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To become a Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) in the United States on the basis of a family relationship requires two steps. First, a petition should be filed by a U.S. Citizen and LPR family member on behalf of the immigrant beneficiary with United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). A petition, if approved, only demonstrates that USCIS believes the family relationship has been proven. It does not grant any right to stay in the United States or a right to work authorization.

Second, an immigrant beneficiary can become a LPR within the United States by filing an adjustment of status application, if they meet the requirements. An beneficiary can also become a LPR by applying for an immigrant visa at a U.S. consulate (if they meet the requirements) and subsequently entering the United States. In either case, the beneficiary cannot apply for these immigration benefits unless a visa is available after the petition is approved.

A visa is available immediately if a petition is approved on the basis of the following relationships.

  • Spouse of a U.S. citizen
  • Minor child of a U.S. citizen
  • Parent of a U.S. citizen son or daughter over the age of 21.

There are other family-based relationships where a petition is allowed, but a visa is not immediately available.

  • Adult son or daughter of a U.S. citizen
  • Spouse or minor child under the age of 21 of a LPR
  • Married adult son or daughter of a U.S. citizen
  • Sibling of a U.S. citizen.

In the case of “immediate relatives” where the visa is immediately available, the beneficiary can apply for adjustment of status at the same time the petition is filed or apply for an immigrant visa soon after the petition is approved.

For all other petitions, the beneficiary has to wait many years and sometimes decades for a visa to be available and apply to become a LPR in the USA. The U.S. Department of State publishes a monthly visa bulletin online announcing the priority dates to grant immigrant visas for these relationships. A priority date is the date the petition was filed with USCIS. If a petition was filed on a date older than the date published on the visa bulletin, then a visa can be granted.

It is important to consult with an attorney regarding the best options to immigrate your family member.