Other Family Immigration (non-marriage)

For immigration purposes, only Spouses, Parents, and Children under age 21 of U.S. citizens are considered “Immediate Relatives” and can apply for an immigrant visa (if abroad) or permanent resident status (or a “green card”) in certain cases if residing in the United States.

Other family relationships fall into the “Preference Categories” and unfortunately are often subject to long wait times. Family-based preference categories are separated into five categories: China, India, Mexico, the Philippines, and the rest of the World.  The four countries listed are the ones from which the most people immigrate to the United States, and for this reason, they often have longer backlogs than the rest of the world. To start the immigration process for someone who falls into the preference categories, the first step is to file a petition (Form I-130) to register your relative as the son/daughter/sister/brother of a U.S. citizen or the spouse/son/daughter of a Legal Permanent Resident. 

FB1:  Unmarried sons and daughters of U.S. citizens who are over age 21 are in the first family-based preference category.  There are only 23,400 visas available per year in this category. The amount of time that this category of people must wait for a visa number to become available varies depending on a person’s country of birth. As there are already over 280,000 people on the FB1 waiting list, the wait time can be 7 or 8 years for most countries, and even longer for citizens of Mexico and the Philippines.

F2A: Spouses and unmarried children fall into the second family-based preference category. This category is split into two parts: A and B.  F2A is for the spouses and minor (under age 21), unmarried children of a legal permanent resident. F2B is for the unmarried, over age 21 sons and daughters of a legal permanent resident. In the past, the F2A category has been very backlogged.  At the moment though, the F2A category is current, which means that as soon as the I-130 petition is approved, your F2A relative can apply for permanent resident status (if lawfully residing in the United States) or an immigrant visa if residing abroad.

The F2B category has a much longer backlog, in general. People from most countries have been waiting over six years, but citizens of Mexico and the Philippines have waited much longer.

FB3: Married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens who are over age 21 are in the third family-based preference category. The spouses and unmarried, minor (under age 21) children of persons in this category are also eligible to immigrate with them. Like the FB1 category, there are 23,400 visa numbers available per year. Currently, there are over 800,000 people on this particular waiting list, so the wait times are lengthy – often a minimum of 10 years to around 20 years for those born in the Philippines and Mexico.

FB4: Brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens fall into this category. Legal permanent residents cannot apply for their siblings. There are currently 65,000 visa numbers available annually in this category. Like the FB3 category, the spouses and unmarried, minor (under age 21) children of persons in this category can immigrate with them. People in this category have been waiting at least 14 years and for those born in Mexico and the Philippines, the wait has recently been over 20 years.

The more people who join the preference categories, the longer the wait times will become. The nuances and details of each potential case are different and we encourage you to contact our team of experienced attorneys and staff to discuss your particular situation!