Family Green Cards

Family Green Cards: The Basics

One of the goals of U.S. Immigration policies is to unite permanent residents and citizens with their families. However, despite how it is portrayed in the media, the U.S. has very specific rules when it comes to how they release family green cards. This is usually on a category basis, and for each category, there are a set number of green cards given out each year.
Family having fun in countryside
In general, for family green cards that have annual limits, the wait on average can be between 5 and 25 years. The number of visas available is also dependent on the country you are born in which can shorten or lengthen the amount of waiting you will have to do.

The family categories break down as such:

Immediate Relatives of U.S. Citizens

  • Spouses of U.S. citizens, including widows, widowers, and same-sex spouses so long as the marriage is recognized in the state or country in which it took place
  • Parents of U.S. citizens if the child is over the age of 21
  • Unmarried children under the age of 21
  • Parents and children related through adoption if the adoption took place before the child was 16
  • Stepchildren and parents if the marriage creating the relationship took place before the child was 18

For those considered “immediate relatives” (the requirements of which are listed above), there is an unlimited number of family green cards available. For fiances of U.S. citizens, they will need to obtain a K-1 fiance visa before filing for a green card.

“Preference” Relatives

  • Family First Preference: Unmarried people of any age with a U.S. citizen parent
  • Family Second Preference:
    • 2A) Unmarried children (under the age of 21) and spouses of green card holders
    • 2B) Unmarried son or daughter (over the age of 21) of green card holders
  • Family Third Preference: Married people of any age with at least one parent being a U.S. citizen
  • Family Fourth Preference: Brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens when the citizen is over 21

The waiting involved for family green cards is usually attributed to family members that fall under the category of “preference relatives”. “Preference relatives” are the categories of immigrants that are subject to a limited number of available visas and unfortunately may have to wait a few years before they are able to get one.

If you, a family member, or someone you know has questions about applying for a green card, share this article and click here to read more about the green card process for individuals and families.

Road to Status™ is changing the way America processes immigration applications because the old way simply doesn’t work.

Road to Status™ provides immigration applicants with high quality, affordable immigration tools that are easy to use, secure, and accessible anywhere. Watch a short video to see how it works here. When needed, certified and vetted immigration attorneys are available to help.

Learn more at and sign up FREE for updates and critical immigration reform news and alerts.

The newsletters and articles found in this blog are offered only for general informational and educational purposes. They are not offered as and do not constitute legal advice or legal opinions.


Leer en Español