What is a Family Based Green Card?

A Family Based Green Card enables foreign family members of U.S. citizens/permanent residents to become Green Card holders in the USA. Spouses, parents, children and siblings of U.S. citizens/Green Card holders could be eligible to receive a Family Based Green Card.

There are two routes towards Family Based Green Cards, which are immediate relative and preference relative.

What are Family Based Green Cards?

If you are the immediate relative of a U.S citizen, the preference relative of a U.S. citizen/Green Card holder or an accompanying relative, you could be eligible for a Family Based Green Card.

The rules around family based Green Card eligibility depend on the applicant’s relation to their family member (sponsor) and the conditions under which the sponsor is living in the U.S.

U.S citizens are able to bring more distant relatives to the U.S. in comparison to Green Card holder permanent residents. Also, family members of U.S. citizens are usually able to immigrate faster to the U.S. than family members of Green Card holders.

There are two main routes towards a Family Based Green Card which are immediate relative and preference relative. Within each of these categories are a number of different visas which are specific to the relation of the applicant to their sponsor in America.

The educational background and employment history of Family Based Green Card applicants will not be taken into account, in contrast to those applying for many of the other types of Green Cards.

At the beginning of the Family Based Green Card application process, the visa petition for a is completed by the sponsor rather than the relative of the U.S. citizen/permanent resident.

Who Could be Classed as an Immediate Relative?

As an immediate relative, you will be under the most favourable conditions to receive a Green Card.

The following foreign-born people will qualify as immediate relative family members:

  • Spouses of U.S. citizens (IR-1)
  • Unmarried children of a U.S. citizen who are under the age of 21 (IR-2)
  • An orphan adopted abroad by a U.S. citizen (IR-3)
  • An orphan to be adopted in the United States by a U.S. citizen (IR-4)
  • Parents of U.S. citizens, if the U.S. citizen child is at least 21 years-old (IR-5)

The spouse of a U.S. citizen is classed as someone who is legally married to the U.S. citizen. Also, a widow or widower of a U.S. citizen will be classed as a spouse if they were married to the U.S. citizen for at least two years, and they are applying for a Green Card within two years of the death of the U.S. citizen.

Stepparents and stepchildren can qualify as immediate relatives with the family based Green Card if the marriage which created the parent/child relationship took place before the child’s turned 18.

There are no controlled annual limits on those applying for a Family Based Green Card as an immediate relative, which makes it a particularly favourable route towards a Green Card.


Who Could be Classed as a Preference Relative?

You could qualify as a preference relative if you fall under one of the following categories:

  • Family first preference. Unmarried children of any age of the U.S. citizen
  • Family second preference. Subcategory 2A is for spouses and unmarried children (under 21) of Green Card holders. (F2A) Subcategory 2B is for unmarried sons and daughters of Green Card holders who are at least 21-years-old (F2B)
  • Family third preference. Married children of a U.S. citizen (F3)
  • Family fourth preference. Sisters and brothers of U.S. citizens where the U.S. citizen is at least 21-years-old (F4)

There is a quota placed on those applying for a Family Based Green Card as a preference relative, which means that, unfortunately, you could be waiting many years to receive your Green Card.

Who Could be Classed as an Accompanying Relative?

In a Family Based Green Card visa petition, the spouse and unmarried children (under 21) of the person who the application is based on will automatically be included in the immigration process.

A person under these circumstances is known as the “derivative” beneficiary. The derivative beneficiary process applies to all preference relative visa permit applications, unless the applicant requests for them not to be.

Including an accompanying relative in the visa petition will start the immigration process for that accompanying relative. However, keep in mind that there is no specific application for an accompanying relative, meaning you cannot receive Green Card based on being an accompanying relative of a preferred relative.

Eventually, an accompanying relative will need to submit their own independent applications for a Green Card or immigrant visa to remain in the USA.

Who is Eligible to be a Family Based Green Card Sponsor?

There are certain conditions which a U.S. citizen/permanent resident needs to satisfy in order to be a sponsor.

In addition to the basic fundamental requirement of being a U.S. citizen or Green Card holder, these are the requirements a sponsor needs to meet:

  • Need to be able to prove that you have a close relationship with the family member, and a relationship which is in one of the permitted categories
  • Must maintain your principal residence in the United States
  • Need to have a minimum income of at least 125% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines
  • Must prove that you can financially support your sponsored family member after they arrive in the United States

What are the Required Documents for a Family Based Green Card?

For both immediate relative and family preference sponsorship, the following documents need to be included in the application:

  • Passport valid for at least six months beyond the intended date of entry into the U.S
  • Birth certificate
  • Marriage certificate, if applicable
  • Marriage termination documentation, if applicable
  • Affidavit of support
  • Immigration medical examination form
  • Two passport-sized photographs

Keep in mind that depending on your circumstances, you may need to submit other documentation. Also, any documents which are not in English will need to be translated.

What is the Family Based Green Card Application Process?

All Family Based Green Card applications follow the same procedure, regardless of whether the application is through the immediate relative or preference relative routes.

  1. S. sponsor needs to file an I-130 petition to the USCIS. The petition will be assessed to see if the criteria is met
  2. If the petition is approved, the applicant will need to wait for a visa application to become available
  3. When a visa application becomes available, the beneficiary will need to apply for a status adjustment or go through consular processing, depending on where the sponsored family member is located

What is the adjustment of status?

If the family member is in the U.S., the process which needs to be followed is known as adjustment of status. With this route towards a Green Card, an I-485 form must be completed and submitted to the USCIS, along with all the required documentation.

What is Consular Processing?

Consular processing is for those who are applying for a Green Card outside of the U.S. With this route, the approved I-130 form will be forwarded to the embassy or consulate in the country where the applicant lives.

The petitioner and the beneficiary will be notified when the petition arrives at the embassy or consulate, and they will also be informed of how to proceed with the process.

Once you have received information the information, you will need to complete the DS-261 form. When this has been received and processed, you will need to pay the application fee of $325. You may also need to pay a $120 affidavit of support fee.

When the DS-261 form has been submitted and the application fee has been paid, the next step is to complete the DS-260 form. After you’ve submitted the DS-260 form and received confirmation, you will need to submit your documents to the National Visa Center.

The beneficiary will also need to attend a one-on-one interview with a consular officer to verify their eligibility as part of the process.

How Much Does it Cost to get a Family Based Green Card?

The cost of a Family Based Green Card application, depends on the particular application route.

  • I-130 Petition for Alien Relative form: $535
  • I-485 Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust status form: $1,140
  • DS-261 Application: $325

Can I Enter Into Employment Under a Family Based Green Card?

Generally speaking, anyone with a Family Based Green Card, whether as an immediate relative or a preference relative, will be entitled to find employment and work in the USA.

You can apply for employment authorisation by filing Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorisation.