Some people hope to immigrate to the United States with the help of work visas from their employer, while others rely on family relationships to provide grounds for their entry into the United States. Many work-based visa programs are highly competitive, while other popular visas, including certain work visas and the annual diversity visas, involve a random lottery process, meaning people could wait for years for a visa and never receive one.

Family-based immigration is available to individuals who have direct family members who are either citizens of the United States or lawful permanent residents. There are fewer restrictions and no lottery systems currently in use for family-based immigration visas.

What are your rights if you have a citizen as a relative?

The closer your familial relationship to a United States citizen, the greater the likelihood that you can potentially secure a family-based visa. Typically, immediate relatives receive first consideration.

Parents, children and spouses of United States citizens can typically enter the United States with no restriction on the overall number of people who immigrate using this program. Siblings may also be eligible in some situations.

More distant family members of U.S. citizens may have family immigration options similar to the options available to relatives of green-card holders.

Family preference visas are another family-based immigration option

More distant relatives of United States citizens could potentially secure a family preference visa. A close family relationship to someone with a green card can also be grounds for a family preference visa.

However, green-card holders can typically only submit immigration petitions for their spouses or unmarried children. While there are limits on the number of visas available under the family preference visa program each year, it can be a viable option for some family members hoping to enter the United States.