national has ever engaged in unauthorized employment, whether before or after filing an adjustment application, it can result in a denial.
There is an exception for the immediate relative categories. Applicants in these categories may successfully apply for a green card with these violations. An adjustment applicant applying as an immediate relative may be eligible to file Form I-485 (adjustment of status application) even if he or she:
- Is now employed or has ever been employed in the United States without authorization;
- Is not in lawful immigration status on the date he or she files the adjustment application;
- Has ever failed to continuously maintain a lawful status since entry into the United States;
- Has ever violated the terms of his or her nonimmigrant status.
To immigrate through the immediate relative categories, there are several requirements:
Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative
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