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What Are the Different Types of Family-Based Immigrant Visas?

Posted on in Immigration

Harris County immigration visa attorney

The easiest and most common way to file for an immigration visa is through family sponsorship. You may have heard of “green card weddings,” which refers to people who get married solely to become a legal resident of the United States. While cases like these do exist, this is far from the norm. Having a relative who is a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident can greatly increase your chances of being approved for a visa.

Two Categories of Visas

There are two types of family-based immigrant visas, and applicants who wish to use this way of securing citizenship must fall into one of these two groups. An unlimited number of Immediate Relative (IR) visas are available. An immigrant must be classified as an immediate relative of a U.S. citizen to qualify. These visa types include: 

  • IR-1: Spouse of a U.S. citizen 

  • IR-2: Unmarried children (under age 21) of a U.S. citizen 

  • IR-3: Orphans who are adopted internationally by a U.S. citizen 

  • IR-4: Orphans who will be adopted in the United States by a U.S. citizen 

  • IR-5: parents of a U.S. citizen who is over the age of 21

The qualifications for Family Preference types of visas are not as clear cut, and the availability is limited each year. These familial relationships are more distant, and each type of “family preference” has its own numerical limit:

  • Family First Preference (F1): Unmarried children of a U.S. citizen parent, and their children who are minors (if any).

  • Family Second Preference (F2): The spouses of a lawful permanent resident (LPR), their children who are minors, and their unmarried children over the age of 21. At least 77 percent of these visas will be allocated to spouses and their children; the remainder will be allocated to spouses' unmarried children.

  • Family Third Preference (F3): Married children of a U.S. citizen parent, as well as their spouses and children who are minors

  • Family Fourth Preference (f4): Siblings of a U.S. citizen, as well as their spouses and their children who are minors, as long as their U.S. citizen sibling is at least 21 years old

The Application Process

The immigration application process is not easy and is best completed with the help of an experienced immigration lawyer. If being sponsored by a relative, that family member must first file a petition with the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The USCIS must then approve the petition and send it to the National Visa Center (NVC). Here, the petition will be assigned a case number. Those applicants who fall under one of the “family preference” categories will have to fill out an additional form known as Form DS-261. The applicant will then have to pay the appropriate fees and submit the required immigrant visa documents, such as the Affidavit of Support. A visa interview along with medical examination and vaccinations are also required.

Contact a Houston, TX Immigration Lawyer

The immigration process can be complicated, and those who wish to legally enter the United States must complete many requirements and stipulations. With the help of a well-versed immigration attorney, you can ensure that you have met your legal requirements as you work to have your application approved. At The Foray Firm, we offer legal help in both English and Spanish. If you are considering sponsoring your family member for a visa or need information on family-based visas, contact our Fort Bend County immigration attorneys at 832-919-6400 for assistance.




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