Citizenship Through Family

U.S. Citizenship Process Through Family

U.S. Citizens may file an immigrant visa petition for his or her:

  • Spouse
  • Children
  • Parents
  • Siblings

The number of Immediate Relative Immigrant Visas granted on a yearly basis are unlimited. They are classified as the following:

  • IR-1: Spouse of a U.S Citizen
  • IR-2: Unmarried children under the age of 21 of a U.S. Citizen
  • IR-3: Foreign orphan adopted by a U.S. Citizen
  • IR-4: Foreign orphan to be adopted by a U.S. Citizen
  • IR-5: Parent of a U.S. Citizen who is at least 21 years of age


Family Preference Immigrant Visas on the other hand, are for more distant family relationships of U.S. Citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents and are limited in number every year. The classification of these categories for immigrant visas are:

  • F1: Family First Preference
    • Unmarried sons or daughters of U.S. Citizens and their minor children
    • 23,400 available
  • F2: Family Second Preference
    • Spouses or unmarried children of lawful permanent residents. A minimum of 70% of these visas are allocated for spouses and minor children, the rest are allocated for adult, unmarried children.
    • 114,200 available
  • F3: Family Third Preference
    • Married children of U.S. Citizens and their spouses and minor children
    • 23,400 available
  • F4: Family Fourth Preference
    • Siblings of U.S. Citizens, and their spouses and minor children provided the U.S. Citizen is at minimum 21 years of age

Grandparents, aunts, uncles, in-laws, and cousins cannot sponsor a relative for immigration through this path.


Basic Steps in Filing a Petition for an Immigrant Visa through Family

  1. File the petition Form I-130, Petition For Alien Relative with the Department of Homeland Security USCIS
  2. Ensure the U.S. Citizen filing the petition is at least 21 years old if filing for siblings or parents. All other categories have no age minimum.
  3. U.S. residence (or domicile) is required for U.S. sponsor
  4. If you were a lawful permanent resident when you filed a petition but are now a U.S. citizen, you must upgrade the petition from F2 Family Second Preference to Immediate Relative (IR) petition.
  5. If the USCIS approves of the petition, it will be forwarded to the National Visa Center (NVC) which will assign a case number.
    • When an priority date meets the most recent qualifying date, the NVC will instruct the applicant to fill Form DS-261, Choice of Address and Agent. If you already have an attorney, you will not be asked to fill this form.
    • The NVC will send instructions for the applicant and petitioner to pay the applicable fees
  6. Gather the following materials in preparation for the Visa Interview
    • Passports
    • Affidavit of Support
      • I-864: This form is required for most family-based immigrants and some employment-based immigrants to show that they have adequate means of financial support and are not likely to rely on the U.S. government for financial support.
      • I-864A: This contract is intended to benefit the sponsored immigrant(s) and any agency of the Federal Government, any agency of a State or local government, or any private entity to which the sponsor has an obligation under the affidavit of support to reimburse for benefits granted to the sponsored immigrant. This contract may be enforced in any court with appropriate jurisdiction. By signing this form, a household member who is not a sponsored immigrant, agrees to make his or her income and/or assets available to the sponsor to help support the immigrant for whom the sponsor has filed an affidavit of support.
      • I-864 EZ: To show that the applying immigrant has enough financial support to live without concern of becoming reliant on U.S. government welfare.
      • I-864W: To establish that applicant is exempt from the Form I-864 requirements.
    • Two 2×2 photographs
    • Civil documents for the applicant
    • Completed Medical Examination Forms
  7. Visa Interview
  8. If your application is approved, the Consular Office will return the passport of the alien with the immigrant visa and a sealed envelope with the documents you provided. This envelope is only to be opened by an immigration official.
  9. Pay the USCIS Immigration fee once you’ve received the immigration visa and before you travel to the U.S.
  10. Enter the U.S. with your visa. Please note that a visa does not guarantee entry into the country. Border officials have the right to deny your entry.