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 is a lawful permanent resident, your relative in the U.S. will need to sponsor you and prove he/she has enough income or assets to support you, the intending immigrant(s) when in the United States.  Your relative sponsor and you, the intending immigrant, must successfully complete certain steps in the immigration process in order to come to the U.S.  The Immigration and Nationality Act allows for the immigration of foreigners to the United States based on relationship to a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident. Family-based immigration falls under two basic categories: unlimited and limited.


Immediate Relatives of U.S. Citizens (IR):  The spouse, widow(er) and unmarried children under 21 of a U.S. citizen, and the parent(s) of a U.S. citizen who is 21 or older.

Returning Residents (SB):  Immigrants who lived in the United States previously as lawful permanent residents and are returning to live in the U.S. after a temporary visit of more than one year abroad.


Family-Based First Preference (FB-1):  Unmarried sons and daughters of U.S. citizens, and their children, if any. (23,400)

Family-Based Second Preference (FB-2):  Spouses, minor children, and unmarried sons and daughters (over age 21) of lawful permanent residents.  (114,200)  At least seventy-seven percent of all visas available for this category will go to the spouses and children; the remainder will be allocated to unmarried sons and daughters.

Family-Based Third Preference (FB-3):  Married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens, and their spouses and children. (23,400)

Family-Based Fourth Preference (FB-4):  Brothers and sisters of United States citizens, and their spouses and children, provided the U.S. citizens are at least 21 years of age.  (65,000)


Relatives of intending immigrants who plan to base their immigrant visa applications on family relationship must obtain an approved Immigrant Petition for Alien Relative/Form I-130 from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS).  The petitioning U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident must submit the Immigrant Petition for Alien Relative/Form I-130 to the USCIS office with jurisdiction over the type of application being filed.  Depending on many factors, if the intending immigrant relative being sponsored is inside the United States, they may qualify to concurrently file an Application for Adjustment of Status/Form I-485 (green card) along with the Immigrant Petition for Alien Relative/Form I-130.  If the relative being sponsored is not in the United States or needs to process their immigrant visa at a US Consulate outside the United States, once USCIS approves the Immigrant Petition for Alien Relative/Form I-130, they will send the petitioner a notice of approval, Form I-797.  USCIS will also forward the approved petition to the National Visa Processing Center (“NVC”), and the NVC will contact the intending immigrant and sponsor with further information.


Spouse:  If you are an American citizen you have two ways to bring your foreign spouse (husband or wife) to the United States to live. They are:

  • Immigrant visa for a Spouse of a U.S. Citizen (IR1 or CR1) - An immigrant Petition for Alien Relative, Form I-130 is required.   
  • Nonimmigrant visa for spouse (K-3) - It is important to note that application for the nonimmigrant visa for spouse (K-3) who married a U.S. citizen must be filed and the visa must be issued in the country where the marriage took place. After the visa process has been completed, and the visa is issued, the spouse can travel to the United States to wait for the processing of the immigrant visa case.
  • Two petitions are required:
    • Petition for Alien Relative, Form 1-130; and
    • Petition for Alien Fiancé(e), Form I-129F

Fiancé(e):  If you are an American citizen, you may bring your fiancé(e) to the United States to marry and live here. 

  • Nonimmigrant visa for fiancé(e) (K-1): To travel to the United States for marriage. An I-129F fiancé(e) petition is required.