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Family sponsored preference Green Cards are available for family members of immigrant visa holders, Green Card holders, and U.S. citizens who do not qualify as immediate relatives. These Green Cards allow family members who are not immediate relatives of the primary visa, Green Card holder, or U.S. citizen to obtain a Green Card of their own.
What are the Levels of Preference and who Qualifies for each Level?
There are five types or levels of family sponsored preference visa, ranking from first preference to fourth preference, including two types of second preference family sponsored visas.
Family Sponsored First Preference (F1)
Family members may apply for a Green Card under the First Preference category if they are the unmarried child and is 21 years of age or older to a United States citizen.
Family Sponsored Second Preference (F2A)
Family members may apply for a Green Card under the Second Preference F2A category if they are the spouse or unmarried child 21 years of age or younger to a United States lawful permanent resident (Green Card holder).
Family Sponsored Second Preference (F2B)
Family members may apply for a Green Card under the Second Preference F2B category if they are the unmarried child and is 21 years of age or older to a United States lawful permanent resident (Green Card holder).
Family Sponsored Third Preference (F3)
Family members may apply for a Green Card under the Third Preference category if they are the married child of a United States citizen. The age of the child is not taken into account under this preference category, only the child’s marital status.
Family Sponsored Fourth Preference (F4)
Family members may apply for a Green Card under the Fourth Preference category if they are siblings to a United States citizen who is 21 years of age or older.
What Makes Each Preference Level Different?
Generally, because there is a limited number of Green Cards available for family members who are not immediate relatives to a United States citizen, there is priority given to other categories of family members to receive a Green Card. Thus, the preference category relates to the priority.
What is the Process for Applying for a Family Preference Green Card?
In order to apply for a Green Card based on family preference, certain steps must be followed. However, the process differs somewhat depending on whether the Green Card applicant is already in the United States, and thus needs to adjust his or her status, or is outside of the United States, and needs to go through consular processing. The steps to apply for a family preference Green Card are described below:
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 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.
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
- Proof of continuously lawful status since arriving in the U.S.;
- Form I-864, Affidavit of Support or Form I-864EZ, Affidavit of Support
- Form I-944, Declaration of Self-Sufficiency, if applicable;
- Form I-693, Report of Medical Examination and Vaccination Record;
- Certified police and court records of criminal charges, arrests, or convictions, if applicable;
- Form I-212, Application for Permission to Reapply for Admission into the United States After Deportation or Removal, if applicable;
- Form I-601, Application for Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility, if applicable;
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.
What is the Cost to Receive a Green Card Under Family Preference?
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.
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.
There is no cost to file: