The Migration Policy Institute says that in 2013, 41.3 million immigrants were living in the U.S. – an alltime high. In fact, the U.S. is at the top of the list of countries in which migrants seek to gain entry. However, the visa process that allows immigrants to live here legally is quite complex, which means getting through the process requires an attorney with extensive knowledge of immigration law. To get an understanding of how the family based immigrant visa process begins, first look at the different types of visas that are granted. The U.S. immigration law allows for two groups of family based immigrant visa categories, one of which is for immediate relatives and the other is family preference.
Immediate Relative Immigrant Visa (unlimited)These are visas that are based on a prospective immigrant having a close family relationship with a U.S. citizen. There are no limits in regard to how many visas of this type the U.S. will grant in any fiscal year. However, there are different types of immediate relative visas:
- IR1: Spouse of a U.S. citizen
- IR2: Unmarried person under 21 years old of a U.S. citizen
- IR3: An orphan from abroad adopted by a U.S. citizen
- IR4: An orphan adopted while in the U.S. by a U.S. citizen
- IR5: Parent of a U.S. citizen 21 or older
Family Preference Immigrant Visas (limited)These are visas suited to a prospective immigrant who has a more distant family relationship with a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident. However, there is a limit to the number of these visas that will be granted over the course of a fiscal year. Here are the different types of family preference visas:
- F1: Family First Preference – applies to unmarried sons and daughters of U.S. citizens and their minor children.
- F2: Family Second Preference – applies to spouses, minor children, unmarried sons and daughters age 21 and over of lawful permanent residents. The State Department says 77 percent of all visas in this category go to spouses and children. The remainder will go to unmarried sons and daughters.
- F3: Family Third Preference – applies to married sons and daughter of U.S. citizens, their minor children and their spouses.
- F4: Family Fourth Preference – applies to brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens, their minor children and spouses.