Family Based Green Cards
Permanent residency (Green Cards) through a family member is one way of obtaining a green card. Due to the huge amount of applicants and statutory annual limits, waiting times for a green card based on a family petition can last many years.
There is no waiting time for immediate relatives of US citizens. These include a spouse, unmarried children under 21 and parents. Please take a look at the visa bulletin (available on our website) in order to estimate how long your wait time will be.
WHO CAN PETITION FOR A GREEN CARD:
I. US citizen can petition for:
- Husband or wife (green card immediately available);
- Father or mother (green card immediately available);
- Unmarried child under 21 years of age (green card immediately available);
- Unmarried son or daughter 21 or older;
- Married son or daughter;
- Brother or sister, provided that the US citizen petitioner is at least 21 years old.
II. Permanent resident can petition:
- Husband or wife;
- Unmarried child under 21 years of age;
- Unmarried child 21 or older.
Why are there waiting times for my green card?
Immigration law divides family based petitions into two categories: immediate relatives and preference categories. Categories names are counterintuitive because immediate relatives can apply for their green cards without waiting whereas preference categories must wait in lines. Immigration law sets annual limit of green cards which can be issued during any fiscal year in a given preference category. The more applicants apply, the longer the wait time. On the other hand, immediate relatives of a US citizen are not subject to such limits and can apply for their green cards right away.
Every month the US Department of State publishes a Visa Bulletin which sets cutoff dates for all preference categories. Please check the visa bulletin page to approximate your anticipated wait time. USCIS issues green cards based on the Visa Bulletin and the Priority Dates.
Your place in the waiting line for your green card is called a Priority Date. Priority Date is the date when you had your green card case started. USCIS can only issue green cards to those applicants whose Priority Date is before the cutoff date listed in the Visa Bulletin.