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Family Based Immigrant Visas

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Family-Based Immigrant Visas

Under the Immigration and Nationality Act there are two basic categories of relatives that permit immigration to the United States: immediate relatives and preference immigrants.

Immediate relatives consist of spouses of United States citizens, minor (under twenty one years of age), unmarried children of United States citizens, parents of United States citizens (if the petitioner is at least twenty one years of age), and certain other spouses of deceased United States citizens. Preference immigrants consist of the following:

First Preference: Unmarried sons and daughters of United States citizens over the age of twenty-one years.

Second Preference: Spouses or children of aliens lawfully admitted for permanent residence; or Unmarried sons or daughters of aliens lawfully admitted for permanent residence;

Third Preference: Married sons and daughters of citizens of the United States;

Fourth Preference: Brothers or sisters of citizens of the United States, if such citizens are at least twenty-one years of age.

It should be noted that preference category immigrants are permitted to have derivative beneficiaries; immediate relatives are not permitted to have derivative beneficiaries. Derivative beneficiaries are the spouse or child of the principal alien in any of the family preference categories. Limits are placed on the number of immigrants permitted to enter the United States through preference category immigration each year. Immediate relatives have no numerical limitation. A monthly Visa Bulletin is published by the U.S. Department of State that establishes the priority dates that are being admitted in each preference category that month. Priority dates are the date of receipt by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services of an immigrant petition. Until a priority date becomes current in a preference category, the prospective immigrant must wait for his or her priority date to become current to enter the United States as a permanent resident either through consular processing or, if the immigrant is already in the United States, through adjustment of status.

Removal of Conditions

If an individual obtains permanent resident status through a United States citizen or permanent resident spouse and the marriage was not two years old at the time the individual obtained permanent residence, the permanent residence is conditional for two years. In the ninety day period prior to the two year anniversary of the grant of conditional permanent residence, the couple must file a joint petition to remove the conditional basis of the permanent residence. If the marriage ends in divorce the conditional permanent resident spouse can file a petition to waive the joint filing requirement. This petition must be filed after the divorce is final. It cannot be filed while the couple is still married but in the process of obtaining a divorce. Abused spouses may also file for a waiver of the joint filing requirement and conditional residents who would suffer extreme hardship if the joint filing requirement is not waived may also file for a waiver of the joint filing requirement.


If an individual has obtained permanent residence through marriage to a United States citizen, the individual may apply for citizenship three years after the date on which his permanent residence was granted. The application may be filed up to 90 days prior to his three year anniversary of obtaining permanent residence. In the Pittsburgh U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Office interviews are usually held five to seven months after the application for naturalization has been filed. The applicant for citizenship must demonstrate the ability to speak and write English and pass a test on United States government and history. If the interview is successful an oath ceremony is scheduled at which time the prospective citizen will pledge the Oath of Allegiance and receive a certificate of naturalization. The new citizen is then eligible for the benefits of United States citizenship: the ability to vote, to serve as a juror, to hold jobs available only to United States citizens, and to sponsor relatives. Many new citizens file applications to bring their parents to the United States as permanent residents. Spouses of United States citizens assigned abroad may be eligible for expedited naturalization.

Contact an Immigration Lawyer in Pittsburgh or Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, New York

To speak to an immigration lawyer about your immigration goals, including obtaining a work visa in Philadelphia or Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, New York or anywhere in the United States, we welcome you to contact us online or call 412-291-4400 | 215-880-4977 | 347-839-1700 . Free consultations are available. We represent clients throughout the United States, including Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Western Pennsylvania, Eastern Ohio, New Jersey, Philadelphia County, Allegheny County, and worldwide in Korea, Africa, India, and Pakistan.

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