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Licensed to Practice State Law in Colorado and California

Green Cards Through Family

Family unification is an important principle governing immigration policy. The family-based immigration category allows U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents (LPRs) to bring certain family members to the United States. There are 480,000 family-based visas available every year.   Family-based immigrants are admitted to the U.S. either as immediate relatives of U.S. citizens or through the family preference system.

There is no numerical limit on visas available for immediate relatives, but petitioners must meet certain age and financial requirements. Immediate relatives are:

  • spouses of U.S. citizens,
  • unmarried minor children of U.S. citizens (under 21 years old)
  • parents of U.S. citizens (Petitioner must be at least 21 years old to petition for a parent.)

There are a limited number of visas available every year under the family preference system, and petitioners must meet certain age and financial requirements. The preference system includes:

  • adult children (married and unmarried) and brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens. (Petitioner must be at least 21 years old to petition for a sibling.)
  • spouses and unmarried children (minor and adult) of LPRs

In order to balance the overall number of immigrants arriving based on family relationships, Congress established a complicated system for calculating the available number of family preference visas for any given year.  The number of family preference visas is determined by subtracting from 480,000 the number of immediate relative visas issued in the last year and the number of aliens paroled into the U.S. for at least a year. Any unused employment preference immigrant numbers are then added to this sum to establish the number of visas that remain for allocation through the preference system.  By law, however, the number of family-based visas allocated through the preference system may not be lower than 226,000.  Consequently, the total number of family-based visas often exceeds 480,000.    

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