Immigration based on kinship

Under federal law, citizens and legal permanent residents can sponsor their relatives, or ask for them, immigrant visas or green cards. Sponsorship based on certain kinships is not affected by the limitations in the number of visas that are issued each year under other categories, but the more remote the family bond, the less visas will be available annually. Below, we present more information about kinship-based immigration and the application process.

Who can submit an application and who can be sponsored?

For immigration officials in the United States, not all relationships are the same. Some kinships have a higher priority than others, and some directly are not grounds for submitting an application.

If you are a citizen of the United States, you can file a petition on behalf of the following family members:

  • Spouse.
  • Child under 21 years.
  • Father or mother (if you are at least 21 years old).
  • Unmarried son over 21 years and their children.
  • Unmarried son of any age and their children.
  • Brothers and their spouses and children (if you are at least 21 years old).

If you are a permanent resident of the United States, you can file a petition on behalf of the following family members:

  • Spouse.
  • Child under 21 years.
  • Unmarried son over 21 years.

Priority for family members and applicants

The priority for family members identified above is lower the lower they appear on the list. In addition, petitions by citizens of the United States receive higher priority than those of permanent residents.

Temporary visas for a fiance

Temporary visas for a fiance are available to foreign citizens who wish to marry a US citizen. Under this type of visa, the foreign citizen must apply for the visa and receive permission to travel to the United States to get married. Once married, the foreign citizen must apply for permanent residence separately from the initial visa application.

The kinship-based immigration process

Direct family members (spouses and children under 21) have the shortest waiting period. The law establishes the largest number of options for this category and the fastest application review period. Other family members are subject to waiting periods because only a fixed number of visas are allowed for those categories per year, and there are always more applications than actual visas. When the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) approves a visa application based on kinship, a US consular officer will issue the visa and the family member can enter the country.

In some cases, such as when a birth certificate has been lost or destroyed, the United States government must perform a genetic test to confirm the relationship.

How to get legal help

If you would like legal help with the kinship-based immigration process, contact an immigration attorney.


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