This visa category permits the immediate relatives of United States citizens to immigrate without waiting in a quota or preference line. Mere marriage to a United States citizen or permanent resident does not automatically create resident status in the United States. The United States relative must file a petition on behalf of the foreign relative, and the foreign relative must undergo an interview by the United States government for admissibility to the United States as an immigrant. However, less immediate ties than a spouse or parent of a United States citizen require that a person apply for his or her visa through a series of categories which may or may not be current at the time the person’s application is approved. A United States citizen must be at least 21 years of age in order to sponsor a relative to immigrate.
There are FOUR basic categories of family preference:
First, adult sons and daughters of United States citizens;
Second, spouses, and adult sons and daughters of lawful permanent residents or green cardholders;
Third, married children of United States citizens; and
Fourth, brothers and sisters of United States citizens.
A bulletin is issued by the United States Department of State showing the status of the various visa categories in relation to the preferences for the worldwide countries which have not over-subscribed the system as well as a breakdown for those countries which are over-subscribed. There is varying waiting periods in these categories, depending on the backlog of prior applications on a worldwide basis and on a per country basis in the case of certain high demand countries. Also, some cases are delayed because a waiver of inadmissibility is required. These waits are unpredictable, and can change from month to month, since the waiting line depends upon the number of people with earlier priority dates on their approved applications who actually complete the process when the time comes that the visa is available.