Immediate Relative and Family Sponsored

Family Immigration

Spouse or FiancÚ(e) of U.S. Citizen

Spouse of Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) in U.S.

Adopting a Child

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Family Immigration  

Overview - Family-based Immigrant Visas

Two groups of family based immigrant visa categories, including immediate relatives and family preference categories, are provided under the provisions of United States immigration law, specifically the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).

Immediate Relative Immigrant Visas (Unlimited): These visa types are based on a close family relationship with a United States (U.S.) citizen described as an Immediate Relative (IR). The number of immigrants in these categories is not limited each fiscal year. Immediate relative visa types include:

  • IR-1: Spouse of a U.S. Citizen

  • IR-2: Unmarried Child Under 21 Years of Age of a U.S. Citizen

  • IR-3: Orphan adopted abroad by a U.S. Citizen

  • IR-4: Orphan to be adopted in the U.S. by a U.S. citizen

  • IR-5: Parent of a U.S. Citizen who is at least 21 years old

Family Preference Immigrant Visas (Limited): These visa types are for specific, more distant, family relationships with a U.S. citizen and some specified relationships with a Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR). There are fiscal year numerical limitations on family preference immigrants, shown at the end of each category. The family preference categories are:

  • Family First Preference (F1): Unmarried sons and daughters of U.S. citizens, and their minor children, if any. (23,400)

  • Family Second Preference (F2): Spouses, minor children, and unmarried sons and daughters (age 21 and over) of LPRs. At least seventy-seven percent of all visas available for this category will go to the spouses and children; the remainder is allocated to unmarried sons and daughters. (114,200)

  • Family Third Preference (F3): Married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens, and their spouses and minor children. (23,400)

  • Family Fourth Preference (F4): Brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens, and their spouses and minor children, provided the U.S. citizens are at least 21 years of age. (65,000)

Note: Grandparents, aunts, uncles, in-laws, and cousins cannot sponsor a relative for immigration.

Numerical Limitations for Limited Family-based Preference Categories

Whenever the number of qualified applicants for a category exceeds the available immigrant visas, there will be an immigration wait. In this situation, the available immigrant visas will be issued in the chronological order in which the petitions were filed using their priority date. The filing date of a petition becomes what is called the applicant's priority date. Immigrant visas cannot be issued until an applicant's priority date is reached. In certain categories with many approved petitions compared to available visas, there may be a waiting period of several years, or more, before a priority date is reached. Check the Visa Bulletin for the latest priority dates.

Returning Resident Immigrant Visas (SB) - A lawful permanent resident (LPR) who has remained outside the U.S. for longer than twelve months, or beyond the validity period of a re-entry permit, will require a new immigrant visa to enter the U.S. and resume permanent residence. A provision exists under U.S. visa law for the issuance of a returning resident special immigrant visa to an LPR who remained outside the U.S. due to circumstances beyond his/her control. For more information about international travel as a LPR, and returning resident immigrant visas, visit our Returning Resident webpage.

Spouse or FiancÚ(e) of U.S. Citizen


If you are an American citizen you have two ways to bring your foreign spouse (husband or wife) to the United States to live. They are
  • Immigrant visa for a Spouse of a U.S. Citizen (IR1 or CR1) - An immigrant Petition for Alien Relative, Form I-130 is required.

  • Nonimmigrant visa for spouse (K-3) - It is important to note that application for the nonimmigrant visa for spouse (K-3) who married a U.S. citizen must be filed and the visa must be issued in the country where the marriage took place. After the visa process has been completed, and the visa is issued, the spouse can travel to the United States to wait for the processing of the immigrant visa case. Two petitions are required:

    • Petition for Alien Relative, Form I-130; and

    • Petition for Alien FiancÚ(e), Form I-129F

If you are an American citizen, you may bring your fiancÚ(e) to the United States to marry; and live here.

Nonimmigrant visa for fiancÚ(e) (K-1)- To travel to the United States for marriage. An I-129F fiancÚ(e) petition is required.

Immigrant Visa for a Spouse (IR1 or CR1)
Nonimmigrant Visa for a Spouse (K-3)
Nonimmigrant Visa for a FiancÚ(e) (K-1)

Spouse of Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) in U.S. 

Important Notice:

While U.S. immigration law still includes a provision for the V visa category for qualified spouses and children (under age 21) of U.S. lawful permanent residents (LPRs), we do not foresee that any V visas will be issued, since potential applicants will not meet the criteria explained below.

Overview The Legal Immigration Family Equity Act (LIFE Act), enacted on December 21, 2000, created a nonimmigrant visa category, the V visa, with specific provisions for certain spouses and children of U.S. lawful permanent residents (LPRs). The purpose of the LIFE Act was to reunite families who had been or could be separated for long periods during the process of immigrating to the United States. V visas, therefore, allowed these family members to be in the United States with their LPR spouses and parents while waiting to complete the immigration process.

Qualifying for a V Visa To qualify for a V visa, a spouse or child (under age 21) of a U.S. lawful permanent resident (LPR) must meet all of the following criteria:

  • The U.S. LPR spouse and/or parent MUST have filed Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) on behalf of his or her spouse/child(ren) on or before December 21, 2000;

  • The petition's priority date must be at least three years old;

  • The priority date must not be current;

  • The applicant must not have already had an immigrant visa interview or be scheduled for an interview;

  • The petition must not already be at a U.S. embassy or consulate for immigrant visa processing; and

  • The applicant must be otherwise eligible as an immigrant.
U.S. embassies and consulates have not issued any V visas for the past several years because applicants with priority dates on or before December 21, 2000, were able to apply for immigrant visas as their priority dates became current. Review the Visa Bulletin for information on the priority dates of petitions for spouses and children of U.S. lawful permanent residents that are currently being processed for immigrant visas.

Adopting a Child 

Intercountry Adoption

Each year thousands of U.S. citizens adopt children from abroad and many families in other countries adopt U.S. children. Intercountry adoption is governed by both the laws of the country in which the child lives and the country in which the adoptive parents live. Under U.S. law, there are two distinct intercountry adoption processes: the Hague Convention process and the non-Hague Convention process. Which process you will follow will depend on whether or not the other country involved is also a party to the Hague Convention. In this website, we will guide you through and answer your questions about these processes.

Intercountry adoption is the process by which you:

  • Adopt a child from a different country than your own through permanent legal means; and

  • Bring that child to your home country to live with you permanently.
Through intercountry adoption, the legal transfer of parental rights from birth parent(s) to another parent(s) takes place. Over the last decade, U.S. families have adopted on average approximately 20,000 children from foreign nations each year.

Adoption: The judicial or administrative act that establishes a permanent legal parent-child relationship between a minor and an adult who is not already the minor's legal parent and terminates the legal parent-child relationship between the adoptive child and any former parent(s).

Generally speaking, to qualify as an adoption for immigration purposes, the adopted child has the same rights and privileges as a child by birth (such as inheritance rights, etc.). "Simple", "conditional", or "limited" adoptions, such as those conducted under Islamic Family Law in some countries, are more accurately described as guardianship and are not considered adoptions for U.S. immigration purposes.

Adoption Process This section provides an overview of the intercountry adoption process. The process varies greatly, as it is governed by the laws of the countries where the adoptive parents and the child reside (which in the case of the United States means both federal and state law), and also in which of these locations the legal adoption is finalized. Additionally, if the child's home country is a party to the Hague Adoption Convention, the Hague processes of both countries must be followed. Prospective adoptive parents should consider all of these factors when evaluating what to expect.
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