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The two main types of family immigrant visas

One way a person from another country can qualify for a U.S. green card is through their family. Specifically, certain relatives of green card holders or U.S. citizens can seek out permanent resident status through a family immigrant visa.

Such visas come in two main types: immediate relative immigrant visas and family preference immigrant visas. Each of these types has its own set of subcategories.

One of the big differences between these two visa classes regards annual limits. Immediate relative visas are not subject to annual limits, while family preference visas are. There are four preference categories for family preference visas, and each of these categories has its own limits on how many visas can be given out in a year. So, there is the potential for long wait times to come up in connection to family preference visas.

Which type of family immigrant visa a qualifying relative would be eligible for depends on whether their family member is a green card holder or a U.S. citizen and how specifically they are related to that family member. Immediate relative visas are for immediate relatives of citizens. Meanwhile, family preference visas are for qualifying relatives of green card holders and qualifying non-immediate relatives of citizens. Of the four preference categories for family preference visas, three are for relatives of U.S. citizens, while one is for relatives of green card holders.

Immigration attorneys can help foreign nationals with looking into whether they would be able to seek out a family-based U.S. green card. They can also help individuals that have eligibility for such a green card understand what family visa category they would fall under and assist them with the process of seeking out a green card under that category.

Source: U.S. Department of State, “U.S. Visas - Family-Based Immigrant Visas,” Accessed March 14, 2017

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