With the exception of the national interest waiver (NIW) and extraordinary ability categories, most “individual” immigration matters are sponsored by a close family member based on a qualifying relationship.


The immediate relative category allows a U.S. citizen petitioner to sponsor a spouse, parents, and children for lawful permanent residence. The immediate relative category is not subject to visa quota restrictions and can be made “immediately available” to qualifying relatives. A separate petition must be filed for each immediate relative who is sponsored.


The law also allows for the sponsorship of family members based on additional qualifying relationships which fall under specific preference categories. Preference applicants are subject to wait times outlined in the U.S. State Department’s Visa Bulletin, which is updated and published on a monthly basis. Depending on the preference category, wait times can range from a few years to decades. The family based preference categories include: unmarried sons and daughters of citizens; spouses and children of lawful permanent residents; unmarried sons and daughters of lawful permanent residents (age 21 or older); married sons and daughters of citizens; and brothers and sisters of citizens. The preference categories allow beneficiaries to bring children, and in some cases spouses, with them to the U.S. at the time of the principal beneficiary’s immigration. A separate petition is not required for a qualifying derivative beneficiary.

Unfortunately, there is no preference category for the parent of a lawful permanent resident. A permanent resident seeking to sponsor a parent must first become a citizen in order to be able to do so.


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