Green Card Through a U.S. Family Member: Who Qualifies?

If you have close family members in the United States, they may be able to help you immigrate (receive U.S. lawful permanent resident, also known as a “green card”). Whether you will succeed at this depends first on what relation the U.S. family member is to you. The closer your relationship, the more rights you have under U.S. immigration law.

Your success at getting a U.S. green card through family also depends on whether your relative is a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident (green card holder). U.S. citizens can bring more distant relatives than green card holders can—their parents and brothers and sisters, for example. Also, the U.S. citizens’ status means that their relatives are allowed, in many cases, to immigrate faster than lawful permanent residents’ relatives are.

Nobody, no matter how close the family relationship to someone in the U.S., goes straight from having no status to being an actual U.S. citizen. This status is reserved for people who have held a green card first—with the exception, in some cases, of people who have U.S. citizen parents. 

Eligibility Categories of Green Cards Through U.S. Relatives

You may qualify for a green card through relatives if you fall into one of the following categories:

  • immediate relative of a U.S. citizen

  • preference relative of a U.S. citizen or green card holder, or

  • accompanying relative of someone in a preference category.

Who Qualifies as an Immediate Relative

Immediate relative status is the best you can hope for, because immediate relatives may immigrate to the U.S. in unlimited numbers. They are not controlled by the annual limits or quotas that affect the preference relative categories, which create years-long waits for a green card.

The following types of foreign-born people qualify as immediate relatives:

  • Spouses of U.S. citizens. This includes couples who are legally married (regardless of where the marriage took place), as well widows and widowers of U.S. citizens if they were married to the U.S. citizen for at least two years and are applying for a green card within two years of the U.S. citizen’s death. 

  • Unmarried children of a U.S. citizen, under the age of 21, and

  • Parents of U.S. citizens, if the U.S. citizen child is age 21 or older.

To learn more about GREEN CARDS , Please contact the Law Offices of Elaine O. San Juan by calling us at 818-748-8872 to discuss a work visa or employment-related immigration concern. You may also contact us online to schedule a confidential consultation.

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