What are Family-Based Green Cards for Immediate Relatives?

Individuals who are the spouse, parent, or child under the age of 21 to a United States citizen may become lawful permanent residents in the United States by obtaining a Green Card. Other family members are not deemed “immediate relatives” for Green Card purposes and are subject to different priority to receive a Green Card. There is no limit on the amount of immigrant visas available for immediate relatives.

Who Qualifies as an Immediate Relative for a Green Card?

In order to qualify as an immediate relative to a United States citizen, an individual must be either the spouse, parent, or child of the United States citizen. Children of a United States citizen must be under the age of 21 and must be unmarried. Parents of a United States citizen qualify if the United States citizen is over the age of 21.

What is the Process for Obtaining a Family-Based Green Card for Immediate Relatives?

The process for immediate relatives to receive a Green Card is generally less lengthy than for other Green Card applicants. Qualified individuals may apply for a Green Card through either consular processing or adjustment of status.

Consular Processing

Consular processing is available for applicants who are currently living outside of the United States. Under consular processing, applicants must follow the steps outlined below:

File an Immigrant Visa Petition

In order to begin the process for consular processing, the applicant’s U.S. citizen family-member will need to submit the applicant’s immigration petition Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

Attend Interview at Consulate or Embassy

After an applicant’s immigrant visa petition is submitted, he or she will need to attend an interview at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate nearest to them where a U.S. official will ask questions relevant to the individual’s desire to live in the United States permanently. The consulate officer conducting the interview will likely inquire into the applicant’s relationship with the U.S. citizen and assess the legitimacy of the relationship

After Immigrant Visa is Granted

Once an applicant’s visa petition is approved and an immigrant visa is granted, he or she will receive a sealed Visa Packet that must be brought to a United States port of entry when the individual seeks entry into the United States, and must not be opened prior to arrival at the port of entry. The Visa Packet may be given to the applicant at the interview with a U.S. consulate officer. So long as the individual has paid all USCIS fees, the individual’s Green Card should arrive by mail to the individual’s United States address within 45 days of arrival in the United States.

Adjusting Status

Individuals already living inside the United States can seek to change their status as an immediate relative of a United States citizen. Immediate relatives may adjustment their status by following the steps below:

File an Immigrant Visa Petition and Change of Status Petition

Much like consular processing, an applicant seeking to change his or her status must have someone (such as a spouse or parent) submit immigration petition Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative to the USCIS in order to stay permanently in the United States. Unlike consular processing, Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status must also be filed after the immigrant visa petition is approved or at the same time as the immigrant visa petition. Only immediate relatives to U.S. citizens are permitted to submit Form I-485 at the same time as the immigration petition.

Submit Supporting and Identifying Documentation

When submitting Form I-130 and Form I-485 to adjust status, an immediate relative applicant must submit other supporting identifying documentation, including:

  • Two passport-style photographs that conform to Department of State photo requirements;
  • Copy of the Form I-797, Approval or Receipt Notice (for the Form I-130 petition filed on the applicant’s behalf)
    • Note: Form I-797 does not need to be filed if Form I-130 and Form I-485 is filed together
  • Copy of applicant’s birth certificate;
  • Copy of applicant’s passport page with non-immigrant visa;
  • Copy of applicant’s passport page with admission or parole stamp issued by a U.S. immigration officer;
  • Copy of government-issued ID with applicant’s photograph;
  • Copy of Form I-94, Arrival/Departure Record or copy of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) admission or parole stamp on the travel document

Attend an Application Support Center Appointment

After Form I-485 is filed, an applicant will have to attend an appointment to provide fingerprints, photograph, a signature, and an acknowledgement that the applicant has provided true and accurate information. The applicant will receive a notice in the mail informing him or her of the appointment time, date, and location.

Attend an Interview

Similar to consular processing, some applicants may have to attend an interview prior to receiving approval of their change of status application. However, an interview is not required for all applicants. Thus, an individual will receive a notice of the interview time, date, and location if one is necessary.

After Change of Status is Granted

After an applicant’s change of status is approved, he or she will first receive a notice of approval. The applicant’s Green Card document will be sent soon thereafter.

Can Widows or Widowers Receive a Green Card?

Individuals who were married to a now-deceased United States citizen may receive a Green Card despite the U.S. citizens death so long as the Green Card applicant can prove he or she was legally married to the now-deceased U.S. citizen, that the marriage was entered into in good faith, and not only for the benefit of immigrating to the United States.

Filing Form I-360

Individuals who had not began the application process for a Green Card prior to the U.S. citizen’s death may self-petition within two years of the U.S. citizen’s death as an “immediate relative” by filing Form I-360, Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant.

The widow(er) must have been married to the U.S. citizen at the time of his or her death. Thus, divorced individuals do not qualify for Form I-360. Also, if the widow(er) remarries following the U.S. citizens death, his or her eligibility to immigrate as a widow(er) of the now-deceased U.S. citizen ends.

If Form I-130 Was Already Filed at U.S. Citizen’s Death

Individuals who were married to a now-deceased U.S. citizen who died during the application process, after Form I-130 was already filed do not need to file again. Instead, the USCIS will automatically convert Form I-130 into Form I-360, Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant. Children of the applicant will be included on Form I-360 regardless of whether or not the now-deceased U.S. citizen originally began the application process for the children.

Cost to Receive Green Card as an Immediate Relative

Immigrant Visa Petition

The cost to file Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative is $535.

Biometrics Services Appointment

The cost of the Biometrics Services Appointment is $85. However, individuals under the age of 14 or over the age of 79 do not have to pay this fee.

Form I-485

The cost to file Form I-485 can vary depending on age. For most applicants the cost is $1,140. However, individuals who are under the age of 14 applying with Form I-485 of at least one parent must only pay $750.