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Comparing family preference visas to immediate relative visas

U.S. immigration law provides for two main categories of family-based immigrant visas: Immediate Relative Immigrant visas and Family Preference visas. While both stem from family ties to U.S. citizens, a few key differences exist between the two.

Today, we cover the essentials of both types of family visas, according to the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs.

Key aspects of immediate relative immigrant visas

Immediate relative immigrant visas apply to close family relationships. Someone can seek one of the visas in this category if they are:

  • Married to a U.S. citizen
  • Adopted either in the United States or abroad by U.S. citizens
  • Unmarried, under 21 years old and the child of a U.S. citizen
  • The parent of a U.S. citizen who is at least 21 years old

The U.S. government can issue an unlimited number of immediate relative immigrant visas each year.

Understanding family preference visas

Family preference visas primarily apply to adults with relatives legally living in the United States. The family relationships are slightly more distant in this category.

There are four types of family preference visas:

  • Single individuals whose parents are U.S. citizens, as well as their minor children
  • Spouses, children under 18 and unmarried children over 21 of Lawful Permanent Residents
  • Married individuals whose parents are U.S. citizens, as well as their spouse and minor children
  • Brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens

Unlike immediate relative visas, a limited number of family preference visas are available each year.

For example, every year the United States government may only issue 65,000 visas to brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens.

Since each case relies on specific family relationships, navigating the immigration system is rarely easy. To learn more about your immigration options, consult with an attorney who specializes in family-based immigration.

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