US citizens or lawful permanent residents can apply for a green card for a family member. The application process is the same for both. You must file an I-130 petition with United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). This form proves that you are a US citizen or lawful permanent resident, and the relationship between you and your family member exists.
What family members qualify?
Many types of family members can get a green card through a family petition.
A US citizen can petition for:
- A spouse
- Parents but only if the US citizen is over the age of 21
- Unmarried children under the age of 21
- Unmarried or married adult sons and daughters
- Siblings only if the US citizen is over the age of 21
Lawful permanent residents can petition for:
- A spouse
- Unmarried children under 21
- Unmarried adult sons or daughters over 21
Length of time for getting a green card
The time it takes to get a green card depends on:
- Whether you are a US citizen or lawful permanent resident;
- Your qualifying relationship with your family member; and
- What country your family member is from.
Family members who are not immediate relatives of a US citizen may have to wait for a visa to become available after their I-130 petition is approved. Immediate relatives are not placed on the waiting list and may be able to apply for their green card at the same time as the visa petition is filed. Immediate relatives include:
- Parents of US citizens (the US citizen must be 21 or over)
- Spouse of a US citizen
- Unmarried children under 21 who are US citizens
All other relatives are placed in one of the following preference categories:
- 1st: unmarried children of a US citizen over the age of 21
- 2A: the spouse or unmarried children under the age of 21 of a lawful permanent resident
- 2B: the unmarried sons and daughters over the age of 21 of a lawful permanent resident
- 3rd: the married sons and daughters of a US citizen
- 4th: the sibling of a US citizen over the age of 21
Each month, the Department of State publishes a Visa Bulletin that lists the current priority dates for each category by country. When the priority date on the Visa Bulletin is after the priority date on your relative’s I-130 filing receipt, then your relative can receive their visa.
The Department of State publishes two sets of dates on the Visa Bulletin, one when a visa is available and one when applications can be submitted. The submission date allows some applicants to obtain work and travel authorization earlier than they could if they had to wait for the date when a visa is actually available.
Find more information on How to read the US Immigration Visa Bulletin.
Checking the status of your application
You can check the status of your pending visa petition on the USCIS website, or by calling 1-800-375-5283. Your I-130 petition filing receipt will show your priority date which is usually the date on which the petition was filed and received by USCIS. Once your visa petition is approved, your relative can apply for their green card once the priority date is “current.”
Visa petition was approved. What now?
Once the I-130 Petition is approved, most family members will have to wait for a visa. The I-130 filing receipt will include a “priority date.” Once the priority date becomes “current,” your relative will be able to apply for a green card. You will need to check the Department of State’s monthly Visa Bulletin to see whether your priority date is current. If your family member is an immediate relative of a US citizen, a visa will be automatically available, and the process will go forward once the I-130 is approved.
Once the visa becomes available, find out what to do.