Overview and Process
A lawful permanent resident is a foreign national who has been granted the privilege of permanently living and working in the United States. If you want to become a lawful permanent resident based on the fact that you have a relative who is a citizen of the United States, or a relative who is a lawful permanent resident, you must go through a multi-step process.
An immigrant visa petition must be approved for you. This petition must be accompanied by proof of your relationship to the requesting relative.
It must be determined whether an immigrant visa number is immediately available for you, the foreign national, even if you are already in the United States. When an immigrant visa number is available, it means you can apply to have one of the immigrant visa numbers assigned to you.
If you are already in the United States, you may apply to change your status to that of a lawful permanent resident after a visa number becomes available to you.
In order for a relative to sponsor you to immigrate to the United States, they must meet the following criteria:
They must be a citizen or lawful permanent resident of the U.S. and be able to provide documentation providing that status.
They must prove that they can support you at 125% above the mandated poverty line.
The relatives which may be sponsored as an immigrant vary depending on whether the sponsor is a U.S. Citizen or a lawful permanent resident.
If the sponsor is a U.S. Citizen, they may petition for the following foreign national relatives to immigrate to the U.S:
Husband or wife
Unmarried child under 21 years of age
Unmarried son or daughter over 21
Married son or daughter of any age
Brother or sister, if the sponsor is at least 21 years old, or
Parent, if the sponsor is at least 21 years old.
If the sponsor is a lawful permanent resident, they may petition for the following foreign national relatives to immigrate to the U.S.:
Husband or wife, or
Unmarried son or daughter of any age.
In any case, the sponsor must be able to provide proof of the relationship. Preference Categories
If you wish to immigrate as a relative of a U.S. Citizen or lawful permanent resident, you must obtain an immigrant visa number based on the preference category in which you fall.
People who want to become immigrants are classified into categories based on a preference system. The immediate relatives of U.S. citizens, which includes parents, spouses and unmarried children under the age of 21, do not have to wait for an immigrant visa number to become available once the visa petition filed for them is approved by USCIS. An immigrant visa number will become immediately available. The relatives in the remaining categories must wait for an immigrant visa number to become available according to the following preferences:
First preference: Unmarried, adult sons and daughters of U.S. citizens. Adult means 21 years of age or older.
Second Preference: Spouses of lawful permanent residents, their unmarried children (under twenty-one), and the unmarried sons and daughters of lawful permanent residents.
Third Preference: Married sons and daughters of U.S. Citizens.
Fourth Preference: Brothers and sisters of adult U.S. Citizens.