Both United States and lawful permanent residents (LPRs) are capable of sponsoring a family member to immigrate to the United States. Family-based visas currently account for the majority of visas for immigrants entering the United States, usually with a visa that allows for permanent residence colloquially known as a “green card”. 


1965 Immigration of Nationality Act

Extended family is now eligible for family-based immigration, and the U.S. has a series of preference categories for families immigrating. In general, close relatives and dependents have priority over more distant family members, and extended family is not applicable for family-based immigration at all. The preference list is in this order:

  • Immediate relatives:
    • Spouses of U.S. citizens
    • Unmarried children of U.S. citizens under 21 years of age
    • Orphans that are adopted abroad
    • Orphans that will be adopted in the U.S., by U.S. citizens
    • Parents of U.S. citizens over 21 years of age
  • Family preference categories:
    • Unmarried children of U.S. citizens, and their spouses and children
    • spouses, minor children and unmarried sons and daughters over 21 of LPRs;
    • married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens and their spouses and minor children and
    • brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens, and their spouses and minor children, provided the U.S. citizens are at least 21 years old.

Broadly, this means that American citizens and legal permanent residents are unable to sponsor extended family like grandparents, cousins, aunts, uncles, and in-laws.


How many visas are available? 

In 1990, Congress put a cap on 480,000 family preference visas each year. Immediate relatives have priority and there is no capped amount of visas for immediate relatives, but the number of lower family preference categories must come from how many family visas are left after visas for immediate family members are granted. There is also a 7 percent cap per country, or the “per-country limit,” which dictates no more than 7 percent of family-based immigrants can be coming from the same single country.


Who else can get a green card?

There are many other situations in which an immigrant may be able to get a green card for permanent residence. For each category, there are many subcategories for visa applications (many of the subcategories are listed, but not all). These categories to apply for a green card include:

  • Employment
    • Immigrant worker
    • Immigrant investor
    • Physician National Interest Waiver
  • Special immigrant
    • Religious worker
    • Abandoned or neglected juvenile with Special Immigrant Juvenile (SIJ) status
    • Afghani or Iraqi national employed by the U.S. government as a translator for at least a year
    • International broadcasters
  • Refugee or asylum status
    • If granted refugee or asylum status over a year before applying for visa
  • Victims of abuse
    • For example through the Cuban Adjustment Act or
    • Haitian Refugee Immigrant Fairness Act (HRIFA)
  • Registry
    • Must have resided continuously in the U.S. since before Jan 1, 1972
  • Human Trafficking and Crime Victims
    • With current T nonimmigrant visa or U nonimmigrant visa
  • Other Categories
    • Diversity visas through the visa lottery
    • Cuban Adjustment Act
    • American Indian born in Canada
    • Stationed as a diplomat and unable to return home


However, these are all much smaller categories than family-sponsored green cards and immigration. Do you need help with your family-sponsored immigration or other case? LOIT & Associates are experienced immigration lawyers and can help you navigate the complicated visa and immigration system in the United States and Mexico.