Family-Based Permanent Residency

Adjustment of Status for Spouses

A successful adjustment of status applications results in permanent residency, a green-card. The entire process occurs in the United States, and is not available to people residing outside of the country. Typically, the first step in the process is for the United States citizen to file an immigrant visa petition, Form I-130, on behalf of his our her spouse.

The Form I-130 visa petition is filed with USCIS. The purpose of the petition is to establish that a citizen has a legitimate relationship with his or her spouse. In marriage cases, USCIS will try to make sure that no fraud is involved, and that the spouses did not marry solely for the purpose of an immigration benefit. Approval of an I-130 petition often depends on whether the spouses appear credible during an interview and can support their petition with documents that show they are living together as married people. The filing fee for a Form I-130 is currently $535.  

A Form I-485 application to adjust status, is filed with, or after, a Form I-130 is approved. An applicant to adjust status must meet all of the requirements for permanent residency. The requirements include not being inadmissible based on some types of criminal convictions or having a disqualifying immigration history. The filing free for the form I-485 is currently $1225. The filing fee allows an applicant to also apply for work authorization for no additional fee. Permanent residents generally do not need separate work authorization, but an applicant can work on an employment authorization document while waiting to receive a green card. 

Immediate Relatives

Immediate relatives include spouses, parents, and unmarried sons and daughters, under the age of 21, of United States citizens. Immediate relatives do not need to wait for an immigrant visa to become available. Rather, an immediate relative that is the beneficiary of an approved petition can apply for permanent residency at once. Immediate relatives are also not subject to numerical limitations on immigrant visa issuance. If the application process for permanent residency begins and is completed in the United States it is called adjustment of status, and generally involves filing a USCIS Form I-485. If the process begins abroad, then the immigrant will typically go through what is commonly known as consular processing. Processing abroad is completed by State Department officers at various consular posts.

Immigrant Visa Petitions for Family  

There are many paths to obtaining permanent residency, commonly know as a "green card." United States citizens and current legal permanent residents often begin the process for a prospective immigrant family member by filing a petition. Some immigrants, including immediate relatives, may start the application for permanent residency immediately after a petition is approved, and others must wait for a priority date to become current.

Family members that are not considered immediate relatives may still qualify for an immigrant visa and permanent residency through a preference category. However, these other relatives in preference categories are subject to annual immigrant quotas and will have to wait for a visa to become available. The wait times for each category change often, and are announced monthly via the State Department visa bulletin. The preference categories are divided by family relationship, age, and US citizen or legal permanent resident status. Citizens of mainland China, India, Mexico, and the Philippines, may have different wait-times, often substantially longer, than citizens of other countries.

The first preference category, F1,  includes unmarried sons or daughters of US citizens that are age 21 or older. Unmarried sons and daughters of US citizens that are under age 21 are considered immediate relatives. The second preference category includes the sub-groups F2A and F2B. The F2A category includes spouses and unmarried sons and daughters, under the age of 21, of lawful permanent residents. The F2B category includes unmarried sons and daughters, age 21 and over, of lawful permanent residents. The third preference category, F3, includes married sons and daughters of US citizens. The fourth preference, F4, category includes siblings of adult US citizens. 

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