Family Based Immigration

In this guide we describe in detail how you can make use of the family based immigration to claim certain members of your family. These family members can obtain a Green Card, a K-1 fiance visa, or a K-3 or K-4 visa.

On our website you will find related articles on how to get a Green Card or extensive information on the visas for the USA. If the family member wishes to obtain proof of citizenship or naturalize, please check our section on how to become a U.S. citizen.


Lluis Law is a law firm with more than 50 years of experience in immigration matters. Whatever your immigration needs are, don’t hesitate to contact us. Our immigration lawyers in Los Angeles will be happy to assist you. 

Requirements to apply for the family based immigration

The first step in requesting a family member and that he receives the Permanent Resident Green Card is to fill out the I-130 form. This request form for a foreign relative demonstrates the relationship between them. In some cases this can be submitted together with the I-485 form for permanent residence registration or adjustment of status.

On our website you will find an article dedicated exclusively to explain how to fill out the I-130 form.

What relatives can I claim through family based immigration?

Family member you can claimImmigration benefitForms
– Spouse.
– Children (single and under 21).
– Children (s) married and / or 21 years of age or older).
– Parents, if the applicant is 21 years of age or older.
– Brothers, if the applicant is 21 years of age or older.
Green Card (Permanent Residence).– Form I-130, Petition of a foreign relative.
– Form I-485 to request permanent residence / adjustment of status.
– Form I-864, Affidavit of economic sponsorship.
Fiance residing outside the US and children of the fiance under 21 years of age.Fiancé Visa.Form I-129F, Petition of Foreign Fiance
– Spouse.
– Children of a spouse (single and under 21).
Nonimmigrant K-3 / K-4 visas.– Form I-130, Petition for a foreign relative.
– Form I-129F, Petition for Foreign Fiance

Source: United States Citizenship and Immigration Service

Immediate relatives of American citizens

Family members who can be requested by a US citizen are:

  • Spouse of a US citizen;
  • Unmarried children and children under 21;
  • Parents (the petitioner who is a US citizen must be 21 years of age or older).

Unlike immediate family members of Permanent Residents, visas are always available for immediate family members of US citizens. So the foreign relative will not have to wait for an available visa number to obtain a resident visa.

Immediate family members who are already in the US can file Form I-485, simultaneously with Form I-130, Petition of a Foreign Family Member.

My son is an American citizen can he sponsor me?

Yes. For the request of citizen children to parents it is the same procedure as for the previous family members mentioned. It is enough to fulfill the requirements demanded by the Immigration Law, being the main one the demonstration of kinship.

my son is an American citizen, can he sponsor me

In the same way that the petition of the citizen father to a married son or the request of the American citizen father to a child of legal age is appropriate. As explained above, the request made by a US citizen father to a married son is also possible.

How long does it take to request an older child?

Although each case is different from each other, unfortunately the waiting time can be about 20 years to emigrate to the United States.

Petition of other relatives by means of the family based immigration

For other relatives who are not immediate relatives of the US citizen, the family visa preference categories for the United States apply. The number of visas available for these categories depends on the number of visas assigned by each country annually.

The respective visa will be available for one of the preference categories according to the priority date. The priority date is the same on which the applicant submitted Form I-130. Family preference categories are grouped as follows:

First preference : Single adult child over 21 years of age as a U.S. citizen;

Second preference (2A): Spouse and children of unmarried children under 21 years of permanent resident.

Second preference (2B): Single adult child of permanent resident.

Third preference : Married child of a US citizen regardless of age.

Fourth Preference : Adult brother of US citizen.

For more information on priority dates and visa availability, check the Visa Bulletin of the State Department.

How to help a family member become a permanent resident of the United States?

family petition for american residence

US citizens by birth or naturalization can claim their immediate family members and others. They can do so by sponsoring the relative through a petition from a foreign relative and demonstrating that they can support him financially. For this they must present evidence of income and / or sufficient assets.

The relative’s request process begins with the submission of Form I-130, Petition of a Foreign Family Member. The relationship establishes the kinship between the family member and the petitioner. Sometimes Form I-130 can be submitted together with the application for the Permanent Residence Card or Green Card, through Form I-485.

While the application is being processed, the foreign relative who is outside the US will have to wait in their country of origin to be able to legally emigrate. If you are already within the US then you can make the application for adjustment of status to the permanent resident along with the submission of Form I-130.

Can I help my fiance to obtain permanent residence in the United States?

Some people ask: “If I am an American citizen and I want to claim my girlfriend/boyfriend can I do it?” Yes as long as the girlfriend or boyfriend is actually someone you are engaged to and therefore you plan to marry.

There are several ways to request the residence of a fiance. One is to apply for a fiancé visa by filling out Form I-129F for the future foreign spouse. With this family visa you can travel to the US and stay in the country for 90 days to carry out the marriage.

After getting married, the foreign spouse can apply for the Permanent Residence Card and remain in the country while the immigration process is taking place. The other way is to marry the fiancé abroad and then petition the spouse through Form I-130, Application for a Foreign Family Member.

requirements to sponsor my husband for residence

If the fiance is already in the US under any other legal immigration status, it is advisable to seek the help of a good immigration lawyer. The Lluis Law immigration lawyers have a lot of experience in the process of permanent residence and adjustment of status for foreign fiance. 

One of the requirements to request the fiance is that the American citizen must not have been convicted of a crime related to child abuse. In addition, the bride must be of legal age, single, divorced, widowed or have her previous marriage annulled.

Another indispensable requirement is that the bride and groom meet in person and have met once at least in the last 2 years. However, there are exceptions to this requirement.

Requirements to sponsor my husband, I am an American citizen

To request the husband or wife of an American citizen, the following process must be carried out and the required documentation must be attached:

  • Fill out Form I-130, sign it and pay the corresponding fee and attach:
    • Copy of the Marriage Certificate.
    • Copy of previous marriage documents certifying the divorce, death of the previous spouse or annulment of the marriage, if applicable.
    • Passport-type photos of the petitioner and his spouse.
    • Evidence of legal change of name of the petitioner or spouse, if applicable.
    • Verification of U.S. citizenship through:
      • Copy of the American passport or in its place: copy of the birth certificate, consular report of birth abroad, naturalization certificate or copy of the citizenship certificate.

Permanent residents must verify their status by presenting:

  • Copy of the Permanent Residence Card or Form I-551 on both sides. It also serves the copy of the foreign passport with the temporary evidence seal of the permanent residence.

Can an American citizen sponsor their siblings?

American citizens over the age of 21 can ask their foreign siblings through a family petition. This power is limited to US citizens only since permanent residents cannot do so. You can claim blood brothers, adopted ones and the stepbrothers.

Therefore, if my sister is an American citizen, she can claim me. The procedure for the petition of an american citizen brother is also made through Form I-130, petition of a foreign relative. When a visa number is available, Form I-485, Application for permanent residence or adjustment of status must be submitted.

After the request is approved, the brother abroad must enter the United States within a maximum period of 6 months. You must not open the envelope that the consulate gives you when notifying you that your visa has been approved.

an American citizen can claim his nephew or brother

Can an American citizen claim a nephew?

It’s not possible. The Immigration Law only allows citizens or permanent residents of the United States to ask immediate family members but not a nephew.

These immediate relatives are parents, spouses, children and single or married siblings.

Frequently asked questions about family based immigration

Among the most common questions that our clients ask us during the Free Consultations we offer immigrants are what to do if:

  • I am an American citizen and I want to request my parents;
  • I am an American citizen and I want to request my mother;
  • I am an American citizen and I want to request my wife;
  • I am an American citizen and I want to request my son.

In all these cases, if you are an American citizen and want to request any of your immediate family members, you must simply make a request for a foreign relative. The father, mother, spouse and the children are the relatives who have priority to emigrate to the United States.

One of the principles of the US Immigration law is to help strengthen family reunification. For this reason, it is sought that foreigners who emigrate and become citizens or permanent residents request their relatives.

What If I am an American resident and want to ask my wife?

Permanent American residents can ask their spouse (husband or wife) and can also ask their unmarried children under the age of 21.

For more information about the process and preference categories for relatives of permanent residents, please check USCIS website .

A permanent resident cannot ask their parents, siblings, cousins ​​or any other family member.


If you or a family member wish to obtain American residence through family based immigration or need help in any issue related to immigration, Lluis Law immigration attorneys are at your disposal and help you resolve all your questions. We have over 40 years of experience in representing immigrants in the Los Angeles area and the rest of California. Wherever you are we can inform you.