Family Immigration


Immediate Relatives of U.S. Citizens

There is no limit to the number of visas that can be issued for applicants who qualify as immediate relatives. Immediate relatives are divided into three categories which are:

  • Spouses
  • Children (unmarried and under 21 years of age)
  • Parents of US citizens (if the citizen is at least 21 years of age)
  • Widow or widowers of US citizens

Marriage Visas

There are different types of visas available to come to the United States if you are married to a US Citizen or Permanent Resident. There is an immigrant visa which allows an foreign national to come already as a “permanent resident.” Also, there is a K-3 visa that will allow spouses of US Citizens to live in the United States while their petitions are pending. Learn more about Marriage Visas

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Other Family Members of Citizens or Permanent Residents

Unlike immediate relatives, the following family members are subject to numerical limitations for the number of immigrant visas available each year. They are divided into different ‘preferences’ just as are applicants for employment visas. The family preference categories are:

  • Unmarried sons and daughters of US citizens. There are 23,400 visas available in this category. Plus, any visas not used by the fourth family preference category.
  • Spouses and unmarried sons and daughters of permanent residents. This category is subdivided into two groups which include; (a) spouses category, and (b) unmarried sons and daughters who are over 21 years of age in the other sub-category.
  • There are 114,200 visas per year and 77% of these going to category ‘a’ and the other 23% going to subcategory ‘b’
  • Married sons and daughters of US citizens. There are 23,400 visas allowed for this category, plus any unused visas from the first and second family preferences.
  • Brothers and sisters of US citizens. There are 65,000 visas available in this category. Brothers and sisters of US citizens will only qualify for this category if the citizen is at least 21 years of age.

Relationships Defined

Determining the correct relationship for family-based immigrants is very important and the Immigration & Naturalization Act has definitions to determine who is a ‘spouse’, ‘child’, ‘parent’, ‘son or daughter’ and ‘brother or sister’.


Just because a person is married does not necessarily make that person a ‘spouse’ under INA rules. The marriage must have been valid at the time it was performed, which means if there are any divorces they too must have been valid. Also, the marriage ceremony must be recognized as legal in the place where it is performed, and each party must have been legally able to marry. Further, the marriage must still be in existence, and the marriage must not have been entered into for immigration purposes.


A ‘child’ means an unmarried person under the age of 21 who can be:

  • a ‘legitimate’ child, that is a child born during the marriage of the father to the mother;
  • an ‘illegitimate’ child by virtue of a relationship of the child to his/her natural mother, or to his/her natural father if the father has or had a bona fide parent-child relationship with the person;
  • the child is ‘legitimated’ under the law of the child’s residence or domicile or under the father’s residence or domicile, if such legitimization takes place before the child reaches the age of 18 years, and the child is in the legal custody of the legitimating parent or parents at the time of such legitimization;
  • a ‘step-child’, whether or not born out of wedlock, as long as the marriage relationship was formed before the child’s 18th birthday;
  • an adopted child, if the adoption occurs prior to the child’s 16th birthday and the adopting parents have legal custody of the child for two years before or after the adoption and the child resides with the adoptive parents for two years before or after the adoption; and
  • An orphan may qualify under certain circumstances.

Son or Daughter

If the person is over 21 years of age or married, then he/she is a ‘son’ or ‘daughter’ for immigration purposes. However, a ‘son’ or ‘daughter’ must also have qualified as a ‘child’ when he/she was less than 21 years of age.


A parent will always be a parent as long as a person qualifies, or has qualified as a child, except under some circumstances regarding orphans.

Brother or Sister

Children born to the same parents and another child born to the same mother, even if the father is different.