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Building a Stronger Future: Family-Based Immigration in the United States

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Family-based immigration in the United States is primarily divided into two categories: Immediate Relatives and the Preference System. These categories determine the eligibility and priority of family members seeking to immigrate to the United States.

  • Immediate Relatives: Immediate Relatives are close family members of U.S. citizens who are given the highest priority for immigration. There are three main groups of immediate relatives:
    a. Spouses of U.S. citizens. b. Unmarried children (under 21) of U.S. citizens. c. Parents of U.S. citizens (the U.S. citizen petitioner must be at least 21 years old).

For Immediate Relatives, there is no annual numerical limit on the number of visas that can be issued, which means that tickets are always available for these categories. Spouses, children, and parents of U.S. citizens can typically apply for green cards (lawful permanent resident status) as soon as their petitions are approved.

  • Preference System: The Preference System is for more distant family members of U.S. citizens and certain family members of U.S. lawful permanent residents (green card holders). This system is divided into four preference categories, each with its waiting period and numerical limits:
    a. F1 – Family First Preference: Unmarried adult sons and daughters (21 years of age and older) of U.S. citizens. b. F2 – Family Second Preference: This category is divided into two subcategories:
    • F2A: Spouses and unmarried children (under 21) of lawful permanent residents.
    • F2B: Unmarried adult sons and daughters (21 years and older) of lawful permanent residents. c. F3 – Family Third Preference: Married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens. d. F4 – Family Fourth Preference: Brothers and sisters of adult U.S. citizens.

Each preference category has an annual numerical limit on the number of visas that can be issued. This means there is a waiting period, and potential immigrants may have to wait several years for a permit to become available. The waiting period can vary significantly depending on the category and the country of origin.

U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents can sponsor their eligible family members by filing petitions on their behalf. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) processes these petitions, and once approved, prospective immigrants can apply for immigrant visas (green cards) through consular processing or adjustment of status if they are already in the United States.

F2A: Spouses and unmarried children (under 21 years of age) of lawful permanent residents

The F2A category is a specific subcategory within the Family Second Preference (F2) under the U.S. family-based immigration system. F2A is designated for spouses and unmarried children (under 21 years of age) of lawful permanent residents (green card holders) who are U.S. citizens’ family members.

Key points about the F2A category include:

  • Eligible Family Members: F2A is reserved for the immediate family members of lawful permanent residents. This means that it includes the following beneficiaries:
    • Spouses of legal permanent residents.
    • Unmarried children (under 21 years of age) of legal permanent residents.
  • Numerical Limit: There is a numerical limit on the number of visas available annually for the F2A category. This limit can cause waiting periods for eligible family members. The waiting time varies depending on factors such as the country of origin and the visa demand.
  • Preference Level: F2A falls under the Family Second Preference (F2) category, which means it is subject to higher preference than some other family-sponsored preference categories, such as F3 (married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens) and F4 (brothers and sisters of adult U.S. citizens). However, it has a lower preference level than Immediate Relatives, who do not face annual numerical limits.
  • Petitioning Process: The U.S. citizen lawful permanent resident must file an immigrant visa petition (Form I-130) on behalf of their spouse or unmarried children to initiate the immigration process. The petition must be approved by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
  • Adjustment of Status or Consular Processing: Once the Form I-130 petition is approved, the eligible family members can apply for immigrant visas either through an adjustment of status (if they are already in the United States) or through consular processing (if they are outside the United States).

F2B: Unmarried adult sons and daughters (21 years of age and older) of lawful permanent residents

The F2B category is a specific subcategory within the Family Second Preference (F2) under the U.S. family-based immigration system. F2B is designated for the unmarried adult sons and daughters (21 years of age and older) of lawful permanent residents (green card holders) who are U.S. citizens’ family members.

Here are the key points about the F2B category:

  • Eligible Family Members: F2B is for the unmarried adult sons and daughters (21 years and older) of lawful permanent residents (green card holders). This means the green card holder can sponsor their adult, unmarried children under this preference category.
  • Numerical Limit: Like most family-based preference categories, F2B has an annual numerical limit on the number of visas available. This numerical limit can lead to waiting periods for eligible family members, and the waiting times can vary based on factors such as the country of origin and visa demand.
  • Preference Level: F2B falls under the Family Second Preference (F2) category, one step below the Immediate Relatives category regarding preference. This means there are higher priority categories, such as Immediate Relatives and F1 (unmarried adult sons and daughters of U.S. citizens), which do not have annual numerical limits.
  • Petitioning Process: The U.S. citizen lawful permanent resident (green card holder) must file an immigrant visa petition (Form I-130) for their unmarried adult sons and daughters to initiate the immigration process. The petition must be approved by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
  • Waiting Period and Visa Processing: Once the Form I-130 petition is approved, eligible adult sons and daughters can apply for immigrant visas through consular processing. They may need to wait for a visa number to become available, which can vary in duration depending on the demand and visa availability.