How to Get a Family Based Green Card

family based green card

U.S. immigration law tries to keep families together and a family based green card allows U.S. citizens to petition for certain relatives to come to and live permanently in the United States. This article will focus on one option – an immediate relative.

Please note: there are slightly different rules for a permanent citizen helping a family member obtain a green card. If you have any questions, you can learn more about eligibility here.

Eligible immediate relatives include the U.S. citizen’s:

  • Spouse
  • Unmarried child under the age of 21
  • Parent (if the U.S. citizen is over the age of 21)

A major benefit an immediate relative receives is their special immigration priority. Immediate relatives do not have to wait in line for a visa number because there are an unlimited number of visas for their category.

There are a couple scenarios that will determine which steps you should take – if your relative is inside or outside the United States. Let’s work through one at a time.

Getting Your or a Relative’s Green Card While Inside the United States

If your relative is in the United States and was properly admitted to the U.S. by immigration officials, there are a few ways – one faster than the other – to apply for a family based green card.

Wouldn’t it be great if you could file everything all at once? Luckily, you can! An immediate relative relationship allows the relative to apply on Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, to become a permanent resident at the same time as you file a Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative.

Your relative can also file their I-485 any time after you file the Form I-130, if the I-130 has not been denied.

  • First, you must file the Form I-130 for your relative and it must be pending or approved.
  • Next, when you receive Form I-797 notifying you that the Form I-130 has been received or approved, then your relative may file Form I-485.
  • Last, include a copy of the Form I-130 receipt or approval notice (Form I-797).

Getting a Family Based Green Card While Outside the United States

If your relative is outside the United States, the process has a few additional steps. Don’t worry, we will walk through the process now.

  • First, you must file the Form I-130 for your relative. After your I-130 is approved by USCIS, then it moves to consular processing.
  • Consular processing – sounds scary, right? It is just the next step, don’t worry. Consular processing is when the USCIS sends the case to the Department of State to process a visa on an approved Form I-130 petition when a visa is available.
    • Keep in mind, if your relative does not apply for an immigrant visa within one year after the Department of State notifies them, their petition may be terminated.
  • After the Department of State processes the visa application and supporting documents, they’ll send the case to your relative’s home country for an interview at the consulate.
  • When your relative’s visa is ready, they may travel on the visa and officially become a permanent resident when they reach the U.S port of entry!

If you or someone you know is interested in a family based green card, you can apply online here with Road to Status. Using online software (created by immigration attorneys) can help you to properly fill out your application both faster and less expensively than other common methods of getting professional assistance in completing an immigration application.

If your case is more complex and you would like to speak with a licensed immigration attorney, you can learn more about the benefits of an initial consultation before deciding on the best path for you.



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