People often talk about family immigration without really understanding how it works. There are three separate forms of family immigration that people can participate in if they want to enter the United States with or after a loved one.
Each of these different systems has its own benefits and restrictions. The better you understand the different kinds of family-based immigration, the easier it will be to determine what, if any, visas might be available for you or your loved ones.
There are few restrictions on the immigration of citizens’ family members
For many kinds of visas, the federal government creates an official limit. No matter how many qualified applicants they get, they won’t approve more than that maximum number of visas.
When it comes to direct family members of an American citizen, however, there is no formal limitation on the total number of people who can immigrate or how many family members an individual citizen can potentially bring into the country.
If you hope to qualify for an Immediate Relative Visa, the person sponsoring the visa must be a United States citizen. Those seeking entry into the country must have a direct relationship to them, including spouses, parents and children. More distant relatives may also be eligible under the Family Preference Visa program.
Lawful permanent residents can bring family members here, too
Lawful permanent residents, also sometimes referred to as Green Card holders, also have the right to bring direct family members into the United States. However, there are more restrictions on this particular form of family immigration, known as the Family Preference Visa program.
Each year, the government will issue a limited number of these visas to the spouses and children of permanent legal residents, as well as other family members of citizens, such as siblings.
Spouses and children can travel with those coming on work visas
If a member of your family will soon come to the United States to work through an H-1B visa or similar work visa, other members of your family can potentially travel with them for the duration of their legal residence in the United States. Spouses and children who are both under the age of 21 and unmarried are potentially eligible for visas stemming from a work visa held by a family member.