Petition for Immediate Relatives

A US Citizen, just like a US Legal Permanent Resident, may file a petition to bring their immediate relatives as immigrants into the United States. The benefits of immigration are not the same for the families of US citizens and legal permanent residents.


What is the Immediate Relative Immigrant visa category?

The visas issued to immediate relatives are classified as:

  • IR1- Spouse of US citizens
  • IR2- Unmarried children of US citizens under 21 years of age
  • IR3- Orphan adopted abroad by US citizens
  • IR4- Orphan to be adopted in the US by a US citizen
  • IR5- Parent of a US citizen who is at least 21 years of age


Who are immediate relatives?

The classification of “immediate relatives” is used only to refer to the spouse, parents and unmarried children under 21 years of age of US citizens. Technically, only US citizens can file a petition for their “immediate relatives”.  Other relatives of US citizens and close relatives of Lawful Permanent Residents all fall under the preference system.


What are the immigration benefits for immediate relatives?

Immediate relatives of US citizens do not have to wait too long after the approval of their visa petition to immigrate. The beneficiaries of a preference petition such as the spouse, children and parents of Lawful Permanent Residents will have to wait under the preference system for available visas. There is no yearly cap on the number of visas issued to immediate relatives.


If relatives of US citizens do not fall under the “immediate relatives” category, can they still immigrate to the US?

Relatives such as married children and siblings of US citizens do not fall under the “immediate who do not fall under the term “immediate relatives” may still immigrate through other categories on the preference system. US citizens may also petition other relatives that Lawful Permanent Residents cannot petition for.

Lawful Permanent Residents may file a petition for their spouse, parents and unmarried children under 21 years of age, but these can immigrate under preference category 2A.  They may also petition for their children who are over 21 years of age but are still unmarried under the classification of preference category 2B.


Which relatives can a US citizen petition and how are they classified?

US citizens can petition for

  • “Immediate relatives” who are defined as a spouse, unmarried children under 21 and their parents
  • Unmarried sons and daughters who are over the age of 21 (classified as first preference category)
  • Married sons and daughters (classified as third preference category)
  • Siblings (classified as fourth preference category)


Which relatives can a US legal permanent resident petition?

US Legal Permanent Residents can only petition for their legal spouse and unmarried children under age 21 who enjoy Second Preference (2A). They may also petition for their unmarried sons and daughters who may be over 21 years of age who also enjoy Second Preference (2B).


What is the preference system?

The preference system is a system for organizing and prioritizing the issuance of immigrant visas because there are a limited number of visas available for issuance and distribution each year. The applicants for immigrant visas are grouped according to categories or “preferences” and their applications are put in a queue for processing.


How many visas are available every year under the preference system?

About 465,000 family visas are available each year and approximately half of that number is available for the preference system. Every year, only 23, 400 visas are available for immediate relatives; 114,200 visas available for second preference petitions; 23, 400 visas are available for third preference petitions; and 65,000 are available for fourth preference petitions.


Why is there a preference system for the issuance of visas?

Often there are more visa applicants than there are available visas. Whenever there are more visa applicants than there are visas available, there is a backlog.


How long will the relatives under Preference Category 2A and 2B wait for a visa?

It is difficult to predict accurately when a vis can be available or how long visa applicants under the preference system will need to wait. A very rough estimate can be made based on the following:

  1. The priority date of the filing of the visa petition (when the Form I-130 petition was accepted for filing). This is the visa applicant’s place in the waiting line.
  2. The country where the applicant comes from. There is a set number of visas available for each country every year. Some countries have more visa applicants than others. Mexico and the Philippines have the highest number of visa applicants every year.
  3. The preference category
  4. How fast the preference category had advanced the past 2-3 years.


Are you wondering how long your relatives would have to wait for a visa under the preference system? Ask the advice from any of our immigration lawyers at Lluis Law. We are willing to help you.