In general, a foreign national who wishes to immigrate to the United States through family relationship must have a petition filed by a U.S. citizen or U.S. lawful permanent resident relative and approved by the US Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) before applying for an immigrant visa.
Immediate Relatives of U.S. Citizens (IR): These types of immigrant visas are based on a close family relationship with a U.S. citizen, including spouses, children, and parents. In addition, a U.S. citizen can sponsor a child adopted or to be adopted from abroad, if that child meets the definition of orphan under the US immigration law. There is no numerical limitation or quota for immigrant visas filed by Immediate Relative of US Citizens.
For immigration purposes, Immediate Relative classifications include:
Limited Family-Based Immigrant classifications involve specific, more distant, family relationships with a U.S. citizen and some specified relationships with a Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR). Under US immigration law, there are fiscal year numerical limitations on family preference immigrants as explained below.
Grandparents, aunts, uncles, in-laws and cousins cannot sponsor a relative for immigration.
As the supply of visas for these preference categories is scarce and the demand is ever-increasing, these preference classifications are heavily backlogged. As a result, the waiting period for some of these preference classifications can be for many years. The Visa Bulletin, published each month by the U.S. State Department, provides the availability of immigrant visas for each of the categories outlined above.
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