If you are a U.S. Citizen or lawful permanent resident, you may be eligible to petition for certain family members to obtain permanent residence (green card) here in the United States. Categories for potential immigrants include immediate relatives and the four preferences that are subject to numerical restrictions.

Immediate Relatives:

Immediate relatives are the
spouses, parents, and children of United States citizens. For parents desiring to immigrate, a citizen son or daughter must be at least 21 years of age. A child must be unmarried and under age 21.

Immediate relatives are exempt from the numerical restrictions on immigrants. This means
visas are immediately available for these relatives, but there may be waiting time due to application processing with USCIS.

To make an immediate relative petition with USCIS on behalf of a person wanting to obtain permanent residence:
(1) You must be a U.S. Citizen;
(2) You are petitioning for either a spouse, a parent, or a child;
(3) If the immediate relative is in the United States they must have entered legally (lawfully admitted) into the United States.


Anyone who entered the United States without first being inspected by an officer of the border patrol is considered to have entered the country illegally. Under immigration law this is called an “entry without inspection” (EWI). If your immediate relative has entered without inspection this generally will mean that he or she is inadmissible and ineligible for a green card. In other words, the non-citizen may not apply to adjust his or her status to that of lawful permanent residence.

However, it may be possible to waive the inadmissibility of the non-citizen under certain conditions. It must be established that “refusal of admission to such immigrant alien would result in
extreme hardship to the citizen.” This will require that the non-citizen depart the United States for a period of time. However, he or she will be eligible to obtain an immediate relative visa and return to the United States after if the waiver is granted.


Evidence can include but is not limited to: marriage certificate establishing the family relationship; presence of family ties to the United States; your relative’s family ties outside the United States; country conditions in the country the non-citizen would have to relocate to; financial impact of departure; health conditions; impact of separation.

Categories Subject to Numerical Restrictions:

  • First Preference - Unmarried Adult Sons and Daughters of U.S. Citizens:
  • Second Preference - (2A) Spouses of permanent residents (green card holders), unmarried children (under 21) of permanent residents; (2B) Unmarried adult sons and daughters of permanent residents
  • Third Preference - Married Sons and Daughters (of any age) of U.S. Citizens
  • Fourth Preference - Brothers and Sisters of Adult U.S. Citizens

Because these preferences are subject to numerical restrictions, there may be a waiting time until a visa is available. Depending on what country your relative is immigrating from, visas may be immediately available or there may be several years of waiting time. The U.S. Department of State provides a monthly visa bulletin that estimates waiting times. To view this bulletin, you may visit the Department of State’s website here:

Family of Refugees & Asylees:

If you entered the United States as a refugee within the past 2 years or were granted asylee status within the past 2 years, you may petition for certain family members to obtain derivative refugee or asylee status.

Family Immigration, Immediate Relatives, Permanent Residence, Green Card, son, daughter, United States, asylum, refugee