Certain relatives of U.S. citizens can obtain a Green Card as an “immediate relative”. Immediate Relatives are exempt from any quota restrictions.

They include:

  • Spouses of U.S. citizen.
  • Children of U.S. citizens under the age of 21 and unmarried.
  • Parents of U.S. citizens 21 years of age or older.

Other persons seeking to immigrate in one of the family-based preference categories will qualify for immigrant status only if they have the necessary relationship to a U.S. citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident. §201 INA (Immigration and Nationality Act) sets an annual minimum family-sponsored preference limit of 225,000 Green Cards. Therefore each visa type in the family-based category has a waiting time from the date the petition is filed (“priority date”) until the visa actually can be processed. Priority dates can be viewed in the Visa Bulletin, which is available at

The family preferences subject to quota are:

  • 1st preference: Unmarried son or daughter over the age of 21 of a U.S. citizen
  • 2nd preference: Spouse, children or unmarried son or daughter of a Lawful Permanent Resident
  • 3rd preference: Married son or daughter of a U.S. citizen
  • 4th preference: Brother or sister of a U.S. citizen. U.S. citizen must be 21 or over

News article about marriage petitions