Family Based Permanent USA Visas
This area of USA visas is divided into preference and non-preference categories.
Non-preference immigrant Visa
This encompasses the alien spouse, unmarried children under 21 years of age and parents of United States citizens. They are known as the immediate relatives of United States citizens.
The spouse of a US citizen
Alien spouses of US citizens may apply for green cards following the approval of a petition filed by the US citizen for permanent residence for the benefit of the alien. There is no numerical limit on the amount of visas issued per year for this family visa as is the case for preference USA visas.
The foremost prerequisite to qualify under this visa category is the subsistence of a valid marriage between the US citizen and alien spouse and proof of US citizenship from the American spouse. USA immigration laws provide that conditional permanent residence, thus, provisional green cards, will be issued to aliens who have been married for less than two years at the date of issuance of permanent residence. The condition on permanent residence may be removed upon the anniversary of the granting of permanent residence with a joint petition from the alien and US spouse within ninety days of the two year period requesting the removal of the condition.
Widows and widowers of U.S citizens may also apply for immigrant visas under this category as long as there was a valid marriage between the alien and deceased US citizen for a minimum duration of two years. It is also required that the couple were not legally separated at the time of the U.S citizen's death.
Children of United States Citizens
The law permits unlimited immigrant USA visas to persons who qualify
as children of US citizens. A child for these purposes is an
unmarried person under 21 years of age.
USA immigration laws make provisions for the inclusion of step
children as long as the marriage between the natural parent and
stepparent occurred prior to the stepchild's eighteenth birthday.
Similarly, adopted children qualify under this category if the
adoption occurred before the child's sixteenth birthday and the
child has resided with the adoptive parents for a minimum of two
Orphaned children may also apply for USA green cards if orphaned
prior to reaching the age of sixteen and have either been adopted by
U.S parents, a single parent who is at least twenty one years of age
or if the U.S parents or single parent have demonstrated their
qualifications for the adoption of the child under the state law
where they intend to reside.
Parents of U.S citizens
Parents of US citizens may apply for green cards following the
approval of a petition for US permanent residence by a US citizen
child for the benefit of the parent. The US citizen child must be at
least 21 years of age in order to file the petition.
This category of US visas is subject to an annual numerical quota
and only a maximum number of visas may be issued each year. There
are four types of preference visas.
Unmarried sons and daughters of U.S citizens
These are known as first preference immigrant visas. There is an
annual numerical limit of 23,000 permanent visas allocated to
alien sons and daughters of United States citizens. This allows them
to live and work in the USA on a permanent basis. The category
applies to sons and daughters of US citizens as opposed to children
of US citizens. Children of US citizens who are under the age of 21
may take advantage of the immediate relative non-preference category
(see above) that is not subject to an annual numerical limit.
Spouses and unmarried sons and daughters of lawful permanent residents
The foreign spouses and unmarried children of US lawful permanent residents may apply for green cards to live and work in the USA. A maximum of 114,000 USA visas in this category are issued annually.
Married sons and daughters of US citizens
The foreign spouses and unmarried children of US lawful permanent
residents may apply for green cards to live and work in the USA. A
maximum of 114,000 USA visas in this category are issued annually .
This is known as the third preference category of family based
immigrant visas. A limit of 23,400 visas is issued each year to the
married sons and daughters of United States citizens. Additionally,
any unused portion of the other two preferences categories will be
utilised and added to the maximum limit.
Brothers and sisters of United States Citizens
Siblings of US citizens may apply for green card status following
the successful petitioning on their behalves for US permanent
residence. This encompasses half brothers and sisters as long as the
relationship was established prior to each sibling's twenty first
birthday. This category is oversubscribed and the waiting period for
the processing of the petition and visa applications runs into
several years. Thus, applicants applying for this type of visa must
be willing to wait for at least six years for the issuance of their
The acquisition of all family US visas is preceded by the filing of
a petition on form I-130. Upon the approval of the petition, the
prospective beneficiary may then apply for US permanent residence.
Thus, it is a two stage process which if successful, bestows
applicants with US green cards once they are in States.
Temporary family visas
This consists of the K1 fiancée (fiancé) visa and K3 spousal visa.
The K1 fiancée (fiancé) visa process
The K1 fiancée (fiancé) visa allows foreigners engaged to US citizens to relocate to the United States in pursuance of green card status. This category of US visas forms part of the US immigration policy of uniting foreigners with their partners in the States.
The US citizen partner must file a petition to establish the authenticity of the relationship and to also prove that s/he has a right to request the US residence of the prospective K-1 visa beneficiary. Upon the approval of the petition, the foreign partner must apply for a K1 fiancée (fiancé) visa.
The couple must marry within 90 days of the foreign partner's entry into the United States. The K1 fiancée (fiancé) visa culminates in green card status for the foreign partner assuming all other pertinent criteria are satisfied. Once married to the US citizen, the alien partner is required to adjust status to US permanent residence (synonymous with green card status).
K1 visas allow their holders to reside and work in the USA. To work in the USA, K1 visa holders must apply for work authorization and a social security number.
The K3 Spousal Visa process
US immigration policy and regulations allow foreign spouses of US citizens to expedite their entry into the USA by applying for K3 visas. The foreign spouse is ultimately pursuing green card status in the United States. Thus, the US citizen spouse must initially file a petition for US permanent residence (which is the same as green card status) for the benefit of the foreign spouse. This is then followed by a K-3 visa petition.
Upon the approval on the K3 petition, the foreign spouse must apply for a k3 visa at an US embassy or consulate.
The K3 visa holder may work in the USA but must apply for work authorization to do so. K3 visa beneficiaries must adjust to green card status once the petition initially filed by the US citizen spouse has been approved.
The K3 spousal visa process is optional. Thus, the couple may decide to petition and apply for green card status without petitioning and applying for a K3 visa. As stated above, the K3 visa process is pursued in the interest of pursuing a quicker entry for the foreign spouse into the US.
Please do not hesitate to contact us on (+44) 020 7969 2977 if you require advice on US visas, green cards and general USA immigration law.