U.S. citizens and green card holders can petition the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services to acquire green cards for foreign-born relatives. However, U.S. citizens can seek green cards for more distant relatives than those who are just green card holders. Additionally, processing times for green cards tend to favor immediate relatives of U.S. citizens.
U.S. citizens may petition the government for green cards on behalf of:
- Parents, when the petitioner is 21 years old or older
- Siblings, when the petitioner is 21 years old or older
Green card holders looking to bring family members to the U.S. may petition for spouses and children but not parents or siblings. Within the petition, the petitioner must prove the validity of the qualifying relationship. Then, the relative will obtain a place in the processing line along with others sharing the same relationship status and from the same region.
Not all relatives are treated equally. For immediate relatives of U.S. citizens, there is no waiting period to receive a green card. Who is considered an immediate relative?
- Current spouses
- Unmarried children under the age of 21
Other relatives, such as brothers, sisters, and children 21 years or older, are often subject to lengthy wait times. Depending on their circumstances, they may have to wait several years before reaching the front of the line.
This disparity in waiting and processing times reflects a U.S. immigration policy of preference for certain family relationships. Immediate family members get the best treatment. After these come the preferential relatives, who are grouped into four levels of preference:
- Family First Preference: Unmarried children 21 years old or older with U.S. citizen parents
- Family Second Preference: Green card holders’ spouses and unmarried children
- Family Third Preference: Married children of any age with U.S. citizen parents
- Family Fourth Preference: Siblings of a U.S. citizen who is 21 years old or older
Under some circumstances, derivative relatives may be eligible for green cards as well. The spouse or child of a foreign-born relative of a green card holder would be considered a derivative relative. If the foreign-born relative makes it to the front of the immigration line, these derivative relatives will qualify to petition for a green card.
To qualify for the derivative benefit, the foreign-born relative must be:
- The child of a U.S. citizen, unmarried, and 21 years of age or older
- The spouse or unmarried child of a green card holder
- The married child of a U.S. citizen
- A sibling of a U.S. citizen who is at least 21 years old
These classifications are sometimes difficult to comprehend. An experienced citizenship attorney can help you further understand the process of getting a green card for a loved one.
Bassey Law is here to help you resolve your immigration affairs, including all of your green card issues. Give us a call any time for a confidential consultation with an experienced immigration attorney.