US Family & Marriage Visa Categories
US family and marriage-based immigrant visa categories are divided two ways: family-based visas that are “immediately” available for those who are the spouses, children, and parents of US citizens and preference categories for those who are related to Lawful Permanent Residents (a.k.a. “green card” holders) and adult children or siblings of US citizens must wait for a visa number to become available to them which results in a backlog requiring sometimes many years of a wait to get a visa. The immediate visa categories give the impression that it could be a quick process to obtain a visa but this is far from the case. Depending on how and where the US citizen lives, it could take more than a year to sponsor an “immediate” family member but in the US visa world, this is quick compared to many years’ wait for preference family member categories.
Immediate Relative US Visa Categories
There is an unlimited number of Immediate Relative immigrant visas available which means a US family visa is immediately available to those relatives listed below.
- Spouse of a US Citizen.
- Unmarried Child under the age of 21 of a US Citizen.
- Orphaned Child Adopted by a US Citizen.
- Orphaned Child to be Adopted in the US by a US Citizen.
- Parent of a US Citizen who is at least 21 years old.
The process to apply for an immigrant visa for an immediate relative requires the filing of a Petition for Alien Relative with the US Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS). Where the petition is filed depends largely on where the US citizen relative is currently living. For example, US citizens who have been residing in the United Kingdom for a period of at least six months and who either has dual British or European citizenship or a UK visa may file the family immigrant visa petition directly with the USCIS office within the US Embassy in London. That is, at least for the time being as the USCIS has announced it will close its International Field Offices, according to March 2018 new reports.
Family Preference Immigrant Visa Categories
In addition to the Immediate Relative immigrant visa categories, there are the Family Preference Immigrant Visas which are listed below. There are a limited number of these visas available which means that certain family members cannot apply for an immigrant visa through a particular family relationship until an immigrant visa number is available to them. An immigrant visa number becomes available once the priority date, otherwise known as the date the sponsoring relative filed the Petition for Alien Relative, becomes current. Every month the US Department of State releases the current priority dates for all the immigrant visa categories on its website.
- Family First Preference: Unmarried sons and daughters of US Citizens, and their minor children, if any.
- Family Second Preference: Spouses, minor children, and unmarried sons and daughters (aged 21 and over) of Lawful Permanent Residents (aka green card holders).
- Family Third Preference: Married sons and daughters of US Citizens, and their spouses and minor children.
- Family Fourth Preference: Brothers and sisters of US Citizens, and their spouses and minor children, provided the US Citizens are at least 21 years of age. Please note, there is more than a 10 year waiting period for an immigrant visa to become available to a sibling of a US citizen.
Many factors are involved with determining how best to proceed with a US family visa. To determine the best way for you to proceed with a US visa application based on a family relationship, contact US Visa Solutions at +44 (0)20 7092 6830 to speak to a lawyer and possibly book a consultation to determine how to maximize the likelihood of a speedy and successful visa application.