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Immediate Relatives & Preference Categories

Updated: May 1, 2019





United States citizens and lawful permanent residents can sponsor certain relatives for permanent residence in the United States. The relatives that have been designated as eligible for family-sponsored permanent residence are grouped into different classifications.


Your Family: Immediate Relatives

According to U.S. immigration law, “Immediate Relatives” of U.S. citizens are the spouses, parents of adult (over the age of 21) U.S. citizens, and unmarried children of U.S. citizens.


Preference Categories

Family-sponsored immigrant visas for relatives other than immediate relatives are subject to numerical limitations and are categorized as follows:

  • First (F1): for unmarried sons and daughters of U.S. citizens,

  • Second (F2A and F2B): for spouses and children of permanent residents (F2A) and unmarried sons and daughters (21 years of age and older) of permanent residents (F2B),

  • Third (F3): for married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens,

  • Fourth (F4): for brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens who are 21 years of age or older.


A cap (limit) applies to the number of family-sponsored immigrants that can be admitted annually to the United States. Immediate relatives of U.S. citizens are not subject to the numerical restrictions on visas that are applicable to relatives in the other family-based visa categories. In addition, limitations exist within each family-based category on the number of visas that are available to relatives from each foreign state. Consequently, visa backlogs exist for the preference categories. These limitations and backlog are being published monthly in the Visa Bulletin.




This summary is not intended to be a legal consultation and intended to be a general description. A legal consultation is necessary before any action is taken. Please call Chicago Law Group (847) 579-9989.

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