The goal of the United States Government is to promote family reunification. If you are a United States Citizen (USC) or Legal Permanent Resident (LPR), you are allowed to bring certain family members into the U.S. to be reunited with you. In order to streamline this process in an orderly fashion, the U.S. government has instituted certain rules that although intended to simplify this process, has created a lot of confusion and complexity. A petition to bring a family member into the U.S. can thus lead to significant delays and a denial if not filed properly with an experienced lawyer.
The family preference system is the hierarchy system whereby the government determines who gets to come into the United States. Depending on the applicant’s relationship to the USC/LPR sponsor, they will face different waiting times. The government controls the flow of immigrants into the United States by issuing 226,000 visas per year to foreign nationals who are eligible to apply under the family preference categories. These wait times can be determined from the Visa Bulletin which is published by the State Department every month.
Immediate relatives are not subject to numerical visa limitations, which mean immediate relatives do not have to wait for a visa number in order to come to the United States. Immediate relatives are defined as the “parent, spouse or children(unmarried & under age 21)of a United States Citizen.”
First: (F1) Unmarried Sons and Daughters of U.S. Citizens: 23,400 plus any numbers not required for fourth preference.
Second: Spouses and Children, and Unmarried Sons and Daughters of Permanent Residents: 114,200, plus the number (if any) by which the worldwide family preference level exceeds 226,000, plus any unused first preference numbers:
A. (F2A) Spouses and Children of Permanent Residents: 77% of the overall second preference limitation, of which 75% are exempt from the per-country limit;
B. (F2B) Unmarried Sons and Daughters (21 years of age or older) of Permanent Residents: 23% of the overall second preference limitation.
Third: (F3) Married Sons and Daughters of U.S. Citizens: 23,400, plus any numbers not required by first and second preferences.
Fourth: (F4) Brothers and Sisters of Adult U.S. Citizens: 65,000, plus any numbers not required by first three preferences.
Keep in mind that USC’s and LPR’s are restricted as to who they can file for. USCs must be 21 years of age or older when filing for a parent or siblings and LPRs cannot file for their parents or siblings. No one can file an I-130 on behalf of an aunt, uncle, cousin, niece, nephew, in-law relative or grandparent.
The priority date is the date the visa petition was properly filed with USCIS. It is also the key date for family preference petitions that are subject to annual numerical limits and is used as the cut-off date to determine visa availability.