A Guide to Family-Based Green Cards

A Guide to Family-Based Green Cards

May 8, 2024

A diverse family, representing multiple generations and backgrounds, sitting around a table and sharing a celebratory meal, with a small American flag in the middle, symbolizing family unity through the family-based green card process.


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A Guide to Family-Based Green Cards


Family-based green cards offer a crucial path for immigrants who aim to join their families in the U.S. This process allows U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents to reunite with their loved ones. Let's explore the different types of family-based green cards, their requirements, and steps to help you navigate this process effectively.

What is a Family-Based Green Card?

A family-based green card allows foreign family members of U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents to become permanent residents themselves, enabling them to live and work in the United States.

Eligibility Categories

  1. Immediate Relatives: Includes spouses, unmarried children under 21, and parents of U.S. citizens.

  2. Family Preference Categories: These categories apply to other family members, such as:

    • First Preference (F1): Unmarried adult children of U.S. citizens.

    • Second Preference (F2): Spouses and children of permanent residents.

    • Third Preference (F3): Married children of U.S. citizens.

    • Fourth Preference (F4): Siblings of U.S. citizens.

Understanding Priority Dates

Family preference categories are subject to annual numerical caps, creating waiting periods. Applicants need to check the Visa Bulletin to track their "priority date," which determines their place in line for an available visa.

Application Process Steps

Step 1: Filing the Petition

The sponsoring family member files Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, to establish a qualifying relationship. Approval leads to further processing based on the category.

Step 2: National Visa Center Processing

Approved petitions are forwarded to the National Visa Center (NVC), which assigns a case number. The applicant will receive instructions on fee payment and submitting required documents.

Step 3: Visa Application or Adjustment of Status

  • Visa Application (Consular Processing): For those living outside the U.S., apply through the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.

  • Adjustment of Status: For those living in the U.S. legally, apply through Form I-485 to transition to permanent resident status.

Step 4: Attend Interview

Applicants are required to attend an interview at a U.S. consulate or with the USCIS. Questions will confirm the legitimacy of the relationship.

Step 5: Approval and Green Card Issuance

After a successful interview, the visa or green card is issued. The new resident will receive a welcome packet and their permanent resident card by mail.

Key Considerations

  • Supporting Documents: Ensure documents like marriage certificates, birth certificates, and proof of U.S. citizenship are accurate.

  • Medical Examination: Applicants undergo a medical exam to ensure they meet health requirements.

  • Legal Support: Immigration law can be complex, and hiring an experienced attorney can streamline the process.


The family-based green card process is often the first step toward realizing the dream of living in the U.S. with loved ones. Understanding the categories, forms, and steps helps in planning a clear path to your family's reunion.


Navigating the family-based green card journey can be complex, but with the right information, you can maximize your chances of success.

Call (800) 842-0316 for Your Free Consultation

© Fibi Law Firm 2023

Call (800) 842-0316 for Your Free Consultation

© Fibi Law Firm 2023