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We are fluent in Greek and Russian.

Getting a Green Card Through a Family Member: Who Qualifies?

May 01, 2021

If you’re a relative of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident, there’s a good chance you are eligible for a green card.

Thinking of immigrating to the U.S.? Your chances of qualifying for a green card increase if you have family members who already live in the United States. The closer the relationship, the more rights you have. However, it’s important to note that nobody goes from having no status to becoming an U.S. citizen in the blink of an eye. The process can be lengthy and complicated, so it’s best to gather as much information as possible beforehand and ask for help whenever you feel like you’re in over your head.

There are certain advantages to family-based green cards. First, your educational background and work experience have no impact on your eligibility. Instead, the main factor considered will be your relationship with the relative already in the U.S. Moreover, the children of your spouse may also qualify to accompany you if you’re accepted.

On the other hand, family-based immigration does not come with extra perks. Your visa can be denied or your green card can be taken away if you commit a crime or don’t abide by any guidelines set by immigration authorities. When all goes well, you’re free to apply for U.S. citizenship after five years — three if you’re married to and living with a citizen during all that time.

There are two types of relatives who can be eligible to immigrate to the U.S.: immediate relatives and preference relatives. The main difference? Immediate relatives may immigrate to the U.S. in unlimited numbers, so this is the best case scenario. Unlike the preference relative categories, immediate relatives aren’t controlled by any set annual limits or quotas. You’re considered an immediate relative if you’re the spouse of an U.S. citizen, unmarried child of a U.S. citizen (under the age of 21), or parent of a citizen, as long as the child petitioning for you is 21 or older. Stepparents, stepchildren and parents and children related through adoption can also qualify as immediate relatives under certain circumstances.

Meanwhile, immigrating as a preference relative is usually a longer endeavor, as it’s possible you’ll have to wait many years before being granted an immigrant visa. Preference relatives can include married or unmarried children of citizens (older than 21), spouses and unmarried children of lawful permanent residents, sisters and brothers of citizens, and more.

Whichever the case, your U.S.-based relative will need to sponsor you and prove they have enough income to support you for you to get an immigrant visa to the United States.

Do you have additional inquiries about the subject? Attorney Emmanuel V. Meimaris provides legal counsel on matters related to immigration, family law, real estate and business. Book a free consultation or call us at (781) 636-3636.

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