What Relationships Qualify for a Family-based Green Card?

Do you have a family member you would like to help obtain their Lawful Permanent Residence (Green Card)? The first step is to make sure that your relationship with that family member qualifies you to petition for them. But don’t worry, that’s why we’re here! The purpose of this post is to help you determine if you (or your family member) fit into one of the green card eligibility categories.

Immediate Relatives vs. Preference Relatives

Qualifying relationships are grouped into two categories: immediate relatives and preference category relatives.

Immediate relatives are given preferential treatment. People within this category can immigrate without having to wait for their visa number to be available because there is an unlimited number of visas in this category. You are an immediate relative if you are:

  • Spouse of a U.S. citizen
  • Unmarried child under the age of 21 of a U.S. citizen
  • Parent of a U.S. citizen who is at least 21 years old

Preference relatives are other family members of U.S. Citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents. Unlike the immediate relative category, preference relatives are subject to annual numerical limits.  A visa becomes available to a preference category based on the priority date (which is the date the Form I-130 was filed). You are in a preference category if you are the:

  • Unmarried son or daughter of a U.S. citizen and you are 21 years old or older
  • Married son or daughter of a U.S. citizen
  • Brother or sister of a U.S. citizen who is at least 21 years old
  • Spouse of a lawful permanent resident
  • Unmarried child under the age of 21 of a lawful permanent resident
  • Unmarried son or daughter of a lawful permanent resident 21 years old or older

Each group within the preference category has it’s own allocation of visa numbers. The wait times for each one of these relationships is different.


Generally, spouses, children, parents, and siblings are relationships that qualify for a family-based green card. Although they are family, there is no category for cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents, or other distant family members.

While it is true that it is usually a much shorter process if you are a U.S. Citizen petitioning for an immediate relative, that is not the only type of family relationship that qualifies an immigrant for lawful permanent residence. As listed above, U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents have benefits available to their family members who fall into the preference category.

While these categories vary in their wait time, there are options! Please contact our office at 914-719-7570 to schedule a consultation.

Find out whether a family-based green card is the option for you! 

For more information about wait times, visit the Department of State website for the most current Visa Bulletin.